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Preventing PMS-Related Weight Gain

Lissa Rankin's picture
Because so many of you have medical questions you want Dr. Lissa Rankin to answer, Lissa has decided to write a medical blog in the spirit of her upcoming book What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, which you can preorder here. If you have a question you'd like Dr. Lissa Rankin to answer in her blog, please join the What's Up Down There posse in our Owning Pink community. Take it away, Dr. Lissa!
Q: For a week before my period, I’m hungry 24/7. I’m really sick of PMS sabotaging my weight loss goals. Help!

I hear you, girlfriend.  You’re eating salads, taking daily walks and making progress nurturing you body towards your optimal body weight, then THWACK! That time of the month hits, and you’re jonesing for chocolate.  Sounds like you suffer from what we docs call PMS-C, a type of PMS characterized by cravings for sweets, increased appetite, fatigue, headaches, and hypoglycemic episodes that may lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, or- in severe cases- fainting. 

Although many theories about what causes PMS have been bantered around in the medical literature, a clear answer has never surfaced.  We suspect that those who suffer from PMS-C are responding to hormonal fluctuations that affect blood sugar, probably by making cells more sensitive to insulin, which lowers blood sugar, leading to blood sugar crashes that trigger mad dashes to the candy and potato chip aisles.  After you stuff your face with Ho Ho’s, your insulin levels spike, causing your blood sugar to drop yet again. And so the cycle continues.

Although I’m a big fan of loving your body exactly the way it is- curves, pudge, and all- I understand that for some, weight loss is critical to optimizing your health and vitality. To avoid weight gain during the luteal (second half) of your menstrual cycle, resist the urge to indulge in sweets and carbs and stabilize your blood sugar with low glycemic index foods that don’t bump up your insulin levels much.

Healthy choices include lean proteins (fish, chicken breast, eggs), veggies, and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, or barley.  For even more effective blood sugar stabilization, drink green vegetable juice. Keep healthy snacks, such as almonds, olives, or carrot sticks, on hand to combat cravings. This kind of diet will knock out most of your cravings, so that, even if PMS hunger leads you to consume more food, you should still be on track for your weight loss goals.

If you know what you should do and still find yourself grabbing for the Hershey bar, it may be your body’s way of begging for more magnesium. Since magnesium is needed to help insulin bind to cell receptors, magnesium deficiency may worsen chocolate cravings. And- yes, you guessed it- chocolate contains magnesium.  (Ah, the body is brilliant.) Supplementing with 300-400 mg of magnesium may help. Evening primrose oil, chaste tree berry, and natural progesterone may also alleviate PMS symptoms.

Hearing and loving you,
Lissa Rankin, MD

This blog, and the book on which it is based, is a complement to - not a substitute for - professional advice and intervention, and is not intended to replace the advice of a gynecologist or medical professional, who should be consulted about any health care issues that may affect the individual reader. The information contained in this book is the product of observations made by the author in her practice, as well as her review of relevant literature in her field of expertise. The literature at times reflects conflicting opinions and conclusions. The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author and are not intended to reflect the views of any group or organization with whom the author is affiliated.

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