Meals that heal!

Headaches, bloating, fatigue or mood swings can all be a sign that your body is struggling with hormone imbalances. But you don't need to start popping painkillers. You could beat your body's battles just by tweaking your diet instead...

PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME

We all know the symptoms: breast tenderness, bloating, headaches, mood swings, irritability, depression, food cravings and lack of energy. Yep, it's that time of the month again. According to Nigel Denby, nutrition consultant for the National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome, changing your diet can help. Here's how:

EAT UP!

  • Dairy products are packed with calcium, which has been shown to help prevent PMS.
  • Meat and fish* contain vitamin B6, which can alleviate the condition.
  • High-fibre foods like wholegrain cereals and pasta keep blood sugar levels steady.

STEP AWAY!

  • Salty foods make fluid retention worse.
  • Coffee, tea and cola contain caffeine - if you're stressed and irritable, this stimulant can make these feelings worse.
  • Alcohol can increase anxiety and depression, and lower blood sugar levels.

FEEL GREAT MEAL PLAN

Follow this eating plan throughout the month to help reduce symptoms. Choose one of each meal per day.

BREAKFASTS
Wholegrain toast with scrambled eggs and grilled tomatoes.
Bran flakes with a banana and skimmed milk.

LUNCHES
Wholemeal pitta with tinned salmon and salad.
Jacket potato with reduced-fat cheese and salad.

DINNERS
Spaghetti Bolognese with wholewheat pasta, lean mince and salad.
Chicken and veg stir-fry with wholewheat noodles.

SNACKS
Wholegrain toast with peanut butter.
A handful of sunflower seeds.

FERTILITY PROBLEMS

Eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are crucial. "Being obese reduces the chances of conceiving naturally, decreases the likelihood that fertility treatment will be successful, and increases the risk of miscarriage," warns Tony Rutherford, Chair of the British Fertility Society. "For women, a BMI of 20-25 is ideal, but remember it takes two, so your partner needs to slim down if his BMI is over 29."

EAT UP!

  • Green veg like peas, spinach, broccoli, cabbage and courgettes are good sources of folate, a B vitamin vital in pregnancy.
  • Nuts are rich in zinc, selenium and essential fats, all of which are important for reproduction, especially in men.
  • Full-fat milk is best according to research, which shows that women who have one or two daily servings of full-fat dairy products are more likely to get pregnant than those who opt for low-fat products.
  • Fresh fruit is a good source of vitamin C which, according to Infertility Network UK, increases the success rate of IVF.

DID YOU KNOW? One couple in six consults a doctor about a delay in conception at some stage.***

STEP AWAY!

  • Excessive alcohol decreases sperm quality - more than one daily unit of alcohol for women reduces the effectiveness of fertility treatments.
  • Caffeine-heavy drinks have also been found to have an adverse effect on IVF success rates.

FEEL GREAT MEAL PLAN

This diet could raise your chances of conceiving.

BREAKFASTS
Bowl of summer berries with full-fat natural yoghurt and a sprinkling of oats.
Wholegrain toast with peanut butter; glass of orange juice.

LUNCHES
Greek salad with feta cheese, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and olives; wholegrain bread.
Cheese and tomato on wholegrain toast; orange.

DINNERS

Cheese and spinach omelette with wholegrain bread and salad; fruit salad.
Chicken and cashew nut stir-fry with brown rice.

SNACKS
Small packet of unsalted peanuts and a handful of blueberries.
Reduced-fat houmous with pepper sticks.


POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME (PCOS)

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is associated with an imbalance in reproductive hormones, which leads to cysts forming on the ovaries. Symptoms include irregular or no periods, infertility, excess facial hair, acne, thinning hair, fatigue, depression and mood swings. PCOS also means you have a 50 per cent chance of being overweight. "Try to prevent weight gain by controlling blood sugar levels," says Gaynor Bussell, registered dietitian and author of Managing PCOS For Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, £15.99).

EAT UP!

  • Low GI carbs such as oats, wholegrain bread and wholewheat pasta help keep blood sugar levels steady and balance insulin levels.
  • Oily fish such as salmon and sardines are rich in omega-3 fats, which can help alleviate symptoms.
  • Berries contain antioxidants to mop up free radicals, which PCOS sufferers are more vulnerable to.

STEP AWAY!

  • Potatoes and high GI foods like white bread will send blood sugar levels soaring.
  • Fatty foods like cakes and biscuits will cause you to gain weight more easily.

FEEL GREAT MEAL PLAN

If you eat like this most of the time, your symptoms should ease.

BREAKFASTS
Porridge with skimmed milk and blueberries.
Baked beans on wholegrain toast; an apple
Bran flakes with a pear and low-fat natural yoghurt.

LUNCHES
Lentil soup with a salmon salad wholegrain sandwich.
Salad of wholewheat pasta, kidney beans, chickpeas, salad and tzatziki.
Small tub reduced-fat houmous with a wholemeal pitta and crudités.
<br.>DINNERS
Chicken, veg and tomato sauce with wholewheat pasta and salad.
Grilled salmon steak with sweet potato wedges baked in their skins and steamed veg.
Chilli made with lean mince, kidney beans and veg with brown rice and salad.

SNACKS
Oatcakes with reduced-fat houmous and tomato.
Bowl of strawberries with a pot of fat-free yoghurt.

DID YOU KNOW? PCOS affects around one woman in five.

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