Updated: May 9, 2020
When it’s that time of the month sometimes all we want to do is curl up in bed and eat chocolate but sadly the foods we often crave when we’re on our period aren’t that helpful for our bodies. If we want to reduce common period symptoms of pain, fatigue, feeling bloated and sluggish, headaches, diarrhoea or constipation than focusing on what you're eating and your lifestyle can have a really positive impact on how you feel. Here are some foods to include in your diet to help you manage your menstrual symptoms.
Leafy vegetables – such as spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are high in magnesium which is a nerve and muscle relaxant and may help prevent migraines and cramps. They are also a source of iron which may be low, particularly if menstrual flow is heavy. Low iron can lead to fatigue and dizziness. Leafy vegetables also contain compounds called indole- 3-carbinol which support liver function, important for helping to eliminate 'old' hormones and keeping hormone levels balanced.
Eating protein with every meal and snack – ensuring that our blood glucose levels are in balance can help us feel energised and prevent sugar crashes and cravings. Good sources of protein include poultry, fish, eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds
Wholegrains – along with protein, wholegrains help to balance blood sugar levels by releasing energy steadily. They are also a source of fibre needed to clear out old hormones and toxins. Good sources include brown rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, whole wheat pasta.
Healthy fats – oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies are high in omega 3 fatty acids. These essential fats have an anti-inflammatory effect which may help to reduce period pain and also prevent mood swings. Other healthy fats include nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados. Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are another good source of omega 3 fatty acids. They contain phytoestrogens which may help to balance hormones and relieve menstrual symptoms.
Calcium rich foods – such as kale, broccoli, beans, almonds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and seaweed are thought to improve hormone balance and menstrual symptoms.
Foods rich in B vitamins – such as wholegrains, nuts, sunflower seeds, sweet potato and poultry are important for energy production. In particular vitamin B6 is needed for the production of chemical messengers serotonin and dopamine. Low levels of these chemical messengers or neurotransmitters are associated with breast pain and water retention, as well as anxiety and irritability. Including these in your diet may help to improve mood symptoms.
Keep hydrated – drinking plenty of water can reduce menstrual headaches, bloating and water retention. Herbal teas are another good option for keeping hydrated. Fennel tea may help to reduce menstrual bloating and ginger tea has anti-inflammatory effects which can help soothe aching muscles. Chamomile and lemon balm teas also have relaxing effects.
Do not go hungry! - this is will do nothing for your mood, everything seems 100 times worse on a grumbling tummy. Eat little and often, around every 4 hours.
What else can you do?
Stress management – stress can effect sleep and lead to poor food choices. Take steps to reduce your stress such as deep breathing or meditation, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day.
Exercise – a brisk walk a day is better than nothing, but aim to make it a regular part of your lifestyle – choose something you enjoy. Exercise can enhance blood flow to the pelvic area and lessen bloating and cramping. Being outside will increase your exposure to natural light and increase your intake of vitamin D important for regulating sleep and boosting mood.
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Disclaimer: Nutritional Therapy is not a replacement for medical advice, practitioners always refer any client with ‘red flag’ signs or symptoms to their medical professional. The information provided here is general and is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure any diseases or conditions.