Diet and Your Period
Everyone knows that what we eat can affect our bodies and how we feel, so it makes sense that what you eat can also affect your menstrual cycle. Turns out that your diet and nutrition can help you to manage your PMS symptoms, making your period more pleasant.
Reducing Menstrual Pain
While a higher level of estrogen will regulate a cycle, it can also cause more painful periods. If you experience painful periods, cutting the amount of fat you consume in half will cut the amount of estrogen you produce in half too. Other dietary ways to reduce your period pain include:
- Eating six small meals throughout the day, instead of three large ones - this can help to keep your blood sugar up and your mood elevated.
- Ensure you're getting enough calcium. The symptoms of calcium deficiency include depression, irritability and anxiety - much like the symptoms of PMS. Adequate calcium intakes vary with age:
Girls ages 9 - 18 should be getting 1300 mg/day
Women 19 - 50 years should be getting 1000 mg/day
Women over 50 years old should be getting 1200 mg/day
Note: No one should ever consume more than 2500 milligrams of calcium per day.
- Evening Primrose oil contains gamma-Linolenic acid, which your body converts into prostaglandins. Prostaglandins help to regulate inflammation and pain. Some people have found that taking evening primrose oil helps to reduce their menstrual symptoms.
- Chaste Tree Berry is thought to affect dopamine levels, which in turn could affect levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body. Some women believe that chaste tree berry helps to ease their PMS symptoms, however, it is also thought to stimulate the production of prolactin, which could worsen menstrual pain. Chaste tree berry can also interfere with the effectiveness of the birth control pill and other medications that affect hormones. Should be used with caution.
- Vitamin B6 is sometimes recommended, but there is little conclusive proof that supplementing with B6 is actually affective. Also, doses exceeding 100 mg per day can cause nerve damage, which, while not permanent, is probably not worth the risk. Diet alone should be enough to provide your body with adequate levels of vitamin B6.
- Vitamin E could be helpful, but also may not be. Many studies have been conducted on vitamin E's effectiveness as a PMS treatment, with varying results. Unlike vitamin B6, vitamin E does not have side-effects.
- Magnesium is sometimes recommended, however it too has an upper tolerance level (350mg) and when taken in high doses can have a laxative affect. If you try supplementing magnesium, be sure that you're not exceeding 350mg from all of your food sources.
- Cut out alcohol - its depressing affects can make your period symptoms seem worse.
Regulating Your Cycle
Research has shown that a diet high in fiber and low in fat can cause an irregular menstrual cycle. In one study 210 women, between the ages of 17 and 22 years old, were asked to complete a questionnaire about their eating habits and their menstrual histories. The women who reported having irregular periods also had higher intakes of fiber (both crude and dietary), while the women who ate more saturated fat reported more regular cycles.
Research has suggested that the more fat you consume, the higher your body's estrogen production will be. Also, fiber helps the body to flush out excess estrogen. The liver pulls estrogen from the bloodstream, through the bile duct and into the intestinal tract, where fiber soaks it up and carries it out of the body with the rest of your waste.
Gaining or losing a lot of weight in a short time can also affect your menstrual cycle. Women who are anorexic or bulimic will often develop amenorrhea, which means they have missed three, or more, consecutive periods. Usually this is due to a loss of body fat and a slow in the production of estrogen, but gaining too much weight can have a similar effect.
An unfortunate symptom of periods, dietary changes can help reduce the signs and discomfort of bloating.
- Eat potassium rich foods such as cranberries, bananas and other fresh fruits.
- Cut down your sodium intake to less than 2000 milligrams per day. Too much salt will cause water to be release into the skin, causing puffiness.
- Drink plenty of water. This will help to flush salt and other electrolytes out of your body, reducing water retention.
- If your bloating is really bad, water pills and diuretics could provide some relief.