Our bodies are the masters of communication when it comes to telling us what we need. This communication might come in the form of things like cravings or pain. For this reason, it’s essential to listen to your body with great care and to act on those signals accordingly - especially during PMS. Some women have it better than others and experience relatively pain-free periods. However, for many women, the time of the month can be something nightmares are made of. Don’t worry, there’s some good news at the end of this tunnel. By avoiding certain foods and incorporating small changes into your life, you might be able to manage your pain a whole lot better.¹
What to avoid during menstruation really depends on you
As all women are unique, it’s recommended to keep a food diary during your menstrual cycle, and sometimes even leading up to the big day. The reason behind this is that food can affect all of us differently. Some women might find certain changes help them, whereas others might feel the opposite. Try leaving out or adding the below-listed foods one at a time. This way, you’ll be able to isolate and identify how your body reacts to them.
Meat and dairy
Fatty meat contains heaps of unhealthy saturated fat which can make you feel bloated, sluggish and heavy. Studies have shown that eating a diet high in saturated fats has proven to heighten the pain one can feel during menstruation.² Eating fatty foods can also make us feel moodier because they often contain added hormones that don’t interact with our natural hormones very well.⁴ In fact, these days commercial meat is pumped with so many hormones that they can change your cycle entirely.³,⁴ Because dairy comes from these animals, it also contains the same disruptive hormones. Therefore, eliminating dairy and meat as much as possible will eventually allow your body’s natural hormonal functions to kick back in, leading to less pain.
Alcohol and caffeine
Too much alcohol could worsen your bloating, affect your mood and increase the amount of pain you’ll experience.² This is because alcohol is actually a depressant, as well as a pro-inflammatory.⁶ Furthermore, both alcohol and caffeine act as stimulants. This means they might make you feel great at first, but leave you feeling tired and moody later on when you inevitably crash. We know that a warming coffee might be comforting for you during your period, but we promise you that hugging a cup of green tea can feel just as uplifting and snug.
Too much sugar and salt
When you feel bloated, you might notice that you also feel more pain. This is because bloating can cause added pressure in the abdominal area, leading to further irritation and discomfort. Too much salt causes your body to retain water, which in the end leaves you bloated. For this reason, avoid using too much salt wherever possible.² Processed foods such as simple carbs like pasta and bread contain large amounts of hidden salts and sugars. It’s best to limit these where possible or swap them out entirely for healthier food instead. In high doses, sugar can also cause your mood and energy levels to spike and send you crashing down later on.
Food intolerances, endometriosis, PCOS and other hormonal conditions making your pain worse
Along your journey to manage your pain, it’s essential to be kind to yourself and remember that what works for one person, won’t necessarily work for you. For example, those with hormonal imbalances like endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) might have a harder time finding what works for them.⁷ This is because they can be especially sensitive to certain foods.⁷ However, there's still hope. For those who experience these conditions, eliminating things like gluten, meat, dairy and alcohol can make a significant difference.⁵,⁷
What can I add to my diet?
Foods high in potassium, like bananas, have the ability to reduce bloating when caused by water retention. They are also packed with energy and nutrients which could impact your mood positively. Furthermore, foods high in magnesium, iron, calcium and omega-3 can also help you in your efforts to reduce pain. For example, magnesium is a muscle relaxant. In addition, it’s recommended to eat foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as leafy green vegetables.¹ Lastly, if you struggle to get through your period without a sugary treat, try to replace what you snack on with something like dark chocolate. Dark chocolate tends to be low in sugar and dairy, and high in magnesium, potassium and iron.¹ Getting plenty of sleep, stressing as little as possible and keeping your water levels up will also have a positive impact.
-  https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/what-to-eat-during-period
-  https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/ss/slideshow-pain-cramps-foods
-  https://www.healthshots.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/struggling-with-hormonal-imbalance-cut-these-6-foods-out-of-your-diet/#:~:text=Consuming%20red%20meat%20increases%20the,will%20boost%20your%20overall%20health.
-  https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/safer-food-healthier-you#1
-  https://www.endofound.org/10-foods-endo-women-should-avoid#:~:text=Grains%20and%20Gluten,hormone%20imbalances%20and%20inflame%20organs.%E2%80%9D
-  https://riahealth.com/2019/08/27/alcohol-and-inflammation/
-  https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323002