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How Diet Affects Menstruation


Image via Brook Lark

Do you suffer from the typical menstrual symptoms?  The bloating, the mood swings, the muscle aches, the fatigue, the cramps (and sometimes severe menstrual cramps)?  Are you convinced that whoever wrote the song “I Enjoy Being a Girl” must have been a man?

You’re not alone. 

But there are some natural, non-pharmaceutical things you can do to ease the symptoms and one of these is diet.   Of course, everyone is different, but there are foods that are generally regarded as being helpful in reducing menstrual symptoms and some foods that can make your symptoms worse.

Topping the list of things to avoid are alcohol and tobacco.  (What?  Alcohol and cigarettes aren’t good for me?  Why didn’t anyone tell me?)  According to a recent article in Science News, a study conducted by the British Medical Journal links alcohol and PMS.  Also very near the top of the “avoid” list is caffeine.  This comes as unwelcome news to us coffee lovers but there’s always green tea and juice.   Another thing to strenuously avoid is processed foods, although that’s probably good advice at any time.  The preservatives and the mystery chemicals in processed food can interfere with hormonal balance and magnify the symptoms.  Avoiding sugar, fatty foods and fried foods almost goes without saying. 

Oh, dear.  So that’s alcohol, tobacco, coffee, donuts, burgers and fries out the window.  What’s left?  There’s actually quite a lot of tasty and nutritious food that’s actually helpful in relieving menstrual symptoms. 

The body loses iron through blood loss during menstruation.  Dr. Jacques Moritz, of Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Roosevelt in New York City, says that a heavy period is the number one cause of iron deficiency in women.  Dr. Nancy Berliner, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, warns that exhaustion is a sign of iron deficiency.  She says that headaches, shortness of breath, sensitivity to cold and even depression can also be among the evils of iron deficiency. 

Replacing this essential mineral with iron-rich vegetables such as lentils and broccoli is especially important at “that time of the month”.   Chicken or beef liver is an excellent source of iron, as are clams and oysters.  But if “innards” and mollusks don’t appeal to you, other sources of iron include chicken, turkey, ham, veal and various species of fish such as halibut, haddock, perch, salmon, and tuna.

Bloating can be relieved with potassium-rich foods such as bananas, oranges, honeydew, cantaloupe, apricots, and grapefruit.  Mushrooms, peas, and cucumbers are on the high potassium list as well.

Manganese will ease those cramps.  Try walnuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds as well as other food sources of manganese such as whole grains, nuts, and leafy vegetables.  Oats are high in both manganese and fiber (never a bad thing) and quinoa is not only high in manganese but is also high in protein and it is gluten-free.  Garlic is high in manganese and is reputed to be effective in warding off colds and other bacteria-based illnesses.

And what about the “C word”?  I mean chocolate, of course.  Cravings for chocolate just before and during a period are common.  If you just have to have that hit of chocolate comfort, you don’t have to deny yourself but do try dark chocolate rather than milk or white chocolate.  Dark chocolate is lower in sugar and actually contains magnesium (that’s how I always justified sneaking a Ghirardelli bar).

Eating nutritious food is a good idea at any time, and it could help make your period easier to manage.


Nannocare offers you an all-natural and hypoallergenic pad that many women have found effective in relieving menstrual discomfort.  To hear what leading doctors have to say about NannoPad, click here.

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