Fatigue, instability, mood swings and awful cramps are a given during your period but you’ll be surprised to know that what you eat can actually affect how you feel during your period. Turns out, getting the right nutrition especially in these 5 days can counter muscle pain, uncomfortable bloating, headaches and inconsistent digestion. Even though it might seem totally legit to binge eat, you’ve got to take the hard road and make wiser choices. To help guide you along the way, here is a list of what to eat during periods and foods to avoid during the period.
- 1. Can certain foods relieve symptoms?
- 2. Foods to avoid
- - Avoid: Alcohol
- - Avoid: Caffeinated drinks
- - Avoid: Processed foods
- - Avoid: Foods high in fats
- - Avoid: Dairy products
- - Avoid: Fried foods
- - Avoid: Refined grains
- - Avoid: Foods with a high salt content
- 3. Foods to eat
- - Eat: Chocolate
- - Eat: Bananas
- - Eat: Salmon
- - Eat: Yoghurt
- - Eat: Whole grains
- - Eat: Watermelon
- - Eat: Kale
- - Eat: Oranges
- 4. Periods cramp remedies
- 5. When to see a doctor
- 6. FAQs about What to eat & avoid during periods
1. Can certain foods relieve symptoms?
Food plays a very important role when it comes to your period and maintaining your hormones. In order to relieve period cramps, it is best to eat foods that do not cause your blood sugar levels to go up, as they cause an imbalance in your hormones, leading to severe cramps. Therefore, it is highly advised to eat healthy, nutritious and home-cooked meals on your period.
2. Foods to avoid
There are a lot of foods that cause inflammation and therefore it is better to avoid them as far as possible. Foods that are fried, highly processed foods, sugar and baked items are better avoided.
- Avoid: Alcohol
Please go virgin when it comes to alcoholic drinks while on your period (yes, even if you had a really difficult day). While alcohol may reduce cramps temporarily, there are too many negative effects for you to ignore—despite the temporary relief it may give you. It can cause your period to become irregular and also increase estrogen levels in the body, worsening period symptoms. Estrogen is one of the two main female sex hormones is responsible for keeping a girl's menstrual cycle regular. It also keeps the cholestrol and blood sugar levels in check, and is therefore extremely important for a problem-free period. Just one more consequence if you’re not convinced: its diuretic nature increases your water retention levels. What this means is that there is an excess of fluid build-up in your body, which makes you appear more bloated.
Tip: Try a watered-down lassi or some coconut water, it will keep you hydrated and are recommended period foods.
- Avoid: Caffeinated drinks
Turn down the volume of coffee—one of the main drinks you need to avoid during your period. This really helps, because caffeine is a stimuant, which leads to a fluctuation in your hormones, and that is something you definitely want to avoid during your period. It increases blood pressure and heart rate leading to tension and anxiety attacks and in turn, worsening the PMS symptoms. Caffeine also decreases your body's ability to absorb iron, which affects your energy levels and could increase PMS symptoms.
Tip: Have green tea, tomato and carrot juice, or any type of soup instead. These are some of the foods to eat during a period to avoid cramps.
- Avoid: Processed foods
Frozen foods, fast foods, bacon, pickles, canned soups, papad etc. come with unknown ingredients and preservatives that aren’t the best foods during your period. They can interfere with hormones and amplify PMS discomfort. Processed foods are also a huge source of sodium, which is a major cause of bloating and water retention, and is best avoided during and a few days before your period. Since we are constantly exposed to a lot of varieties of foods, it is hard to determine if a particular food is processed or not. But to make things easier, here's a great tip - always read the ingredients on the package; if there are more than five ingredients mentioned, then it would be better to avoid buying it, as it is more than likely to be processed.
Tip: Have homemade meals, lots of salads and veggies, and heart and tummy-warming foods like khichadi and porridge.
- Avoid: Foods high in fats
Fatty foods influence hormones, lead to cramps and can make you feel gassy. Given the fact that your skin is already sensitive during these days, incorrect food choices during your period can make this issue worse and cause it to become even more dry and dehydrated. Additionally, foods that are rich in saturated fat content increase the production of a particular chemical called prostaglandins, which are notorious for alleviating period pain. Ideally, you should try and avoid fatty meats, burgers and cream-based desserts.
Tip: Here's what to eat during periods instead - whole wheat bread, dal chawal, porridge, salmon and lean meats, etc.
- Avoid: Dairy products
This might come as a surprise to you but dairy products like milk, cream and cheese are some of the foods to avoid during periods. They are high in arachidonic acid which can act as a trigger for menstrual cramps. Additionally, thanks to the inclusion of artificial hormones in milk, dairy products are touted to be a major cause of hormonal adult acne in women. So if you have been suffering from conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, etc, then we would highly recommend you to discuss the consumption of dairy with your doctor.
Tip: Opt for buttermilk and toned milk—both of which are recommended period food.
- Avoid: Fried foods
This goes without saying—most fried foods like chips, snacks, biscuits, etc contain trans-fats or hydrogenated vegetable oil. All of these can increase oestrogen levels and can worsen your mood swings. Plus fried foods also worsen the problem of acne and skin inflammation in women, which is why it is best avoided.
Tip: Wondering what to eat during your periods instead? Choose roasted snacks, crunchy veggies such as carrot or cucumber sticks.
- Avoid: Refined grains
Just like processed foods lose much of their nutritional value, the same happens with refined grains as well. In the process of refining the grains, they lose a lot of their nutrients and vitamins, which makes them interfere with your blood sugar levels and increases cravings. Bread, pizza, cereals, and tortillas should be avoided as they lead to bloating and constipation.
Tip: Instead, choose whole grains which have a low GI index and will not only keep your digestive system on track but will also keep hunger pangs at bay. GI or glycaemic index is a rating given to all the foods that contain carbohydrates depending on how quickly that particular food item can affect your blood sugar levels when eaten by itself. Homemade chapattis and brown rice are some of the best foods to eat during a period to avoid cramps.
- Avoid: Foods with a high salt content
Canned soups, bacon, chips are some foods to avoid during periods as they are high in salt. The hormone responsible for menstruation already causes water retention and a high salt diet will cause a gassy, bloating feeling. If you are someone who feels particularly sluggish, lazy and generally uncomfortable around your period, then you must really take a good hard look at the amount of salt you consume.
Tip: Instead, opt for simple dal-chawal with yoghurt or toss up a salad. Be mindful of what you’re eating and eat in moderation—especially when you’re on your period.
3. Foods to eat
If you have severe cramps, then it is better to consume foods that are rich in iron, calcium, Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. These foods help to relieve cramps, reduce fatigue and make you feel stronger.
- Eat: Chocolate
Raise your hands if you did a double-take when you saw this. Does this not make the struggle of having your periods worth it? You can eat (dark) chocolate completely guilt-free! Dark chocolate is great because it contains lower levels of sugar, and is also full of magnesium, a mineral that regulates your serotonin levels and will prevent you from terrorising your family and friends with your mood swings.
- Eat: Bananas
If you’re looking for a healthy pick me up, you can stop once you see the bananas on your kitchen table as they contain high levels of potassium and B6 vitamins. They’re great if you just need a little push to get out of bed and start the day. These components not only benefit your mental health, but also regulate bowel movements and decrease the amount of water you retain, making you feel less bloated. Pick up a banana and get munching. If you don’t care for its taste, blend it in as part of a smoothie.
- Eat: Salmon
If you’re someone who is accustomed to the feeling of tiny little knives piercing your stomach, otherwise effectively synthesized in the word “cramps”, try having a salmon breakfast bagel to alleviate the monthly pains. Salmon contains copious amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids, a substance that contributes to relaxing the muscles in the body—it’s practically a godsend for reducing cramps. If you’re a vegetarian or just not a fish person, other foods that contain a lot of Omega 3 are flaxseeds and soybeans.
- Eat: Yoghurt
We know we said no dairy, but this is the one exception, so why not have a partay with some parfait? Yogurt is full of calcium, so it can help fix the mess that is your calcium levels when you’re on your period. It has been said that maintaining a good calcium balance can significantly reduce PMS symptoms like bloating and moodiness. If you’re set on the no-dairy rule, a good alternative to yogurt is almonds or lentils.
- Eat: Whole grains
Whole grains are a safety net to make you sure you don’t fall into the deep dark hole of binge-eating. If you’re guilty of stuffing yourself with huge amounts of food during your period, any form of whole grains are a great snack—they leave you feeling full and satisfied for a long time, making it less likely that you’ll find yourself three quarters of the way through a bucket of chocolate ice cream at 2am. They also contain B and E vitamins, which combat the fatigue and depression that you often face on your period. Grab a bowl of oatmeal or some pasta if you’re looking for some long-term sustenance.
- Eat: Watermelon
As soon as you feel the temptation to combine the brownies, ice cream, and anything else even remotely sweet you can find in the fridge into a massive sugar mountain, stop, and instead reach for some watermelon. We get this seems like an almost impossible task, but just start with trying. Watermelon is filled with nutrients and vitamins that help reduce feelings of tiredness and weakness and also contribute to lessen any bloating of the stomach.
- Eat: Kale
The iron levels in your body take a dip when you are menstruating, therefore you will find yourself craving for iron-rich foods. Instead of ordering burgers and fries and terming it as "comfort food" opt for green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, Swiss chard and more to add iron into your body.
- Eat: Oranges
Did you know maintaining optimum levels of calcium in the body can reduce the feeling of anxiety and depression which is common during your periods? Calcium paired with vitamin D can ward off PMS symptoms as well as ease cramps, aches and pains. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes contain both calcium and vitamins.
4. Periods cramp remedies
While some foods can ease period pain and others can cause discomfort you also need to try other things that will make those few days of the month more bearable.
Light cardio, walking and yoga can ease cramps and pain according to some researchers. Be careful and don't put too much strain on your body.
ii) Hot compresses:
One of the most popular cramp remedies, hot compresses ease cramps and muscle pain that is common during periods.
iii) OTC medication:
Over the counter, medicines can help ease pain and make menstruation smooth. However, we advice not to ignore severe period pain and consult an expert if need be.
5. When to see a doctor
If despite following all these things, you do not see an improvement in your period or cramps, then it is best to see a doctor. If you have irregular periods, spotting or bleeding in between your periods, heave bleeding or pain that does not go without popping a few pain killers, then you must see a doctor immediately, as this could be indicative of other underlying issues.
6. FAQs about What to eat & avoid during periods
1) Can I drink milk during my period?
A. Milk is a wholesome drink that helps maintain a well-balanced diet. However, eating a lot of cheese and milk-based products can also cause bloating, gas and diarrhea. To be safe it is best to avoid milk for those few days.
2) Are there any foods that make periods heavier?
A. Yes, certain foods can make the period flow heavy, these include coffee, dairy and beetroots.
3) Is it safe to eat eggs during periods?
A. Eggs are loaded with essential nutrients and vitamins like vitamin D, B6 and E all of which have been proved to reduce PMS symptoms. It can also help regulate fluctuating hormones.
4) Can I eat raw fruits during periods?
A. Yes, raw fruits and vegetables are easily absorbed by the body and therefore can be consumed.