When our period arrives it can be very tempting to hibernate on the sofa with a tub of ice cream or a takeaway. But these cravings might not be the best thing for our body and what you eat can actually have a big impact on the level of pain you experience.
Here we’ll share some of the key foods and drinks that could make your pain worse - and the ones that will help ease those menstrual cramps.
Food and drinks that can make your period pains worse
Many of us crave chocolate and sweets during our period. This is mainly because the drop in oestrogen we experience before our period can cause blood sugar levels to drop. But there is also a physiological component - as culturally we see chocolate as comfort food.
However, consuming an excessive amount of sugar can cause inflammation in the body - which is not good news if you struggle with period cramps - and is especially bad if you are living with endometriosis. This inflammation can ultimately exacerbate the pain we might experience before and during our period - so it’s wise to limit our sugar intake at this point of our cycle.
Booze can be another comfort blanket we reach for if we are feeling low around our period, but similarly to sugar, alcohol can cause inflammation. Alcohol also increases prostaglandins (naturally occurring chemicals that impact things like inflammation, pain and uterine contractions) levels, worsening your period pain. It can also make your blood vessels smaller, making muscle cramps more intense.
The other thing to remember about alcohol is that it is a depressant. If you struggle with PMS, a hangover is only going to make your mood worse but it will also increase your sensitivity levels. We’re not saying you have to give up alcohol altogether (although there are lots of health benefits to doing so!) but definitely try to avoid big nights out when your period is due.
Fried foods are full of grease that can once again trigger inflammation in the body - so try to avoid fatty meats like bacon or fried foods that have been cooked in loads of oil and lack nutritional value (here’s looking at you Mozerella sticks).
Our digestion can also suffer around our period, so anything that could upset your gut health is worth avoiding. Having stomach cramps on top of period pain is not the one. Fried foods are the biggest culprit here but you might also find that some healthy foods like beans or spicy foods like curries can also play havoc with your bowels - so put them on your no-go list for this time of your cycle!
Many of us need a cup of coffee to get us going in the morning, but too much caffeine can be bad for your overall health and can also make period pain more intense. Like alcohol, caffeine can make our blood vessels smaller - even the ones in the uterus - and restrict blood flow, making our cramps feel even worse.
Caffeine can also increase our estrogen levels, and this can cause the uterine lining to become even thicker and harder to break down.
Things that can help ease your period pains
It will come as no surprise that staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do to combat period pain. We can lose quite a lot of water when we bleed, and when we are dehydrated our muscles and blood vessels contract intensifying cramps.
Drinking plenty of water will also help to reduce bloating and painful gas build-up - so be sure to have your refillable water bottle on hand before and during your period!
If you’re struggling with period pain there’s nothing more comforting than a cup of tea. Teas can be a great replacement for coffee and there are a few different ones that can help soothe period pain - it’s all about finding the right ones for you. Some people find that ginger tea is great for bloating and nausea, whereas chamomile can be helpful for soothing the nervous system and relieving cramps.
Look for teas that have natural anti-inflammatory properties and don’t have too much caffeine in them (macha or black tea can have almost as much caffeine in them as coffee!).
Dark leafy vegetables
There is a very long list of reasons you should include more dark, leafy vegetables in your diet - and helping to reduce period pain is just one of them!
Vegetables like kale and broccoli are rich in nutrients that are known to support muscle health - including iron and magnesium - so are great at helping combat muscle cramps that come with our period. They are also rich in fibre which can help ease digestion.
Another great healthy source of magnesium is bananas - and they are also sweet enough to help curb those sugar cravings and give you an energy boost. Magnesium helps by smoothing out the muscles of the uterus and by reducing the prostaglandins that cause period pain. Like kale and broccoli they are also packed with fibre to help keep things in the digestive system running smoothly and to reduce the risk of painful bloating.
Turmeric has a long history of being used to treat pain. Its lovely yellow colour comes from its main active component curcumin — which has anti-inflammatory properties - making it a potential treatment for a number of health conditions, including reduced pain. Many people in the endo community recommend turmeric for the aches and pains that come with the condition. You can add it to soups, stews, oatmeal and smoothies - but maybe give spicy curries a miss around this time of the month.
Our diet can have a huge impact on our period health in the long term and consistency is key - so try to eat a nutritious balanced diet throughout your cycle and you will feel the benefit when your period arrives.
If you are looking for instant natural pain relief, our Myoovi kit can tackle period cramps in minutes.