Did you know symptoms such as low energy, mood swings, uterine cramping, and acne experienced during your period can be treated with food? Your period is an inflammatory process by nature. During menses, sex hormones like estradiol and progesterone dramatically decline, signaling the degeneration and shedding of the uterine lining.
Dietary modifications that address your body’s needs during your cycle are natural ways to manage symptoms associated with your period.
Common Symptoms During Menses
- Bloating or water retention
- Heavy bleeding
- Uterine cramping
- Headaches and migraines
- Low back pain
Prostaglandins and Inflammation
Prostaglandins are lipid molecules that signal and initiate inflammatory responses. Prostaglandins increase when your period begins and causes uterine contractions to support menstruation. Research reveals that women who experience greater pain during their cycles and other symptoms like low back pain, headaches, nausea, loose stool, and bloating tend to have higher prostaglandin levels. Increasing Omega-3 fatty acids and decreasing Omega-6 fatty acids reduce prostaglandin production.
Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Increase Intake)
- Wild-caught fish
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil and olives
- Grass-fed butter
Foods Rich in Omega-6 Fatty Acids (Avoid)
- Vegetable oils ( soybean, sesame, canola, corn oil)
- Processed foods (TV dinners, packaged snacks, pastries, fast-food)
Other Food/Herb/Spices to Consider for Decreasing Inflammation:
I encourage women to experiment with herbs and food to find what best suits their taste. Hot herbal teas made with ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon are easy and soothing ways to reap the herbs’ benefit. However, capsules, tinctures, and spices are also great ways to use herbs. Consult with your doctor for dosing recommendations.
Would You Like to Keep These Tips in Your Kitchen? Download Our Food as Medicine: Nutrition for Your Period Guide
Heavy Bleeding and Low Energy
Heavy bleeding is often seen with hormonal imbalances of too much estrogen in relation to progesterone. This imbalance is commonly called estrogen dominance. Estrogen driven conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids, ovarian cysts, and dysmenorrhea (painful periods) can be addressed through diet by increasing fiber and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, collards, kale, and cabbage. Fiber supports the elimination of excess estrogens by supporting healthy bowel movements and supports a healthy microbiome decreasing bloating. Cruciferous vegetables contain compounds like indole-3-carbinol (I3c) and diindolymethane (DIM), which supports estrogen metabolism by stimulating cellular detoxification in the liver. Prioritizing iron-rich food and foods high in b-vitamins are also crucial for fatigue associated with heavy bleeding.
- Berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
- Chia and flax seeds
- Whole grains
- Leafy green vegetables
- Grass-fed beef
- Pumpkin seeds and cashew nut
Foods to Avoid
Generally speaking, processed foods are high in saturated fats, sugar, simple carbohydrates, sodium, additives, and preservatives. Foods high in sugar cause fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin, resulting in energy crashes and mood changes. Salty, fried, greasy foods and dairy contain saturated fats like omega-6 fatty acids that encourage inflammation. It’s important to decrease inflammation throughout your cycle by eating whole, nutrient-dense foods to supply your body with the nutrients it needs.
- Vegetable oils (soybean, sesame, canola, corn oil)
- Processed foods
- TV dinners, chips, cookies, pastries, desserts, and fast-food (pizza, burgers, fries)
- Sweetened beverages (boba teas, lattes, frappuccinos, sodas, and fruit juices)
- Milk and cheese
Before Midol and oral contraceptives, there were food and plants. Nutrition is a holistic way to address bothersome symptoms associated with menstrual cycles. Modifying dietary choices to match hormonal changes can significantly impact your health for the better. If you would like more tips and advice on natural methods to support healthy hormones, schedule a free brief meet and greet with one of our doctors by calling 480-588-6856.