Your body needs proper nutrition at all times, but it becomes especially important during your periods. The hormone levels in your body are already wreaking havoc, and certain foods only make the symptoms worse, giving you a more difficult period experience.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) starts about 2 weeks before you are to bleed, and you experience a number of uncomfortable symptoms including headache, bloating, cramps, diarrhoea, and some others. But, did you know that most of the symptoms can be managed to quite an extent by maintaining a healthy PMS diet?
Further, carrying forward these healthy foods into your period can relieve the uncomfortable feelings during that time as well. So, what are some of the period foods to eat and avoid?
Foods to eat during periods
There are plenty of healthy options to choose from during your periods. Here is what you should consider:
Whole grains are always a great option during your periods. Oats are whole grains that are rich in calcium and Vitamins A and B while being an excellent source of iron as well. Vitamin Bs in particular aid your metabolism during your cycle by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates to release energy. Also, oatmeal is rich in fibre, which helps with bloating and constipation.
Seeds (flax, chia and pumpkin seeds)
Flaxseeds help in flushing out excess estrogen from the body that contributes to heavy menstrual bleeding and clots. So, if you are suffering from menorrhagia (heavy bleeding), keep flaxseeds in your diet.
Pumpkin seeds are known to contain high levels of a component called tryptophan, which naturally boosts the serotonin levels of the body, helping with mood swings and feelings of depression during PMS or periods. Further, the magnesium content in pumpkin seeds is known to relax blood vessels and help with headaches.
Researchers at Harvard believe omega-3s help with depression during periods and PMS and chia seeds are a great source for them. They help boost serotonin levels in the brain, helping you to stay happier.
White proteins (fish, chicken, eggs)
Bleeding takes a toll on the body by reducing iron levels. White proteins like fish, chicken and eggs are a great source of iron, proteins and omega-3s, which help with lowered levels of iron in the body caused during menstruation. Omega-3s are also known to reduce period pain according to a particular study.
Green leafy vegetables
Leafy greens are a source of a variety of nutrients that help during periods. They provide your body with iron, magnesium and fibre. Apart from helping with dropping levels of hemoglobin, iron also helps with muscle aches, dizziness and feelings of fatigue.
Fibre helps you with constipation, keeping your gut clean and magnesium is a very important mineral that helps you curb sugar cravings by hydrating your body.
Melons are filled with water which keeps your body hydrated and help with cramps and mood swings. Bloating is a common symptom during and before periods that is a result of your body storing fluids and sodium. The water-rich fruit can help with that.
A study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology linked saffron to lowered levels of depression during or before periods. It works by boosting your serotonin levels and even though you may find this spice on the more expensive side, only a little of it is required in preparing dishes.
Beans are a great source of magnesium and fibre. Magnesium helps with boosting serotonin levels and reducing water retention in the body. It acts as a natural muscle relaxant which also helps with cramps. Moreover, fibre helps out with gastrointestinal problems like constipation or diarrhoea that can arise during this time.
Nuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, magnesium and a range of vitamins. All of these are extremely beneficial during your periods and help naturally alleviate a lot of symptoms like bloating, cramps, headaches and overall metabolism.
Dehydration is linked to headaches and sugar cravings. Drinking adequate amounts of water is very important during your periods or when you are PMSing. It can also reduce water retention or bloating by eliminating the body’s need to retain water.
The production of prostaglandins is linked to period cramps. Fats from dairy and other animal fats can increase the production of these prostaglandins, thereby worsening cramps. However, healthy fats like avocado which are rich in omega-3s reduce the production of prostaglandins, thereby relaxing the uterine muscles and reducing cramps.
Loaded with antioxidants, magnesium and iron, dark chocolate makes for an excellent food during periods to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms. Also, it is devoid of excess sugar and dairy like milk chocolate, making it a pure source of nutrients without any harmful ingredients.
Popcorn is a whole grain that is rich in tryptophan, which is known to boost serotonin levels in the body giving you protection against mood swings, helping with depression and also making you sleep better. Just make sure to eat popcorn without adding salt to it.
Foods to Avoid During Periods
While there are so many options you can choose to indulge in, there are various others that are best avoided when you are battling with Aunt Flo. Here is what you should avoid:
There are several reasons why you should avoid caffeine during your periods, and coffee is a great source of caffeine. Apart from being known to cause water retention and bloating, coffee can also give you headaches. Moreover, caffeine causes the blood vessels in the uterus to constrict, giving rise to cramps. And further, coffee is known to aggravate digestive issues like constipation or even diarrhoea.
Alcohol can cause dehydration in the body, causing more water retention and bloating. Further, it can cause diarrhoea and other digestive problems and a hangover the next day can enhance symptoms like headache, nausea, fatigue and vomiting.
Dairy like milk from animals and other products made from milk naturally contains arachidonic acids which are known to stimulate the production of prostaglandins. This can aggravate your menstrual cramps. So, it’s best to avoid dairy when you are bleeding or PMS-ing.
Even though red meat is a great source of iron, it is also rich in arachidonic acids which can worsen cramps due to excess production of prostaglandins. So while it may increase your energy levels, the extra pain can still bog you down. When you are on your period, you are best to stay away from red meat.
Salty foods are rich in sodium which are known to cause water retention and bloating. During periods, you may get cravings for salty foods, but it’s best to avoid them in order to lessen bloating.
Apart from causing fluctuating blood sugar levels giving rise to excessive mood swings, sugary foods can also cause fluctuations in estrogen and testosterone levels which can in turn decrease serotonin in the body. They can also worsen your acne and decrease your energy levels. Bottom line is that it’s best to stay away from sugary foods during your periods.
Spicy hot foods are more prone to give you stomach issues like diarrhoea, nausea and stomach aches. Further, they may also worsen your cramps and increase bleeding. Try avoiding spicy foods when you are bleeding.