Yes, we know how you’d like nothing more than to just binge watch sappy romcoms with a mug of hot coffee when you’re on your period. And yes, we know how great it feels. But what might feel amazing to you might not be all that amazing for your body. Some of the foods we eat make the period cramps worse. And often, in an attempt to reduce the discomfort, we check off every box on the “what not to eat” list and end up experiencing more pain. However, contrary to what most us have grown up believing, period pain isn’t inevitable. With the right diet, we can easily alleviate it, at least to a certain extent.
What To Eat
1. Green Veggies
There is little that green vegetables can’t do. They are rich sources of calcium and magnesium, which relax the uterus muscles and reduce the cramps.1 2 Kale, specifically, contains a whopping 139 mg of calcium (per 100 g serving). Studies also show that calcium supplements are effective in reducing most menstrual and premenstrual symptoms, including pain and bloating. So, the next time Aunt Flo visits, make sure you don’t forget to include green vegetables in your diet.
2. Fish Or Fish-Oil
Eating fish when you’re on your period could make it a smooth cycle. In a study that looked at how eating fish affected the menstrual symptoms in Danish women, it was observed that fish reduced the period discomfort and pain. The omega-3 fatty acids present in fish and fish-oil work by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, the hormones that contribute to menstrual cramps. This reduction in the intensity of the cramps is even more significant when vitamin B12 supplements are taken along with fish-oil.3 4
Chickpeas are rich sources of vitamin B6, which is used as a nutritional supplement to reduce menstrual cramps. 5 A chopped chickpea greek salad is the perfect snack to eat if you’re on a painful period. To help ease those digestion-related problems on your period, you can also add some high-fibre foods like Brussel sprouts and peas to the salad.
4. Sweet Potato
You don’t have to completely avoid your favorite foods! Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin E, which is known to reduce the severity of PMS. It stabilizes the mood, reduces cravings and bloating sensations, and reduces anxiety.6 It also reduces breast tenderness that often accompanies a period.7 If you’re not a huge fan of sweet potato, you can even replace it with avocados (no, we’re not kidding!), as they are equally rich in vitamin E.
What Not To Eat
Perhaps, now would be the time to switch to herbal tea! Coffee contains high amounts of caffeine that throws off your endocrine system, causing your blood sugar levels to fluctuate. It also makes the symptoms of PMS worse, increasing anxiety and mood swings.8 Although there are experts who state that caffeine might actually help reduce period pain, it’s best to stay away as research says otherwise.
2. Packaged Juices And Foods
Most foods that come in packets run the risk of being unhealthy. They contain artificial sweeteners, which cause fluctuations in your blood sugar level and make menstrual cramps worse. If you’re craving a sweet treat, prepare one for yourself. Apples and peanut butter not only make for a delicious snack but also provide you with healthy fats and carbs and give you enough energy to sail through those 5 days!
Meat is known to increase the production of prostaglandins, the hormone responsible for uterine inflammation and period cramps. It also contains high amounts of fat, which can increase the severity of PMS.9 If you can’t go without meat, opt for lean meat (like skinless chicken and turkey) instead – they’re low-fat and protein-rich.
Along with the right diet, make sure that you also get plenty of exercise. A healthy lifestyle can go a long way in making your period pain-free. However, if the cramps are unbearable or if you’re having a longer period than usual, consult a gynaecologist to rule out serious complications like PCOS and endometriosis.
|↑1||Hobbs, Christopher, Kathi Keville. Women’s Herbs, Women’s Health. Book Publishing Company, 2007.|
|↑2||Zand, Janet. Allan N. Spreen, James B. LaValle. Smart Medicine for Healthier Living. Penguin, 1999.|
|↑3||Deutch, Bente, Eva Bonefeld Jørgensen, and Jens C. Hansen. “Menstrual discomfort in Danish women reduced by dietary supplements of omega-3 PUFA and B12 (fish oil or seal oil capsules).” Nutrition Research 20, no. 5 (2000): 621-631.|
|↑4||Castleman, Micheal. Blended Medicine: How to Integrate the Best Mainstream and Alternative Remedies for Maximum Health and Healing. Rodale, 2002.|
|↑5||Zand, Janet. Allan N. Spreen, James B. LaValle. Smart Medicine for Healthier Living. Penguin, 1999.|
|↑6||Feinstein, Alice. Prevention’s Healing with Vitamins: The Most Effective Vitamin and Mineral Treatments for Everyday Health Problems and Serious Disease– from Allergies and Arthritis to Water Retention and Wrinkles. Rodale, 1996.|
|↑7||Challem, Jack, Melissa Diane Smith. User’s Guide to Vitamin E. Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2002|
|↑8||Rossignol, Annette MacKay. “Caffeine-containing beverages and premenstrual syndrome in young women.” American Journal of Public Health 75, no. 11 (1985): 1335-1337.|
|↑9||Levett, Carolyn. Recipes & Diet Advice for Endometriosis: Comprehensive diet and nutrition advice to help reduce the pain and symptoms of endometriosis. Lulu Press, 2013.|