On the first day of your menstrual cycle, imagine waking up to … just your period – that’s it.
For many women this scenario sounds absurd. Most of us have lived with period cramps since our teens and have accepted it as a normal part of being a woman. But it’s never just cramps, either.
Common period symptoms can include a heavy flow, sore breasts, migraines, anxiety and depressed moods, and low energy levels. Honestly, it’s amazing what we put up with.
You can stop relying on ibuprofen and use your everyday meals to get relief from your cramps instead.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. What if you could get the relief you’ve wanted for years simply by changing your diet? Read on to learn how.
How Nutrition Affects Menstrual Pain
Women with period pain actually produce 8-13 times more inflammatory chemical compounds (known as prostaglandins) than women who have normal periods. There’s also a relationship between the intensity of cramps and the amount of prostaglandins present.
The good news is, research shows that preventing the creation of inflammatory compounds reduces chronic period pain. I’ve found that this can be done effectively with nutrition through my 7+ years as a certified nutrition consultant working closely with women to resolve hormone imbalances.
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So what does that mean? It means that you can stop relying on ibuprofen and use your everyday meals to get relief from your cramps instead.
Here Are 3 Dietary Changes You Can Make to Experience Menstrual Pain Relief:
1. Befriend Anti-Inflammatory Foods
First thing’s first: reduce or remove the dietary sources of inflammation. Certain foods are known to cause an inflammatory response in most of the population. The shortlist includes sugar, gluten, and dairy, but also keep your eye on soy, corn, and cooking oils like canola.
It’s true, this can be hard! Gluten and dairy are everywhere, it’s no wonder why so many of us suffer from inflammatory issues. But being mindful of how many inflammatory foods are included in your daily meals will alert you to a source of pain-inducing inflammation.
Next, add in anti-inflammatory goodness. The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger have been shown to significantly relieve cramps when taken for five days.
Other anti-inflammatory choices include vibrant foods like fresh blueberries, strawberries, bright green avocado, baby spinach, and turmeric (in a golden milk latte!), as well as wild-caught fatty fish like trout and herring.
2. More Vitamins to Restore Your Hormone Balance
You’ve heard the phrase, “you are what you eat”, and it’s true for your hormones too. Your body uses food to create and detox your hormones so it’s important to provide it with what it needs to do it right otherwise there could be painful consequences.
Hormones leave the body through urine and the bowels, and improper binding and elimination could allow hormones to be reabsorbed into the body, throwing off hormone balance. This is especially true of estrogen, an excess of which can cause long, heavy periods.
A 2005 study proved there is a significant correlation between the amount of dietary fiber and the reduction of menstrual pain.
This is why lots of vegetables are key to a pain-free period diet, especially leafy green ones. I also love to include overnight oats, chia puddings and quinoa dishes in my client’s meal plans.
A wide range of vitamins and trace minerals are also important for hormone balance. This comes from eating a variety of different foods, but if you have to focus on one it would have to be vitamin B6. B6 is essential for normal progesterone levels and you can get it B6 from turkey, cod, sunflower and sesame seeds, and radishes.
Note that you need to make sure you eat enough of the foods that have essential minerals otherwise you need to consider supplementing.
3. Keep Your Uterus Warm
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been working to provide solutions to women’s gynecological issues for centuries.
In fact, “The Complete Book of Effective Prescriptions for Diseases of Women” was first published in 1237 A.D. and included treatments for endometriosis, PCOS, infertility, dysmenorrhea, abnormal bleeding and more.
A basic tenet used to encourage menstrual health is to keep the uterine muscles warm and relaxed by eating warming foods. This makes sense because it allows ample blood flow in this area, reducing the intensity of cramps.
You might already be doing this when you hug a hot water bottle to your abdomen or draw a hot bath for yourself during that time of the month. But you can go one step further to reduce and even prevent cramps by including hot soup and comforting stews before and during your period.
When you struggle with terrible periods, the best thing you can do is utilize your freezer: make double batches and re-heat food while you’re on your period.
Also, try to avoid iced drinks and frozen desserts! If your cramps are really terrible, you may want to focus on eating warm foods for an entire month to encourage your uterine muscles to relax.
In general, when you struggle with terrible periods, the best thing you can do is utilize your freezer: make double batches and re-heat food while you’re on your period. This will give you that little bit of time you need to physically and mentally relax.
You Can Experience a Pain-Free Menstrual Cycle!
When you struggle with terrible periods, you need to know how a nutritional approach can be used to heal the root cause.
Because when you see how your food has a positive or negative effect on the level of inflammation in your body, you can use that knowledge to help yourself out. When eaten on a regular basis, anti-inflammatory foods along with warming, hormone-balancing freezer meals can spell relief from many of the worst period symptoms.
All included information is not intended to treat or diagnose. The views expressed are those of the author and should be attributed solely to the author. For medical questions, please consult your healthcare provider.