You can always count on PMS to put a damper on your day, and Women's Health agrees. And while it may be tempting to reach for a pint of Half Baked, there are actually foods that can alleviate your symptoms in a much more real way: by fighting inflammation in your body.
A recent study of almost 3,000 women found that those who have higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP)—a sign of inflammation in the body—appear to be significantly more likely to suffer from PMS symptoms, including anxiety, mood changes, cramps, food cravings, weight gain, bloating and breast tenderness.
“Women use ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug, to treat symptoms of PMS. So we already have anecdotal evidence that inflammation might play role,” says study author Ellen B. Gold, Ph.D.
While there isn’t necessarily a direct cause-and-effect relationship between your diet and your CRP levels, what you eat can have a ripple effect on inflammation in your body, says Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, Sc.D., who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.
Some foods, like those that are high in saturated fats, sugar and salt, can increase inflammation—but others “provide more vitamins and minerals that fight inflammation,” explains Jess Cording, R.D. So what can you nosh on to nip PMS in the bud? Here, experts share their top picks:
1. Wild salmon: Fatty fish are chock full of PMS-busting nutrients. Salmon is a great source of vitamin D, which has been shown to ease depression and inflammation, says Cording. Other research has found vitamin D mediates cramps and PMS symptoms, says Isabel Smith, R.D. Salmon also boasts a healthy dose of anti-inflammatory omega-3s, as well as protein to control blood sugar and cravings, Smith adds.
2. Eggs: Like salmon, eggs offer omega-3s, vitamin D, and protein, says Cording. “Animal proteins like eggs and salmon also have tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin—which helps keep our moods stable,” says Cording.
3. Dark leafy greens: Collards, kale, and spinach are loaded with anti-inflammatory nutrients, says Smith. Think magnesium, which supports brain health, mood, and sleep and may moderate cramps, as well as calcium, fiber, and B-vitamins. Bertone-Johnson says that in her research, women who consume more B-vitamins seem to suffer less PMS symptoms—and B-rich foods have been linked to lower inflammation. Greens also have a bit of iron, and some research has found that iron from plant sources appears to lower the risk of PMS, Bertone-Johnson adds.
4. Walnuts: Nuts are full of digestion-regulating fiber, monounsaturated fats to calm inflammation, and satisfying protein, says Cording. They also contain a bit of mood-stabilizing tryptophan. Walnuts, specifically, also have some omega-3s (though less than what you’ll find in animal protein), she says.