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Five Foods to Help You With Your Period Pain (and Four to Avoid)

Five Foods to Help You With Your Period Pain (and Four to Avoid)
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Period pain, also known as menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea, are cramps and pelvic pain that you may experience during menstruation. This happens because every month, the lining that has built up within the uterus is shed – unless you’re pregnant – and the muscles of the womb contract and relax in an irregular rhythm to do so. Prostaglandins, chemicals that induce uterine muscle contractions, are the primary cause of period pain. Estrogen, one of the primary reproductive hormones in women, also significantly impacts menstrual pain since it influences prostaglandin production. Fluctuating estrogen levels during the menstrual cycle also thicken the uterus lining, potentially increasing pain.

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While over-the-counter medication has long been the go-to for women suffering from period pain, recent studies suggest that nutrition can play a crucial role in managing period pain. Here’s what to eat to help reduce your period pain:

Fruits, vegetables & whole grains

Studies have found that increasing fiber intake during your cycle can significantly impact your period pain since it helps in reducing estrogen levels. Eating more fruits and vegetables during this time can help with your pain as well as your gut (since many women face digestive issues during their periods).

Check out more high-fiber recipes here.

Dark Chocolate

Several studies have found that foods rich in magnesium can help improve both menstrual pain and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) – in fact, low magnesium levels put women at higher risk of severe PMS. Dark chocolate contains around 65 mg of magnesium per serving (~ 30 gms) – making it a deliciously nutritious snack during your period! Other good sources of magnesium include avocados, almonds, cashews, and leafy greens like spinach and kale, which are also rich in fiber. 

Fatty fish

Like magnesium, Vitamin D levels have also been shown to affect the level of severity of both menstrual cramps and PMS. Fatty fish are a great source of both Vitamin D and Omega-3 – another healthy fat that’s been shown to reduce menstrual cramps. Salmon, Indian mackerel rohu, hilsa, sardines and even canned tuna are all great options.

Seeds

If you’re not a fish eater, don’t fret – there are plenty of good vegetarian/vegan options for Omega 3. Seeds like flax seeds and chia seeds are great sources of Omega-3, plus a lot of fiber and protein – which make them great additions to your breakfast during your periods (breakfast smoothie, anyone?) Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, so adding them to the mix is a bonus.

Ginger & turmeric

This is one home-remedy that is actually backed by science. Studies have shown that a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods like ginger and turmeric can help reduce cramps. Other anti-inflammatory foods include onion & garlic, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli or cauliflower), tomatoes and citrus foods. 

Foods to Avoid

Now that you know what to eat, here are a few things to avoid, especially if you have severe period pain: 

Sugar

Studies have consistently shown that people with a diet rich in sugar are at higher risk of period pains, so avoid those sugary drinks and desserts during your period, even though you might be tempted!

Red meat

Red meat is high in prostaglandins – which are likely to increase your period. Studies have found eating a diet lower in animal protein can help improve your period pain.

Caffeine

Caffeine can cause water retention and additional bloating – plus, you’re likely to consume more sugar with it – so try and limit your tea/coffee to once a day.

Dairy

Some studies have found that a low-dairy diet might be beneficial for period pain, especially if you also have digestive issues during menstruation. 

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