Everyone has their own relationship with breakfast. Are you a wake-up-and-feast kind of person? Maybe you like to take your time in the mornings and have a nibble after you’ve been up for a couple of hours. Or maybe the thought of food sounds revolting until it’s well into the afternoon.
Point is, some people are into breakfast, and some aren’t. Unfortunately for you non-breakfast eaters, breaking your fast in the AM certainly comes with its perks. Eating breakfast may even help you manage symptoms of PMS.
What Causes PMS?
You’re probably well aware of the bloating, fatigue, irritability, sleeping troubles, and other symptoms that can come with PMS. But what causes it?
The exact cause of premenstrual syndrome, PMS, is unknown. PMS varies from person to person. Some people experience no symptoms, while others will feel them anywhere from a few days to a week before the start of their period. Many researchers believe that PMS is directly linked to hormones as well as the neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA.
A Japanese study done on a group of 439 women aged 18-20 found a direct correlation between skipping breakfast and having higher levels of dysmenorrhea, or period pain (which can also occur before your period starts). Another study on female Palestinian university students supported these findings.
How else can eating breakfast help decrease symptoms of PMS?
Breakfast Boosts Serotonin Levels
Serotonin is well known as a “happy hormone”. Although technically a neurotransmitter, it acts as a hormone in the body. When you eat breakfast, the body converts carbohydrates into glucose, which helps to increase levels of serotonin.
This glucose conversion is also essential for the formation of tryptophan, a protein that helps with the creation of serotonin. Not only does eating breakfast help to make more happy chemicals, but it also decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
What’s serotonin’s role in PMS? Serotonin helps boost cognitive function, decrease irritability and depressive symptoms, and enhance your overall mental health. Boosting serotonin by eating breakfast can help decrease the mental and emotional symptoms of PMS.
Serotonin is also crucial for gut health – 95% of the body’s supply is produced in the intestines. Some people experience gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or constipation before their period. A serotonin-friendly breakfast can also help you manage any period-related stomach upset you may experience.
Certain foods are known for helping to boost serotonin. For an extra dose of this happy chemical, try to incorporate foods like nuts and seeds, turkey, eggs, and dairy products into your breakfast.
PMS and Blood Sugar
Do you ever experience energy crashes throughout the day? Do they increase in frequency around your period? There’s a good chance that your blood sugar is one of the culprits.
Your blood sugar has a direct relationship with your hormones, which as you know, change at different points in your menstrual cycle. Everyone has blood sugar fluctuations, whether or not they’re diabetic. These fluctuations often increase before and during your period.
High levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause higher blood sugar levels and insulin resistance in the week before your period. Blood sugar spikes can increase PMS symptoms like mood swings, bloating, and fatigue.
Do you know what helps to manage blood sugar spikes? You guessed it, eating breakfast.
Eating Breakfast Gives You Energy
Again, feeling sluggish around your period is normal before your period, but there are steps you can take to help you have more energy. Like eating breakfast!
This goes back to blood sugar and glucose, which is the body’s energy source. After you’ve been fasting during the night, your body’s glycogen stores are used up, so the body turns to fatty acids for energy. Without carbohydrates from food in your body, this can lead to a dip in energy levels.
You can help maintain energy levels before your period (and during the rest of the month) by eating breakfast and restoring your glycogen levels. Decreased concentration and attention can make it hard to get things done before your period. While it’s helpful to carve out more time to rest during this part of your cycle, eating breakfast can help improve mental energy and cognitive functioning.
PMS Friendly Breakfast Ideas
It can be hard to get into the swing of eating in the morning if you’re not used to it. But if you want to see if eating breakfast may help with your PMS symptoms, we’ve got some tips to make it easier on you.
While some people love a breakfast fit for a king, your first meal doesn’t have to be fussy. Try prepping things for the week like soft-boiled eggs or legumes for quick vegan protein. Ideally, your breakfast should be savory not sweet to help maintain your blood sugar throughout the day.
Here are some other PMS-friendly breakfast ideas:
- Leftovers like roast veggies and chicken
- Bone broth, you can throw some greens and an egg in there
- Cottage cheese or greek yogurt with berries
- Savory oatmeal with sauteed veggies
- A smoothie with veggies, fruits, and protein powder
Your Body, Your Rules
While science supports the idea that eating breakfast helps decrease PMS symptoms, you know your body best. If you’re figuring out how to get on top of PMS symptoms, it’s worth a shot to see if eating breakfast makes a difference. If it’s not working for you, then that’s ok. You get to find an eating schedule that makes sense for you and your body.
There are plenty of other steps you can take to help manage PMS outside of tweaking your diet. If you want more balance in your menstrual cycle you may want to consider getting your hormones tested, getting acupuncture, or seeing a functional medicine practitioner. If you have any other questions about managing symptoms of PMS, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider – they’ve got your back.