You can eat your way to clear skin, healthy hair, a better memory and even a happier you. Food really is medicine. But is it better than Nurofen? Well, believe it or not, you can even use food to help alleviate the hell that is period pain. Of course, when cramps strike, it can be all too easy to reach for the closest dose of comfort food, but research has found that many foods might be making cramps worse. But conversely, there are also plenty of foods that can help ease the pain too. So below, we've called out the foods to avoid and the foods to stock up on to help you sail through your next period.
Artem Bali on Unsplash
Sugary, carbonated drinks like Coke contribute to bloating. Stick to water instead. Upping your water intake will actually ease water retention and bloating. Just make sure it's not sparkling water.
Another culprit in the bloating game? High-sodium foods. Processed foods are the biggest source of sodium in your diet. Avoid anything that comes in a plastic package and you'll keep salt intake down and your belly bloat, too.
Emmy Smith on Unsplash
Cut back on foods containing trans-fats, which elevate estrogen levels, to reduce pain during your period. That means fried foods are best avoided. Also, avoid anything with hydrogenated vegetable oil on the ingredient list.
Jasmine Waheed on Unsplash
Kidney beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, and all legumes cause bloating. Keep them off your plate until after your period to keep discomfort to a minimum.
Kavita Joshi Rai on Unsplash
Refined grains, like all processed foods, lose much of their nutrient content. This causes them to interfere with blood sugar and regular appetite control, both factors are concerns during your period. Choose whole grains over white bread, pasta, cereal, rice, crackers, cakes and cookies.
Niklas Rhöse on Unsplash
High-fat foods have a strong affect on hormone activity in the body. Like trans fats, saturated fats can contribute to period pain and inflammation. Avoid heavy meats and dairy to keep your fat intake down, which also regulates estrogen levels.
Deryn Macey on Unsplash
When you're menstruating, your iron levels can take a dip, which is why cravings for iron-rich foods during this time are common. But instead of reaching for a cheeseburger, choose leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens and Swiss chard to replenish your body's iron supply.
Hannah Pemberton on Unsplash
Consuming calcium reduces feelings of depression and anxiety. Vitamin D regulates the enzyme that converts tryptophan into serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Together, calcium and vitamin D ward off PMS symptoms. High levels of calcium can also ease cramps, aches and pains, acting as a muscle relaxant. Find the winning combo in citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes and leafy greens like the ones mentioned above.
Mike Dorner on Unsplash
A banana is one of the best mood-boosting foods you can eat, thanks to its high dose of vitamin B6. They're rich in potassium and magnesium, too, which can reduce water retention and bloating. They also help regulate your digestive system, which some women struggle with around this time of the month.
Tanalee Youngblood on Unsplash
When the sweet cravings hit, reach for a piece of fruit. Whole fruits provide all the nutrients you need to combat weakness and fatigue. Plus, the natural sugars in fruits like watermelon, plums, figs and berries help alleviate bloating.
Salmon is the answer to all of your period cramp woes. It's rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which work to relax your muscles, relieving pain. You can also get your omega-3s from walnuts, avocado, pumpkin, and flax seeds.
Foodism360 on Unsplash
Broccoli contains all of the nutrients that play a role in easing PMS symptoms—magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamins A, C, B6 and E. Fill your plate to boost your mood, fight fatigue, and combat depression.
Charisse Kenion on Unsplash
Dark chocolate is a good source of magnesium, which not only tempers moods swings, but also helps regulate serotonin—the happy hormone. To get the serotonin boost, stick with chocolate that's 60% cacao or higher. Try one of our favourites, Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate (£8). ■
Want more period pain advice? You could always try one of these natural remedies.