Paleo’s Promising Effects on Menstrual Cramps, PMS, and PMDD

Paleo’s Promising Effects on Menstrual Cramps, PMS, and PMDD | The Paleo Diet

“I’m cranky when I have my period; I feel awful and I just want to stay home in bed.”

“I have such horrible cramps during my time of the month which puts me so on edge, I can’t stand to be around anyone.  Every little thing drives me nuts!”

Do these sound familiar? No need to be sheepish, it’s more common than you think! In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that at least 85% of menstruating women have at least one PMS symptom as part of their monthly cycle, and most of these women have fairly mild symptoms that don’t need treatment.

The 3 – 8%, however, have a more severe form of PMS, called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).1 A condition where serotonin may play a key role, its symptoms include2:

  • Feelings of sadness or despair, or even thoughts of suicide
  • Feelings of tension or anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings or frequent crying
  • Lasting irritability or anger that affects other people
  • Lack of interest in daily activities and relationships
  • Trouble thinking or focusing
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Food cravings or binge eating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling out of control
  • Physical symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain

Individuals who exhibit five or more of these symptoms, in the week preceding menstruation are diagnosed with PMDD.

So what is the best way to address this potentially, albeit temporarily debilitating condition? According to the Office on Women’s Health Department of the US, the first means to handle the symptoms are to head straight to the meds both to treat pain as well as to regulate mood.3

They do acknowledge, however, some lifestyle changes that can help such as exercising, getting enough sleep, not smoking, and eating healthfully.4

Here we go. “Avoid salt, sugary foods, caffeine, and alcohol.”  Fair enough; makes total sense, right?

“Eat healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables… and whole grains” NO! Why does it always have to go back to eating whole grains? If you’re reading this post, it’s highly likely you’re already well-versed as to why and how grains are toxic to the body. But, can grains play a role in triggering or worsening symptoms? Absolutely.

One of the key features of a true Paleo diet is its low glycemic, anti-inflammatory approach to eating. When followed properly, your blood sugar is kept under control for optimal levels.

Susan M. Lark, MD, a clinician in Los Altos, CA, points out in her new book Premenstrual Syndrome Self-Help Book: A Woman’s Guide to Feeling Good All Month ,5 that research has linked PMS to a state of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, in the second half of the menstrual cycle and that women in these studies experienced a significant drop in blood sugar after eating, accompanied by edginess and irritability.

And what’s a great way to prevent hypoglycemia? How about consuming a diet ample in the amount and range of fats, wild proteins and an abundance of fresh, in season veggies?

The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine6 suggests that the best way to control hypoglycemia is through a diet similar to that used to control diabetes mellitus and includes a reduction in simple sugars and a large intake of complex carbohydrates. Ring a bell?

If we couple these recommendations with the countless benefits of a Paleo diet, say goodbye to feeling grumpy, taking Motrin and simply not being yourself each and every month! Let your Paleo lifestyle be simply one more reason to stay on track.



[1] Songhai Barclift, M.D., Lieutenant Commander, HIV/AIDS Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

[2] American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
409 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20024-2188

[3] Office on Women’s Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

[4] Office on Women’s Health. “Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Fact Sheet.” Women’s Health. US Department of Health and Human Services, 23 Dec. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

[5] Premenstrual Syndrome Self-Help Book: A Woman’s Guide to Feeling Good All Month by Susan M. Lark, MD

[6] The Physicians Committee. “Hypoglycemia and Diet.” Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

About Nell Stephenson, B.S.

Nell Stephenson, B.S.Nell Stephenson is a competitive Ironman athlete, personal trainer, and a health and nutrition consultant. She has an exercise science degree from the University of Southern California, a health/fitness instructor certification from the American College of Sports Medicine, and over a decade in the health, fitness and nutrition industry. To support her training for the Ironman Triathlon, Nell has tried many different nutritional plans and has found that the Paleo Diet is superior to all other ways of eating. She’s found that she’s leaner, faster, and fitter than ever before and uses her own experience to teach clients how to achieve optimal nutrition and health. Visit her website at Download meal plans tailored to you here.

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“6” Comments

  1. I 100% agree with Ava. I don’t feel like you understand PMDD at all and your oversimplification of it and claim to be able to cure it through diet is not helping with the awareness this deserves. PMS and PMDD are completely different beasts, even on a cellular level. Please educate yourself about the differences before including it in your article.

    I eat paleo and workout 6 times a week. I take all of the supplants you mentioned, get acupuncture and don’t smoke or drink alcohol, caffeine, etc and NONE of that fixes PMDD. I’m sure it would be even worse if I didn’t do these things, but please don’t oversimplify something that women are battling for their lives over on a constant basis.

  2. I have to say I am surprised by the oversimplification of PMDD in this article.
    Suggesting that blood sugar levels are the core issue speaks volumes to the ignorance on this topic and what PMDD is. The relationship between drops and increases in progesterone and oestrogen and the neurotransmitters in the brain of a woman with PMDD are actually the issue. There have been brain scans showing the diminished response in the amylgada in women with PMDD during luteal phase of the cycle. Also Much research on the copper, zinc and calcium fluctuations related back to the oestrogen and progesteron phases, which also tie into irregular cortisol levels throughout this part of the cycle. PMDD is not about the cramps , and heavy periods…it is about a deeper psychological affects in CERTAIN women. This article is a clear demonstration of you lack of understanding the ROOT differences between a case of PMS and PMDD. Copy pasting the definition of PMDD out of medical journals doesnt cover up that ignorance wot someone who is well versed in this topic. I have followed a paleo diet a year now, and my PMDD has not changed. It has resolved all body inflammation.. and removed brain fog..but it has not in any way touched the PMDD struggles I face each month…with only 1 week of feeling myself, please amend this because it also feeds into people’s ignorance about the disorder. M.S in Holsitic Nutrition

    • Thank you. I have struggled with PMDD and PMS since age 14, now 43. Very misunderstood condition. GYN referred me to Psyche for it when I asked, but Psyche says they don’t kno. Wonderful inadequate medical system we have. Diet has helped me over the years reduce inflammation, but your post explains why not one diet has helped 100% and I end up switching back n forth. I think eatibg GF Grains again has mad me worse. So I have to eliminate grains again, while figuring how to balance hypoglycemia blood sugar. I feel great with fruit when combined with protein powder, especially Bananas which have vit B6.

  3. Pingback: Whole grain diet: toxic ?! | Inside Out

  4. Since I’ve gone Paleo, my period has become lighter, and the cramps less painful. I’m still grumpy as heck, and binge eating is a problem still, plus while my blood pressure is great during the rest of the month, shortly before and during the first couple of days of my period it goes up. I guess that would be the headaches, which are not as bad anymore as they were. I don’t need pain medication anymore. I’m convinced that exercising every day (which I didn’t do before either) and embracing the Paleo lifestyle has helped a lot.

  5. Pingback: Paleo’s Promising Effects on Menstrual Cramps, PMS, and PMDD | Health Fitness Daily

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