I Completely Overhauled My Diet to Tackle PMS

When I got my first period at 12, I was home alone. Much like the protagonist of Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., I had pleaded with the universe to become a woman, a transformation my two older sisters had already undergone. While I was grateful to have some privacy in that moment, what I didn’t realize was that, in some respect, I would feel alone in dealing with my menstrual cycle for most of my life.

I had never compared and contrasted my symptoms with peers (bleeding so heavy I once told my mom I’d “lost an ovary in the toilet,” lightheadedness to the point of fainting in public, acne, crippling cramps), so I thought everything I experienced was normal. I also thought my symptoms could only be fixed with birth control. That model of thinking went uninterrupted until this year, when I came across an enthusiastic wellness blogger who touted the benefits of something she called “cycle syncing,” which she’d learned from a book called WomanCode.

Written by “nutritionist and women’s hormone expert” Alisa Vitti while in search of a holistic approach to treating her Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), WomanCode teaches women how to stave off hormonal, PMS, and period symptoms by eating a certain way, knowing what types of exercise to do (and when), and even managing work and social engagements.

At first I scoffed at this blogger’s over-sharing of the details of her menstrual cycle (“Off to yoga — I’m in my luteal phase!” she’d say, swigging a superfood-spiked matcha). In a hateful, premenstrual bout, I seethed at her cheery demeanor and clear skin. What could she possibly know about the torture that I endured on a monthly basis? Then it hit me: What did I know? So I dug in further.

WomanCode focuses on healing the endocrine system, which controls your hormones. In addition to the more widely known period systems like cramps, mood swings, and bloating, hormones can cause of a whole host of issues: dandruff, anxiety, cravings, hair loss, and hair growth, loss of sex drive.

Vitti has also created an app, MyFlo, which you can use to predict your period, track your symptoms and get feedback on what to eat, what exercises to do, and even how your significant other can better tend to your needs. Despite the fact I had long ago accepted the fact that getting my period means being tortured on a monthly basis, I figured I had nothing to lose (besides the $1.99) so I uploaded MyFlo and embarked upon a month-long experiment, focused specifically on the dietary suggestions.

Before I share my food diary, let me tell you the basics. The dietary guidance is split up among four phases: follicular, ovulation, luteal, menstruation; I began during my luteal. They don’t perfectly map by week — some are longer than others and they’ll vary by person — but I estimated mine based on the provided info. Also, this isn’t an actual “diet.” The app is structured in a way that, in addition to sharing general nutrition info that corresponds to each phase, you can punch in your various symptoms (sadly, I didn’t see road rage as an option) to customize food suggestions even further. It’s different for everyone. As a nutritionist, Vitta’s food selections are based on their ability to optimize bodily functions. It’s nothing weird — arguably things we should all be eating anyway. That said, from the get-go I nixed (or tried to, at least) a few things that the author explains can cause hormones to go haywire: caffeine (noooooo!), refined sugar, soy, red meat, and dairy. Here’s how it went.

Luteal Phase (Duration: 7-14 days)

The luteal phase “occurs after ovulation (when your ovaries release an egg) and before your period starts.” In other words, it’s the latter two weeks of a four-week cycle.

Recommended Food: B vitamin-rich foods including eggs, seafood, and leafy greens; baked root vegetables; probiotic foods like kimchi and sauerkraut; cilantro; vitamin E-packed foods like almonds and avocados.

The Science: According to my app, this is when “estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone reach their peak concentrations, and then begin to fall to their lowest levels right before bleeding.” Vitamin B foods help manage blood sugar, while the root veggies can cleanse the liver, flushing out excess estrogen. Probiotics reduce bloat, chlorophyll-packed cilantro can clear the skin, and Vitamin E is an anti-inflammatory that can aid breast pain. (All the research is cited in the app.)

How I felt: Leaving Whole Foods with heavy bags full of hormone-friendly ingredients for the week, I felt hopeful—especially after examining my ever-present chin/jawline acne. Eating dishes like baked sweet potatoes topped with black beans and guacamole or scrambled eggs with fermented veggies wasn’t terribly out of my comfort zone (I tend to cook healthfully at home) but a life without caffeine was. I opted to keep up my two-cups-day coffee routine seeing as giving up pastries was hard enough. LET ME LIVE!

Menstruation (Duration: 3-7 days)

Menstruation is, duh, when you’re actually bleeding. After your unfertilized egg unceremoniously exits the Fallopian tube, it breaks apart and your uterine lining begins to shed. A fun time!

Recommended Food: Low-glycemic fruits and veggies; protein; seaweed; Omega 3 fatty acids; beets.

The Science: According to Vitti, if you regularly struggle with cramping, diet could be a part of the problem. The app explains, “your body isn’t making enough of the right type of prostaglandins […] and too much of another type” as a result of a lack of essential fatty acids, which also help fight inflammation. The low-glycemic foods will supposedly keep my blood sugar in check, while beets boost iron for anemic folks like myself, and seaweed can replaces minerals lost.

How I Felt: Out the gate I have cramping that’s not unlike getting a womb massage from Edward Scissorhands, extreme nausea, heavy bleeding, and a shooting pain in my left breast. Fun times all around. I still haven’t kicked my coffee habit but I’m starting to seriously consider because this is one doozy of a period. In short: not only do I not notice any improvement just yet (given, it’s early), but I could swear some symptoms are even worse.

Follicular Phase (Duration: 7-10 days)

The follicular phase is when the follicles in your ovary mature, just before you enter ovulation.

Recommended Foods: Fresh fruits and vegetables; hearty whole grains (like buckwheat); lean protein (seafood or beans, since I’m not doing red meat).

The Science: According to MyFlo, my hormones are at low levels post-menstruation and nutrient-packed foods will get my energy back on track.

How I Felt: Though I was tired as hell, I woke up around 4 a.m. every night (WHY), so I finally vowed to swap out coffee for matcha (that’s something, no?). To help me sleep and curb sugar cravings, I’d have a cup of Four Sigmatic’s adaptogenic hot cocoa after dinner every night, which was a trick I learned during the one-and-only cleanse I’ve done in my life. This tasty little elixir has reishi mushrooms to soothe the stress monster that had taken over my body and cinnamon and coconut palm sugar to give me the sweet fix I’d been hankering for without spiking my blood sugar.

Ovulation (Duration: 3-5 days)

Ovulation occurs when your matured egg is released from the ovary, travels down the Fallopian tube, and patiently awaits being fertilized. This is the phase where those who want to — or don’t want to — get pregnant should be on high alert.

Recommended Foods: Fibrous fruits and veggies and light grains, like corn and quinoa.

The Science: During this phase, testosterone surges, then drops. According to Vitti, “elimination” (read: poop) is an important part of ridding your body of the surplus of estrogen, hence all that fiber. Eating lots of raw fruits and veggies gives you the vitamins and antioxidants for high-functioning and healthy ovaries.

How I Felt: Something strange happened. By this stage in the game, I honestly started to believe that my usual symptoms in each cycle had been magnified. My breast pain returned, but in the form of overall swollen tenderness, and already I was experiencing some cramping. My joints were sore, my chin still hadn’t totally cleared and my bloat was like that last party guest who refused to leave. WHY?!

Right around the 30-day mark, I felt like I was falling apart. Were my hormones totally confused? What the hell had I done?

Out of desperation, I finally cut out caffeine completely, supplementing with herbal chicory coffee. Additionally, I started taking evening primrose oil capsules daily and drinking tea with dong quai — both of which balance hormones and are recommended by Vitti’s text. Then, the clouds parted: my omnipresent chin acne dissipated for the first time in I don’t even know and I began waking up to a (relatively) flat tummy. Some symptoms still have a ways to go (a full night of uninterrupted sleep would still be nice) as I imagine breaking the cycle probably takes a bit longer than a month.

As woo-woo as it sounds, I believe I’ve experienced a powerful transformation in simply being this tuned-in to my body and considerate of what goes into it. As time goes by, and I’m given physiological clues as to what’s benefitting — and not benefitting — my health, I may have (okay, I will have) a cup of coffee or a slice of pizza again. To be honest, what MyFlo has taught me to do is not wholly radical: I ate all the things I should probably have been eating anyways — but perhaps never knew how foods could so directly affect my hormonal health and aid in symptoms I thought I’d never kick for good. But beyond that, I believe it’s been invaluable to have this experiment as a way of engaging with friends about their own “period problems,” knowing that — at the very least — I’m definitely not in this alone.

Ashley Tibbits is an LA-based freelance writer. She’s still not sure whether it’s appropriate to mention her cats in these things. Follow her on Instagram here and check out her website here.

Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi; Creative Direction by Emily Zirimis. 

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  • Hilary

    I have a hunch I know exactly which wellness blogger inspired this cycle-syncing diet…I follow her too, and have been really curious to check out WomanCode because of how much she touts it. Even though some of her practices feel pretty out-of-my-league, just following her IG inspires me to eat healthier. Anyway, this was a really interesting article and it makes me want to try out cycle-syncing myself! Thanks for sharing!

    • Hahaha! You’re probably right. You don’t want me to list my grievances with said blogger here, but I will say I’m grateful that she indirectly led me here! I’m glad you found my story to show that syncing your diet is not too scary and totally do-able — besides the fact that it’s been a total game changer for me. 🙂

  • Abigail Larson

    As someone who has struggled with this issue for my whole life, I completely understand this and am so thankful for this article (currently printing it out now!). Evening Primrose capsules have definitely helped, as well as taking Ashwaganda Root because I notice a direct correlation between my stress levels and period symptoms. I also have cut down my coffee intake to 1 cup a day (because I have to LIVE), and completely removed dairy. This may not be for everyone, but I’ve also gone vegan and noticed improvements as well. I’ve also seen a major improvement when taking magnesium citrate (which is a drink powder called Calm) regularly.

    The biggest thing that has helped me is getting off of birth control. Again, I know it’s not for everyone, but most of my acne, hair loss, and mood swing issues stemmed from BC. After trying 6 different forms since 15 years old, I just put my foot down and have never looked back. Yeah, it’s annoying, but my skin is the clearest it’s ever been and my hair is slowly growing back. Mood swings are still there, but I’m more stable than I was.

    • Autumn

      The magnesium drink powder is actually called Natural Calm, and yes it’s great! The raspberry lemonade flavor is my fave. I drink it every night before bed. Something like 80% of Americans are magnesium deficient and taking magnesium can help with all kinds of issues.

      • gracesface

        Highly recommend the oil form, the citric acid in those powders was not my friend for some reason. 🙂

    • THIS! Abigail I can’t stress the STRESS factor enough. It only exacerbates everything. I think once you eat better and start to notice symptoms change it also takes a load of and then created a domino effect to feeling better. Excuse this tangent but years ago a nurse suggested I might have endometriosis due to some severe abdominal pain and bloating that wouldn’t go away for weeks. Within one day of each other, I scheduled an ultrasound and an appointment (my very first) with a Chinese herbalist. The herbalist told me I didn’t have endometriosis or cysts but that my stress was triggering a lot of issues I was heaving. She simply told me “you’re okay,” massaged my sacrum and gave me a week’s worth of herbs and I was completely fine. The following day the ultrasound only confirmed what she had said. I always try to remember that — YOU’RE OKAY. It’s easy with the internet to assume there are so many things wrong with us and get carried away. You’re re-inspiring me to get back on the Ashwaganda train! But for me walks in nature, yoga, baths, and reduced caffeine have been life saving! Glad you found what worked for you! <3

  • This was a fascinating read, thank you for sharing, Ashley! I listened to a podcast interview with Alisa a few years ago and was super interested in her philosophy but frankly, the whole thing just sounded like A LOT. A lot to keep track of, a lot of grocery shopping / cooking, a lot of excuses, apparently. But the way you broke it all down makes me want to give it a go.

    Save for the chin acne (neat!) I don’t experience a ton of physical PMS symptoms, but dear lord are my emotional symptoms out of control (anxiety, cravings, wildly increased appetite, just an overriding sense of worthlessness / aimlessness for a few weeks every month…it is fun!!!). May finally give this thing a try!

    • Adrianna

      I listen to a ton of podcasts, and I had a tough time finding a fitness podcast I liked until I discovered the Dumb Bells. It might not be what you’re looking for, but I found their approach to fitness and food advice to be realistic and kind of refreshing. (Such as ‘stop calling it a cheat meal. It’s just a meal. Eat it and move on’)

      • Charlie

        I love that! I always hated the term cheat meal.

      • I’m always on the lookout for new podcasts. I’ll definitely give this one a listen, thanks for the tip!!

    • Yes Jackie, it is A LOT. I hear you. I read once that anyone who experiences even the slightest cramps, mood swings, heavy flow, etc has an “abnormal period” and as someone who has had all this x10 their entire life, that was a hard pill to swallow. The app makes it very easy, and it’s actually kind of fun. The grocery shopping can seem a bit much at first (I cook at home a lot, so that part I didn’t mind) but you get used to a routine where it doesn’t feel annoying/expensive. I think the takeaway is really getting to know your body so you can see what it absolutely needs and what you can keep. Like, now I’ll have one or two cups of coffee a week only and skip it entirely just before and during my period. It’s pretty cool to learn to listen to your own cues! 🙂

      • Oh hi, thanks for taking the time to reply with such a thoughtful comment! The more I think about it, the more I’m considering downloading the app, at least as a starting point. The way you’re explaining it makes the whole thing sound a lot more approachable.

        And to consider the crazy idea that I could, I don’t know, NOT be a more anxious, irritable, ravenous version of myself for a few weeks every month? I mean, that would be nice.

    • Mariel

      Ugh this is me too… breast pain and bloating are the only physical symptoms I get but the depression, anxiety, lack of interest in things I usually like doing, increased appetite, worthlessness and generally feeling like i am living under a dark rain cloud are in full swing or a week or two a month. I will say I have found that cutting out dairy and sugar has mitigated this tremendously. I will maybe have to try Alyssa’s method in full though!!

      • It makes it seem easy and do-able!

      • TY for replying!! You are not alone, I totally feel you on ALL OF THAT.

        Cutting out (or cutting back? I am human) dairy and sugar sounds like a great place for me to start. Thanks for the tip!

  • nell

    Magnesium is a lifesaver for cramps – it might help with the sleep issue, too! It’s rough but I definitely swear by cutting out coffee completely right before/during my period.

    • Yes, I’ve taken magnesium for years every night after dinner (along with b12 and potassium). It doesn’t make a difference in my periods or sleep but I know I need it! Caffeine was the game-changer for sure! And that’s straight from a major coffee lover! Now I have it once or twice a week so I can still feel like a human being enjoying her life 🙂

    • gracesface

      I just finished a bottle of magnesium oil that lasted me 3 years! It really does work. Helps me feel more awake in the morning, helps with cramps, and sore muscles. One of the few supplements (the others are Vit D and iron) that I’ve stuck with after trying many different ones and different combinations.

  • Ginger also really helps with cramps! You can either juice raw ginger, or (what I do) drink a dropper-full of ginger extract right before your period starts, and every 12 hours or so when your cramps are the worst. It takes the pain away completely!

    • Hi Victoria! Actually ginger isn’t enough for my level of pain. This MAJOR dietary change (and cutting caffeine and sugar in particular) has made the biggest impact thus far — and believe me, if tried everything. For me, I haven’t been diagnosed with PCOS or endometriosis but I suspect I might have one and it’s that type of pain, Far more than the average woman’s discomfort. But I hope your suggestion helps those ladies out there! 🙂

  • Charlie

    Last December I stopped taking bc and this year has honestly been the worst year of my life. Starting February I experienced horrific hair loss to a point where last May I decided to start taking the pill again. I became depressed, lost so much weight due to the stress of it and I just couldn’t do it anymore. The doctor and my dermatologist speak of androgenetic alopecia (I take their word for it, but I wish there was an official test to confirm this because now this conclusion is based on cause and effect, causal relationship). Which would mean that in order for me not to lose my hair, I would have to fully depend on these hormones for the rest of my life. I hate that this is the case, because the whole reason I quit was to feel less down and anxious, more energised, be at lower risk to other possible side effects of the pill (which I did by the way. I was happier and had more energy than I did in a decade). I would love to be off bc but I don’t see an alternative. It pains me that I will never be my ‘full potential self’. I will read the book and work in the advice into my diet, but I am terribly afraid of quitting again (despite wanting to). I think I will only have to do that if I want to get pregnant… and in case of the alopecia I would have to start taking bc again right after that…

    *Any tips are more than welcome!

    (Sorry, I’m usually quite the happy person in the MR comment section. It’s just this topic really hits home).

    • please don’t feel like you have to be on birth control if you don’t want to be! your body WILL adjust, it just needs time and tons of support. i started taking birth control in my teens for out-of-control cramps (like writhing in pain for hours and throwing up)(so fun), and stayed on it for years until i looked into the side effects on our bodies and the environment. after a few months off birth control, the cramps came right back, until the past year or so when i shifted my entire mindset around my cycle. i know that sounds so woo, but just by embracing my period and beginning to listen to what my body needs at different stages, i don’t have to rely on any medication to get through it, just a hot water bottle, cramp bark extract, and rest. i get some light cramping to let me know that it’s beginning, and that’s it. i also have experienced some hair loss for years (we are so lucky!), and in the past few months i’ve seen some regrowth! i’ve been on chinese herbs (consultations are usually pretty inexpensive) and i make a tea infusion every day with nettle, goji berries, oat straw, raspberry leaf, red clover and tulsi. those herbs are really helpful for women’s health, balancing the cycle, and hair growth. disclaimer: i’m not an expert at all, just wanted to share what has worked for me. i also eat a pretty healthy diet, so i’m sure that helps. ALSO i can’t recommend kundalini yoga enough, just for everything, so throwing that in as well. good luck, you can 100% do this 👍👍👍👍👍👍👍

      • Hi Laurel! I had an experience like yours. After going off the pill a few years ago I suddenly remembered why I’d first gone on it: CRIPPLING cramps, flow so heavy I constantly leaked through everything, and acne (to name a few). Yes they all came back and I thought I just had to deal. But this dietary change — and I’ll say it again, especially reducing sugar and caffeine — made a major impact. Evening Primrose oil also is a must-have for me now, and I have 1500mg a day the week before my period starts. Additionally, I believe that stress plays a huge factor here, so the more stressed out you get about your symptoms, the worse they are. I’d never tell anyone to stop birth control but I think it’s really beneficial for woman to also see what diet, exercise, and reducing stress levels can do! 🙂

        • totally agree about diet and stress!! daily kundalini yoga for the past 8 months or so has been life-changing for managing stress, i feel so consistently even and chill compared to pre-kundalini life, even when shit’s hitting the fan. i definitely battle a sugar addiction, sometimes i keep it really under control, and then sometimes, holidays happen. 🍪

      • Charlie

        O the cramps and other things! I can totally relate to that Laurel. But I am so happy to read that it has become better for you. Your approach to changing your mindset actually makes a lot of sense! My body is always so tense when I am stressed so it makes absolute sense to me. It just never crossed my mind to tackle that first! I will definitely look into your suggestions on consultations, extracts, herbs and tea! After reading the article and comments I made a grocery list of things to try and added your tips to it. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this down. I appreciate it!

        PS. Your Amethyst Cluster Brooch is stunning!

    • Amanda Faerber

      Charlie … I can’t offer advice about hair loss but did want to extend my sympathy re: your BC struggle. I tried the pill off and on a few times and just had horrible side effects while taking it and after stopping it. The crippling depression was the worst. I don’t know what I’d do if I had experienced hair loss. I second the other commenter’s encouragement and hope you find an answer!! I’m sure lots of other readers will be sending good vibes to you!

      • Charlie

        Hi Amanda! Seriously, the MR comment section is just always full with the nicest people. I’m sorry to hear you also experienced side effects both whilst taking and after stopping. It’s like choosing the best of the worst in this scenario right? I hope you feel better by now! Thank you for sending me good vibes – and I’m sending them to you as well.

    • Kat

      Hi Charlie! Really sorry to hear about the problems you’ve been having. If you’re keen to stay on Bc it’s worth trying some other pills or other BC, I have terrible depression on lots of different BC but I’m fine on one particular low-dose combined pill. Definitely worth trying some other things to see what happens.
      Annoyingly, whether you try something new or decide to quit again, it does take a really long time for your body to adjust. That’s with the mood swings and everything, but the hair loss does sound like a more unusual issue that your doctor should look into if you’re not comfortable on the pill.
      Having said that, I’m committed to the pill for life (except when I want to get pregnant) as I have endometriosis and it’s one of the best medicines for it, and so I just try to manage my energy levels using diet, exercise and minimalism. Can’t say I’m always an energiser bunny but I feel much better since I started doing pilates once a week and made sure I wasn’t doing too much and taking plenty of time to rest. YMMV, hope some of that helps!

      • Charlie

        Hi Kat! I’m sorry to hear you have endometriosis and that you are also depending on bc for other reasons than just actual birth control but I love your approach to managing your energy levels through diet, exercise but especially that you also mention minimalism! Thank you for taking the time to share your tips!

    • Hi Charlie! I want you to know I (as well as my lovely editor) was VERY careful not to say there was anything wrong with birth control. I don’t even necessarily believe that there is. For me, I chose not to be on it any more because of my age (mid-thirties). But I’d never suggest someone do what’s clearly not right for their health. In fact, it was my hope that writing this story would encourage more women to really listen to their bodies more! All that said, I’d highly recommend visiting an Eastern Medicine practitioner/herbalist/acupuncturist in addition to your regular doctor. It’s been my experiences that they can help with a lot of “grey areas” when it comes to hormonal issues. Also STRESS! The book will talk a lot more about the connection than I could speak to here but I’d suggest doing everything you can to reduce stress: yoga, meditation, walks in nature (cheesy sounding, I know, but it works!), and cutting caffeine, as much as I hate to say that). Sending you good luck! <3

      • Charlie

        Hi Ashley! You and your editor succeeded in bringing that message across! Just merely my own wish to not be on it! However, I should be more careful in how I express that because I would never want to suggest that bc is not a good thing. Just the side effects they have on me is something I wish I could do without. You have encouraged me to listen to my body more. In fact, after reading your article I downloaded the app and my sister and I had a long talk about what things we should try to alter in terms of food. Learned so much from this already! Thank you for the all the tips and for reminding me of taking the time to destress!

    • Hey Charlie! So sorry for what you’re going through. I wish I could go off birth control as well but it’s not really practical for me. I had bad hair loss when I switched from a higher dose pill to a lower dose a few years back (was coming out in clumps), and it was so traumatic that I try to not change anything bc related. I’m not sure how long it lasted, perhaps a few months for me, but please know you’re not alone!

      I also get severe migraines from the hormone drop when I switch to the sugar pills, so my OBGYN has kept me taking back to back pills for a few months as a time. The bc is such a pain for me that I was considering copper IUD’s – still an option I suppose. Anyway, I’m not sure how much there is to be gained from this article, but eating well and exercising is always a great idea and made a big difference in my own life to help battle depression, anxiety and fatigue. Good luck to you – I’m rooting for you! <3


  • I’m so glad this popped into my email a few minutes ago. I’ve been following the MyFlo app diet suggestions off and on but most recently I’ve been in the “off” stage. I noticed when I started eating cheese, fried foods and processed sugar again things went incredibly left. I’ve wondered if I have endometriosis as well because I have your same symptoms except the nausea causes me to actually lose anything I’ve eaten prior to my period coming on. I’m going back to keeping what seems to be my trigger foods out of the picture. I feel like we shouldn’t have to suffer when our periods come on. Can’t wait to see how things go for you!

    • Yes girl THIS! I have to remind myself to check in regularly too. But isn’t it powerful to know that you have more control over your body than you thought??? 💪🏼

  • Britta

    Loved the article! Either I struggle with being premenstrual (not fun; for nobody) or I‘m bleeding like a pig (maybe not the best description for the nice desk manager at my gynocologist, she seemed let‘s say irritated :)) or I‘m postmenstrual (which is really just premenstrual)! Gotta give the diet a try! Thank you!!!

    • Britta YES to this. It felt like all month long as dealing with my period in some way. And yes, in the beginning doing this experiment only seems to add to the constant focus on that but when it became more natural to eat and live a certain way, everything started to fall into place. And also, I feel you with the bleeding pig. TRUST.

  • Annie O

    Yesss this book/app is so helpful! I’ve been dealing with terrible ovarian cysts and hormonal acne for the last year or so and I’ve (reluctantly) cut out almost all alcohol, caffeine and sugar since reading this book. I feel a million times better, without the oral contraceptives and surgery (?!?!?!) my gyn insisted I needed to improve my situation. At this point we all know cutting out these things helps just about anything, but reading the science behind it is so helpful in convincing yourself to make the change.

  • gracesface

    Whew, knew before I even opened this it’d be about Alisa Vitti. This woman has been haunting me ever since I first read her book probably 3 years ago now. It makes sense! It seems so time consuming! Why do it like this!? Some of her tactics I’ve found helpful (like how we process things based on where we are in our cycle and how it effects our work/organizational life) and others just seem impossible as someone who doesn’t eat a lot of avocados, seeds, or nuts. But it was cool to read about your experience!

    Biggest thing that has helped my hormones is sleeping in a completely dark room every night, I am 100% committed to it.

    • I think because I mostly relied on the app it was VERY approachable. Probably much more so then her book.

  • Sydney

    This looks interesting! I started an autoimmune paleo diet this past August to manage hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, which has helped with managing a lot of the symptoms. I’ve been looking for ways to eat for my hormonal cycle though since the thyroid is a hormone gland, and this is perfect timing. Thank you for sharing!!

    • Happy to share what I’ve learned and what’s helped me so much!

  • Natty

    I’m really disappointed by the dismissive tone of this piece. I discovered Woman Code (there are some better texts out there; I recommend Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrop) and cycle syncing about a year ago when I quit hormonal birth control and wanted to understand my body better. There is nothing “woo woo” about learning how food and lifestyle choices influence our menstrual cycles and vice versa. Discovering what works for me during each of the 4 phases of my cycle has revolutionized my life and made me feel infinitely more connected with my body, my sexuality, and my health. Stick with it and do more research— it’s the best gift you could give yourself.

    • So sorry to hear that Natty and it certainly wasn’t my intended tone! Please forgive me, as “woo woo” wasn’t a judgment, but merely my way of explaining to those who are less open to and knowledgeable about alternative medicine (in this case, anything outside birth control to deal with hormonal issues). In fact, I looked at several other texts in this research. There’s a lot of unpack, so for this particular story we focused solely on MyFLO and diet changes listed there. Additionally, I’m very much FOR alternative options, especially diet (as you see here I was a fan of the results). I regularly get acupuncture, Chinese herbs, have tried energetic medicine etc etc. I’m extremely open minded and apologize if you feel that didn’t come across.

  • Leila

    Ashley, I used to have cramps and PMS symptoms just like yours. I’ve been doing acupuncture for a few months now, and it has truly worked wonders. I used to have 6 days of extreme pain, and now I have 2 days of semi-painful days. I generally take Aleve on those days which really helps. Overall I feel more balanced hormone-wise and don’t lose out on life 6 days a month anymore.

    • Yes! I have an acupuncturist who helps a lot as well. I opted not to go during this experiment as to see how much diet alone can change. But I really love going regularly for many many different issues and think it helps with too much to mention here!

  • silla

    I LOVE Woman Code and my flo. I have just come off the pill and am hoping this will help manage my PCOS!

  • Hannah Lech

    WomanCode changed my life and lifestyle! I’m so happy you did a story on it. Thanks!

  • MANREPELLER!! PLEASE stop publishing health articles quoting no qualified scientists at all. If you have to include stories like this please take a more balanced approach an get some input from an actual endocrine specialist MD. The sentence ‘root veggies can cleanse the liver, flushing out excess estrogen’ makes me want to tear my effing hair out with frustration(!!!). You are so much better than this as a publication. Women’s lifestyle media is FLOODED with pseudoscience and it is patronising, dangerous and (dare I say it) on some level a little sexist. It is so sad to see it unchecked on what is in my opinion one of the best english language sites in the world right now.
    La Madeleine | Unofficially the best lifestyle blog ever

    NB: this comment is not intended to minimise the experience of people with bad PMS symtpoms and PCOS. I just believe people looking for answers for these really difficult to manage issues deserve properly researched, balanced, evidence-based reporting on which to base their decisions.

    • Alicia McElhaney

      hey! any advice on endocrine specialists? I have v bad PMDD and was like genuinely looking into this book b/c there’s literally NOTHING gynecologists can do but prescribe birth control or anti-depressants to help.

      • Sorry I don’t know any personally that I could recommend. There are just a lot of MDs (gynaecologists in particular) in my family and so this kind of misinformation really makes my blood boil as I know there are a lot of people who really need evidence-based help. Really hope you can find some more specialist options for your PMDD xx

        • Maddie, the article is based on nutrition (which I’m sure we both agree is very real and a very important tool in general health) and MyFLO was started by a nutritionist. So please let’s not say “completely made up.” It discredits my experience (which was very genuine) as well as Mrs. Vitti. It may not be what you grew up around/agree with, but that doesn’t mean either of us “made it up.”

          • Hi Ashley – I didn’t intend for that to come across as me saying your experience was made up. I meant some of the reasoning behind the nutrition recommendations (ie liver detox etc that I cited earlier) is not evidence based or in line with scientific consensus.

          • Alexandra Queiroz

            Hi, Maddie, are you an MD or a nutritionist? And even if the answer is yes to either (or both!) questions, the aggressive tone of your comments make it look like you’ve got some kind of unresolved personal issue that should be taken care of.
            That’s just your very personal reaction. Not every MD and nutritionist will respond the same way after reading something they disagree with or just hadn’t heard of thus far – just because you or people in your family haven’t heard of something before, that doesn’t mean there is no evidence of that in the whole wide world. Instead, the smartest people I know will feel motivated to look it up, study and learn something new. If every scientist, every doctor got stuck at scientific consensus, science would never make any progress.

          • Ximena

            Ooh this is an interesting discussion. Maddie, livers are one of the detoxifying organs of the body, no? (For example, one of the more well-known functions of the liver is to detoxify alcohol from the body. In addition it also removes other toxins from the body, such as excess oestrogen.) It is my understanding that changing your diet to a more fibre-full diet helps to remove excess oestrogens from the body by binding to it in the bowel and therefore assists the liver in removing oestrogen. I do dislike the phrase ‘cleanse the liver by flushing out excess oestrogen’ as it reminds me of that phrase in yoga commonly associated with twisting – ‘flushing blood through the body’ – since that phrase does seem pretty woo-woo. But phrasing aside, you can say that changing your diet to include more root veggies would assist in eliminating excess oestrogen. It seems pretty evidence based to me.

            I was going to link to a scholarly article to back this up but couldn’t easily find one. If you google it though, there are plenty of non ‘woowoo’ sources to back this up. But yes – I do agree that scientific justification of research would be helpful. I have a number of books (including Alissa Vitti’s one) that state fibre is helpful in oestrogen elimination and yet none of them are transparent or easily show their scientific evidence. This is not helpful to women attempting to navigate the crazy amounts of health claims online.

    • Elsa Jeanette

      I agree that the “root veggies cleanse the liver…” and similar claims are unproven in Western medicine, but I don’t think that’s the point of this article. The takeaway here is that your diet affects your health – which is a simple, truthful conclusion that, in my opinion, doesn’t require an MD to bless the article.

      The author states that the research backing up the food choices is cited in the app. But even if an MD was cited here saying that all the research was pseudoscience (which I doubt would be the case), it doesn’t change that the author had positive results from this and wants to share her success with others who may benefit.

    • Hi Maddie. I want you to know I was very careful (as was my editor) about not saying anything was a fact. Rather I’m speaking to my unique experience trying out a dietary routine that’s been getting a lot of attention lately. It was my intention to see if it worked for me and I was in no way biased (I have no connection to the author of WomanCode. I believe you have a right to this opinion just as I have a right to tell this story. My quotes, including the root veggies from, came directly from info in the app and I was very clear about that. Additionally, and what I was unable to cover here, I have had a 20+ year battle with these symptoms and have sought advice from traditional medical doctors throughout that time. For me, changing my diet in this way made a big impact. And that’s what I’m trying to say. Even more so, I wanted women to open up a dialogue about our periods, because as I mention in the story, it wasn’t something I grew up with and in many ways felt really alone in dealing with. So if there’s any take away for you here, I hope it’s that.

      • Hi Ashley, thanks for replying. I added the little bit at the end of my comment because I wanted to be clear that these issues are really serious and I know that there are people for whom these symptoms are life changing. I also totally see why you and lots of other women would look to different sources for information when traditional medical practitioners have not given you the help you needed. I know that these issues (probably because they only affect women) tend to be horribly under-researched and not taken seriously enough, so I hope my comment didn’t take away from that fact, and I would never ever want to tell anyone what does and doesn’t work for them personally.

        Just to clarify, my issue is not with the whole of your article. There are bits of evidence taken from the app that are correct as far as I have had it explained to me by professionals, but there are also parts of what you lifted from the app which are not correct science, and I just don’t like to see articles which fuel misunderstanding and perpetuate long debunked ideas like liver detox on sites that I respect a lot and I think have huge potential to empower their readers with correct information.

        I’m not saying that your dietary changes didn’t work for you (obviously they did, otherwise why would you write this? And I’m glad you have found something that helps you so much and I hope it helps others too). What I am saying though is that the reasoning provided by the app for the dietary changes – reasoning like ‘root vegetables flush out the liver’ – is pseudoscience. While it’s wonderful that there are non-medical options out there for people whom the medical model has in many ways failed, I think you and MR could spread your great results without perpetuating the pseudoscience that the app company has attached to it. And the way to do that is to consult a qualified MD to do a fact check on health articles before they are published.

        For example I totally agree that educating people about menstrual phases and encouraging frank conversation about periods and hormonal imbalance can only be a great thing for women, I just wish the 80% of the article that was helpful in this regard could have been published without the detox myths etc attached.

        Either way it’s an issue I feel MR has and not you as an individual writer, and I genuinely am glad you found something that works for you.

        • Thanks for clarifying Maddie. Again, I’ll just say that for this piece we opted to focus on info given by the app — NOT to say that this is a fact set in stone — but rather to narrow this clearly very broad subject. We couldn’t possibly touch on it all. Instead, I wanted to experiment specifically with the app. That’s why the info provided here comes directly from it. You should know that the MR team was also very concerned to not state anything as hard facts, so my apologies if you felt we didn’t do that. I personally stand behind what I’ve written and am happy with the result. But I so appreciate your feedback.

          • No worries and also you’re under no obligation to appreciate the feedback. I guess it must be hard to publish online and then have people like me get shouty about it. But yeah again I don’t assume anything but good intentions on your part in sharing your journey so that other people similarly at a loss as to how to treat their symptoms can be helped too. But I think yeah on this occasion for me at least it still felt like MR was serving to perpetuate some bad info. But I don’t consider that a failing in any individual writer – you can only do so much research, and that’s what editors are for. I just felt some parts of the article fitted into a pattern of bad science reporting I’ve seen on MR the past few months – there was something about detoxing with white coffee a while ago – and because I think MR is so great it just frustrates me.

    • Elsa Jeanette

      I’m normally not active in comments – but this has been bothering me all day.

      Just because something hasn’t been extensively studied (“proven”) by traditional Western doctors doesn’t mean it’s ineffective, unsafe, or false. Western doctors get very little training in diet/healthy eating, and this app was developed by an actual nutritionist. Discrediting the nutritionist and calling this “pseudoscience” because it’s not MD-approved is exclusivist and unfair – both to the nutritionist and the author.

      • Hi Elsa – just to be clear I’ve said a couple of times that I am not saying that this didn’t work for the author, I’m saying the reasoning used by the app to substantiate their nutrition recommendations- reasoning like ‘root vegetables flush out the liver’ – is not based in fact at all. There is extensive understanding of the liver in medical science and that is not how it works. My issue is, as I have said, not with the author but with the app/site creators for using detox myths to back up what otherwise seems to be a useful product, and with MR for perpetuating those myths by publishing them on their hugely powerful platform without checking or challenging them at all.

        I don’t usually get so in depth in comments sections, but I really care about women having access to evidence based, correct information regarding health of all kinds. I am not trying to silence anyone sharing their experience, but I think MR is too good of a publication to perpetuate misinformation about detox etc in this cavalier way, and I think it’s readers deserve properly fact checked and balanced information, particularly when it comes to health. I hope it’s now clear what my intentions were in commenting and who I think is at fault here (ie not Ashley the author).

  • Kari

    Hm no wonder 1 week I always crave eggs and veggies and 1 week I crave fruit and grains.
    Is it ok to eat all of those recommended foods each day?? I usually do except no Fruit other than that one week. I have not eaten ANY sugar or processed in 2 years and never want to again, it was the biggest cause of joint pain and mood swings! I still do consume organic hormone free dairy each day and occasional red meat as long as it’s grassfed and no hormones. I only drink cofee when I have headaches, so usually during menus. My period is easy though cus I do not produce estrogen because damaged pituitary gland so I have to take birth control only to have a period, but if anyone else has this disorder (empty stella syndrome) and knows if it can be fixed with diet so I don’t have to take estradiol, omg.

    • Hi Kari! To answer your question, really the “diet” is pretty tailored to your symptoms when you use the app. So the ones above were somewhat dependent upon what I was struggling with at the given time. Some are overall! If you’re curious you can also download a PDF of WomanCode Fred online or pay the $1.99 or whatever for the app which I find incredible approachable and user friendly. Hope that helps!

  • bryn

    Hi Ashley!

    Thanks for this review – I downloaded MyFlo last month and have been trying to at least understand, if not change, everything. My only issue with it is this: my husband and I split our time between east and west coast, and in-between we travel. Like, every week. We also work in the food & beverage industry which means LOTS of requisite dinners/lunches/events (pretty much every meal but breakfast). Basically what I’m asking is — how does one maintain this level of control over their diet (aside from making the obvious menu choices that are closest to ‘on track’) every day? I suffer so greatly with my cycle and symptoms and I’m trying to right my wrongs, I’m just lost as to how to maintain it on the road!

    • I’m no professional but in my experience I’d say the more familiar you get with what to avoid and what to add in, the easier it gets. It’s definitely easier for me in that I cook at home a lot, but I think you’ll have to get really good at navigating menus if you want to keep the diet consistent. You may want to grab the whole book, WomanCode which will elaborate on this more. It will also go deeper into stress and other things I suspect might be taking a toll given your schedule!

  • lena

    Myself and my husband had been trying to get pregnant for 18 months before I was referred to Native Iyabasira fertility solution. We had no definite diagnosis of what was wrong and had become very frustrated. In November 2015 I was given a thorough reproductive health work up, I found out I had low progesterone, thyroid issues and a stomach issue which was affecting my ability to get pregant. This was a very thorough process involving dietary, hormonal and physical investigations and started the recommended treatments in Feb 16 2016. I was pregnant by april 16. I had a baby boy in march 2017. I was carefully monitored and mother Iyabasira was always available for me. I can’t recommend native iyabasira more highly so much so we are hoping to start trying for a second baby under her guidance.

  • I’ve heard about this book and now I think I need to read it! Love the idea of balancing hormones in direct relationship to your cycle.

  • sally

    Hey, author – from the descriptions of your symptoms and as someone who has lived through all of those myself for years, you likely have endometriosis. It’s not easily diagnosed and I only found out when I had an MRI for something unrelated and they found an endometrioma in my left ovary by accident. You are doing the right thing to balance your hormones with food as best you can. I wish I had realized that what I was going through was endometriosis related a lot earlier than at 36. Good for you for taking steps to heal yourself, and maybe read up on endo for further help.

  • V Lakshmi

    I just read your post on it was helpful and thought you made some really great points. I especially liked your take on this unusual topic.Here is a balanced approach towards PMS http://www.publicdebate.in/potential-diet-get-rid-premenstrual-syndrome-symptoms/