You are what you eat; 8 steps to better menstrual health

Reducing systemic inflammation can reduce (pre)menstrual symptoms, as well as those of underlying conditions that are cyclically triggered or worsened [1], especially;

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Migraine
  • PMI (Pre)Menstrual Inflammation (formerly known as PMS- Premenstrual Syndrome)

And this isn’t just ‘pie in the sky’ thinking… There’s substantial scientific research behind these 8 steps:

1. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables

fruitnveg

Fresh fruits and vegetables provide a range of essential nutrients, especially the minerals zinc and magnesium, and vitamins A, C, & E (see step 8), as well as being a great source of fibre (see step 2).


 

2. Eat lots of fibre

640px-fruit-and-fibreEating a high fibre diet has been proven to help excrete excess oestrogen, reducing various menstrual health issues [2]. Fibre basically prevents excreted oestrogen from being reabsorbed into the bloodstream in the gut. It also prevents food from decomposing too much in transit, reducing bloating (trapped gas) and flatulence [3].

 


 3. Eat oily foods

fishA range of essential fatty acids are required for good menstrual health. Note: These essential fats are unsaturated, as opposed to the saturated fats found in meat and dairy products (see step 4):

– Omega 6 oils are found in nuts and seeds and can help reduce cyclical joint/ muscle/ period pain [4].

– Omega 3 oils are found in oily fish (mackerel, tuna, sardines, herrings etc.) and linseed oils, walnuts, kale and green cabbage. Taken every day throughout the cycle, Omega 3 supplements can reduce period cramps and the volume of menstrual fluid [5].


 4. Eat less meat and dairy products

moo-cows-moo-problemsMeat and dairy products are high in saturated fats, which can lead to weight gain, which can affect menstrual health [6]. Research also shows that a vegetable-centred diet reduces cyclical symptoms[7], due to its higher fibre content (see step 2).  So it can be beneficial to eat less meat and dairy products and increase the proportion of fresh fruit and vegetables consumed.

Note: If cutting out meat and/or dairy altogether, or to a large extent, it is important to also ensure that you are getting enough of the nutrients that are more easily sourced from animal products, particularly calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, omega 3 & 6 oils and vitamin D (see step 8).


5. Avoid sugary foods and drinks

sweets

Consuming sugary foods and drinks can result in sharp changes in blood sugar levels that can cause a variety of cyclical symptoms, such as anxiety, low mood, fatigue, headache, and irritability [8].

So, eat more complex carbohydrate foods, instead (e.g. wholegrain wheat, rye, oats, corn, brown rice, lentils, beans, or fresh vegetables).  Also, try to eat small amounts, more often (less than 3 hours apart), rather than just two or three large meals a day. This will keep your blood sugar levels at a more consistent level, and stop you from craving snacks.


6. Avoid caffeine

caffeinated_spiderwebs

Normal web v caffeinated web

Caffeine should generally be avoided (especially if you are prone to anxiety) because it stimulates the production of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, which aggravate several cyclical symptoms, as well as interacting with progesterone, insulin and blood sugar levels [9].

Note: Individuals taking oral contraceptive medications are less able to process and eliminate caffeine through their livers [10] (it can take up to ten hours to process just one cup of coffee!).

 


  7. Avoid alcohol

boozeAlcohol is full of sugars, which can interfere with the metabolic system, appetite changes, and ultimately lead to weight gain (see step 5). It also acts as a depressant, and affects liver function (needed for reproductive hormone processing and elimination). So, if you are experiencing any cyclical symptoms, it is probably best to avoid alcohol, at least while you are trying to take control of your menstrual health.

 


8. Take supplements, if needed

If you are unsure that your diet is providing all of the nutritional elements required for good menstrual health, it can be a good idea to take regular nutritional supplements.

Note: Multivitamins contain most of these elements in one tablet, but do not take those containing vitamin A if pregnant, or trying for a baby;

vitamins

Sources:

sources1

Categories: Diet and nutrition, Mood, No pain, The basics and What's normal?.

Comments

  1. sianh66

    Years ago (at least 20!) there was research from Keele University on tomatoes and how they helped reduce pre-menstrual stress reactions. I was living in Stoke on Trent at the time and had always suffered serious stress reactions prior to my period. I ate at least one tomato a day (on toast or ryvita at breakfast.) It had a significant impact on my mood and stress levels prior to my period. This aspect of my diet was a simple thing to change but had a huge impact on my feeling of well-being.

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