You’re probably familiar with the irritability, mood swings, cramps, cravings and all those things that we women go through each month when our clock says “PERIOD”. Did you know that what you eat can help reduce/minimize these? Sure, menstruation is a normal and natural phenomenon during which a women’s uterus says no to having a baby and in turn sheds the extra uterine lining that the body is preparing in case of pregnancy, in the form of blood and tissue. But despite it happening to us every month the one question we always struggle with is; What to eat and what not to eat when we are on our period? So, let’s shed some light on the role of food during menstrual period.
Research suggests that diet plays a role in the regulation of hormones associated with the menstrual cycle.
(1) Estrogen and progesterone are the main hormones that take part in the menstrual cycle. Fiber, estrogen-promoting foods, fats, iron- and calcium—containing foods are important dietary components to consider.
Fiber & Estrogen:
Let’s first look at fiber and the hormones involved. One study suggests that adequate consumption of dietary fiber is essential to keep estrogen levels in check. If estrogen is too high in the body, it can cause irregular or otherwise abnormal menstrual periods. A high fiber diet can slow down the reabsorption of estrogen in the colon, thus keeping levels relatively normal. Most of the yellow and orange foods are good sources of estrogen such as; apricot, peaches, many dried fruits, yams, carrots, lentils, peas, chickpeas, soy, olives etc. Whole grain breads, fruits and vegetables are good sources of dietary fiber. If you have irregular periods, then it is better to keep an eye on the consumption of all the estrogen containing foods. (2)
The right type and amount of fats in the diet are also important for regular periods. Lack of omega 3 fatty acids in the diet can cause a lack of mood boosting vitamins, like vitamin D which in turn can cause a person to be more prone to depression leading to irregular periods. (3)
Iron is another nutrient that is highly important for women especially during periods. Iron deficiency is very common amongst women and excessive menstrual losses further promotes the deficiency. (4)
Considering all the above factors we can now narrow down some foods should be eaten during menstrual period;
Calcium rich foods such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, broccoli and leafy greens should be your best friends during your period. According to research, calcium rich foods reduce menstrual cramps and reduce bloating.
Whole grains, beans, almonds, apple, blackberries, chia seeds etc are all rich sources of fiber. Adequate amount of fiber is important to prevent bloating and keeping estrogen levels of the body in check. (5)
Iron deficiency can cause lethargy, brain fogginess and mood swings. Foods such as beans, red meat, leafy greens, nuts, sunflower seeds and tofu should be consumed to prevent low iron levels especially at the time of one’s period. Distress from menstrual cramps can be significantly reduced with a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 which can be found in: eggs, flaxseeds, nuts, seafood, seeds, yogurt. (5)
Vitamin D is another important nutrient that needs a lot of attention. Found in high quantity in fish oil and egg yolk, this vitamin is important in maintaining bone health and preventing irregular periods
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Avoiding the following foods can subside the side effects of menstrual periods;
Alcohol: alcoholic drinks should be avoided as they can increase estrogen levels in the body in turn leading to irregular periods.
Processed and high fat foods: these foods can interfere with our hormones and promote discomfort during periods.
Foods high in salt: the hormone responsible for period already causes water retention, and high salt foods can lead to further bloating. (6)
In summary, what we eat effects our mood. So, when you’re feeling extra moody during that time of the month, choose foods, like the ones listed above (hint: in my free download) to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need to keep your cool. Here is hoping that this article helps all you fellow ladies in tackling the not so favorite time of the month like a champ.
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Article credit: Hibba Nawaz, intern with Carly Cooley, LLC
Baulkman, J. (2016, April 20). How Your Diet Can Influence Your Menstrual Cycle. Retrieved from https://www.medicaldaily.com/diet-menstrual-cycle-irregular-menstrual-periods-poor-nutrition-382740
Gaskins, A. J., Mumford, S. L., Zhang, C., Wactawski-Wende, J., Hovey, K. M., Whitcomb, B. W., . . . Schisterman, E. F. (2009). Effect of daily fiber intake on reproductive function: The BioCycle Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(4), 1061-1069. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27990
Harmon, K. (2011, January 30). Diets Low in Omega-3 Linked to Depressive Behavior in Mice. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/omega-3-deficiency-depression/
How Effective is Intermittent Iron Supplementation for Preventing and Treating Anemia and its Associated Impairments in Menstruating Women? (2015). Cochrane Clinical Answers. doi:10.1002/cca.622
HaltemanSep, J. (n.d.). Foods to Eat During Your Period. Retrieved from https://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/foods-to-eat-during-period/
BB, T. (2018, July 31). 8 Foods You Should Avoid Eating During Your Period. Retrieved from https://www.bebeautiful.in/lifestyle/health-and-fitness/8-foods-to-avoid-during-your-period