The menstrual cycle involves many hormonal changes and the monthly loss of blood results in extra dietary requirements. I know we love our comfort food when that time of the month comes around, but maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what we put into our bodies during our period. Find out about which foods to enjoy and which to avoid to help alleviate PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) symptoms and any you may have whilst actually on your period in What to Eat and Avoid When on Your Period.
First, what to go for and enjoy:
Levels of chromium fall before you begin bleeding which can lead to irritability, irrational thoughts and sugar cravings. Chromium-rich foods to help combat these symptoms include whole grains, potatoes and bananas.
Magnesium can help reduce mood swings by regulating the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. Foods to buy that are high in magnesium are green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, avocado, banana, raspberries, black beans and chickpeas. One particular food you may be pleased to hear about is dark chocolate (high percentage dark chocolate) which is also high in magnesium.
Zinc has powerful anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce skin breakouts and period pain. Foods to munch on that are full of zinc include sesame and pumpkin seeds, oats, adzuki beans, almonds, chickpeas and lentils.
When you lose blood, your iron stores are depleted which is needed to transport oxygen around your body. Therefore it is important to stock up on iron rich foods such as beans nuts and whole grains such as brown rice.
5. Fibre & water
Healthy bowel function has a positive effect on periods, constipation adds to the probability of painful periods. To maintain healthy bowel function drink plenty of water and ensure your diet is high in fibre. This can be achieved by eating vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
6. Essential fatty acids
These fatty acids can be found in oily fish and flax seeds. These fatty acids will reduce inflammation during your period, prevent skin breakouts and help keep your hormones in a state of balance. These acids will also play an important role in relaxing your muscles and relieving the discomfort associated with menstrual pain.
Although this isn’t a dietary need, it is extra important if you wish to have a pleasant period. Even mild exercise like a brisk walk will help boost circulation helping to reduce cramps, headaches and tiredness associated with that ‘time of the month’. Exercise releases endorphins, hormones that make you feel happier which will reduce the emotional side effects of periods.
Here’s what to steer away from and avoid:
Cutting down on salty foods will help reduce extra water retention which can make you feel bloated during this time. This is likely to be caused by fluctuations in your hormones.
Caffeine can increase your blood pressure and heart rate (you may experience palpitations at the 200mg dose level) which can worsen symptoms. If you are a coffee drinker, try out some caffeine-free substitutes such as dandelion coffee.
3. Refined sugar
Products containing refined sugar will increase insulin levels which can lead to side effects such as intensive hunger, weight gain and fatigue. This sugar will also increase the production of inflammatory chemicals in the blood which might make period cramps more painful. Consuming sugar depletes the body’s magnesium stores, which are needed to keep muscles relaxed and prevent period cramps.