Some studies suggest that dietary adjustments may help minimize period symptoms, while research is still in its early stages.
Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can help reduce period symptoms like bloating and pain in some circumstances. During menstruation, however, a person may choose to take additional efforts to ease symptoms and maintain their overall health.
This article examines foods that people should consume during their period to help alleviate symptoms.
Best foods to consume
Specific meals may help ease certain period symptoms, according to some data. According to the Office on Women’s Health, around 90% of women suffer from premenstrual symptoms such as:
- period pain or dysmenorrhea
- lower back pain
- mood swings
- constipation or diarrhea
- breast tenderness
The foods listed below have been shown to help with period-related symptoms.
Vegetables and fruits
Fruit and vegetables are an important source of nutrients and fiber for everyone, but they may be especially beneficial during menstruation.
In a 2018 research of Spanish university students, vegetarian diets and just eating more fruits and vegetables were linked to fewer cramps and less menstrual pain.
This was true in several of the trials examined by the authors, but it did not appear to help people with endometriosis.
Drinking adequate water is vital for good health, and it can help prevent dehydration headaches during menstruation. It can also help you avoid bloating and water retention.
The American Dietary Guidelines for 2015-2020 do not include a daily water intake. The National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom, on the other hand, suggests consuming 6–8 glasses of water per day.
Seafood and fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in salmon, tuna, sardines, and oysters. These nutrients can help with period pain by reducing inflammation in the body.
The effect of omega-3 supplementation on the degree of menstruation pain in women aged 18–22 years old was investigated in a study published in 2012.
The omega-3 supplements were given to one group, while the placebo was given to the other. The pain severity of the omega-3 group participants was significantly reduced. They also took fewer ibuprofen doses to manage their pain.
Omega-3s may also help with depression, according to a 2014 study. Those who endure mood swings and poor mood around their period may benefit from this.
Omega-3s can also be found in the following foods:
- flaxseed and flaxseed oil
- chia seeds
- algal oil
- soybean and canola oil
- fortified foods, including some yogurts, juices, and plant-based milk
Dark chocolate is delicious and high in iron and magnesium.
Iron deficiency can be avoided by eating adequate iron. Menstruation causes a drop in iron levels as a person sheds blood, which can lead to anemia in those who have very heavy periods. People who have heavy periods or menorrhagia lose much more iron during their menstrual cycle than those who have “regular menstrual bleeding,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
3.4 milligrams (mg) of iron are found in a 1 ounce portion of dark chocolate. This amounts to around 19% of the recommended daily consumption of 18 mg for adult females.
Dark chocolate also delivers a boost of magnesium. According to a 2015 study, people who are deficient in magnesium are more likely to have severe PMS symptoms.
Lentils and beans
Lentils and beans are high in protein and a good source of iron. Protein is vital for good health, and it may also help control cravings for less healthful foods during menstruation.
Legumes also contain zinc, which is an important mineral. Zinc was reported to help relieve unpleasant menstrual cramps in a 2007 study.
Foods to avoid
Some meals can help with period symptoms while others can make them worse. These are typically foods that cause bloating or inflammation.
Foods to stay away from include:
- highly processed foods, also known as ultra-processed foods
- foods high in sugar
- goods baked using white flour, such as white bread or pasta
- foods that cause gas, such as cauliflower or Brussels sprouts
Additionally, limiting sodium consumption can aid in the reduction of bloating and weight gain associated with menstruation. According to a 2019 study, increasing sodium intake may increase the likelihood of bloating. It’s important noting, however, that this study focused on bloating in general, not period-related bloating.
According to the American Heart Association, most people should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Maintaining salt levels below this level can aid in bloating reduction.
Foods to shorten periods
Despite the scarcity of study in this area, it appears that foods containing specific nutrients may help to shorten the duration of a period.
Vitamin B6 is one such example. According to a 1983 study, this vitamin balances menstrual hormones by lowering estrogen and increasing progesterone. This could perhaps shorten a period and alleviate PMS symptoms.
Vitamin B6 can be found in a variety of foods. Fish, organ meats, potatoes, and starchy vegetables are among the best sources.
Myrtle fruit syrup may also aid, though it’s not frequent. In a 2014 research of 30 people, daily doses of syrup were found to reduce the amount of bleeding days while also reducing pain. Because of the small sample size, more research is needed to determine whether myrtle fruit syrup can help with bleeding and pain.
When to contact a doctor
While many menstruation symptoms are common, people should see a doctor if they have any of the following:
- bleeding after sex
- irregular periods
- spotting or bleeding between periods
- bleeding after menopause
- heavy bleeding
- bleeding that lasts longer than 7 days
- severe pain or pain that does not go away with OTC pain relievers
When a person is losing blood, for example, consuming iron-rich meals can help replenish iron levels. Magnesium and zinc, among other minerals, may assist to alleviate discomfort.
Severe or irregular periods should be discussed with a doctor, since they may indicate an underlying condition that requires medical attention.