WHATS GOING ON DURING YOUR PERIOD?
During our period we all experience very different symptoms and feelings. Some people barely notice anything, while some suffer more heavily and can struggle to get out of bed or function to their normal ability.
When our bodies are cramping and our emotions are out of sync it can be hard to find the time and effort to cook a real meal or to even have the appetite for one, and yet we don’t always connect the two. We can actually eat specific things that can alleviate certain symptoms, replenish nutrients we are missing, and support our busy bodies through their monthly flow. So if we can muster the will to be coaxed from our cosy blanket forte, let’s have a look at some of the best things to reach for – and the ones to avoid.
WHAT TO DO ON YOUR PERIOD?
Studies have shown that as our hormones dip and flow through our cycles, certain micro-nutrients become depleted. While some foods can replenish some of these nutrients and lessen the symptoms we are all too familiar with, some foods can actually aggravate our symptoms and leave us feeling worse than we would normally.
Despite the cravings we may have for the sugary and fatty treats that our hormones may be tricking us in to thinking we want, we actually need to lean towards the healthier more nutritious food groups for a positive effect on your monthly symptoms.
However, let’s start with the most important – Water! Not technically a food, but just as, if not more important to mention. It seems simple, as we drink this every day and we all know how life-giving this liquid is. However even when not going through the flow of your period, it is all too easy to forget to drink enough H2O. So, especially on your period it is important to stay hydrated, keeping those headaches at bay and can also help to stop you feeling as bloated and retaining water.
LEAFY GREENS – The power house of nutrients on any day of the month, however these vitamin packed greens can support a multitude of symptoms. During our period it is known that our iron levels can dip with the flow. Eating leafy greens can help to support these levels back to normal, especially if you experience a heavier flow, eliminating the heavy fatigue and dizziness we can often feel. However, they aren’t a one-trick-pony. If you're prone to bloating through your flow, vegetables rich in magnesium and fibre are a sure fire way to help reduce that feeling, and there's no better source of both of these than greens like kale, spinach, and collards. So, have them alongside your eggs in the morning, as the base of a delicious salad or chuck them into your favourite smoothie for nutrients you won’t even notice, but your body will!
FISH – Especially Salmon – always good for our bodies, delightfully delicious, and adaptable to many different ways of cooking from the simply grilled, to the more gourmet methods for the chefs among us. The omega-3 rich fish is known to have the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help to reduce period cramps, and shown in studies to actually reduce the pain we experience from them. Also rich in vital nutrients as iron, protein and Vitamin D, salmon is a strong contender to improve those dips of vitals, and become a staple of a flow-week menu.
TURMERIC – The curcumin in turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient, which can help to ease the pain and tension we feel during our flow, and in our achy muscles. It’s perfect in a warm blend of turmeric tea, with some cinnamon, a little cardamon, cracked black pepper with a delicious coconut (or other plant based) milk. The cracked black pepper helps your body to absorb the medical benefits of the turmeric, and pairing with the heathy fat in the coconut milk helps the curcumin to be soluble and absorbed into your bodies easier.
OATMEAL – An age-old classic, oatmeal is the source of a lot of fond breakfast memories and can be kept plain and simple or jazzed up with many fancy toppings and combinations. All adaptabilities aside, oatmeal is a great source of calcium, vitamins A & B and iron, which are all great diet additions any day of the month. However, the type of iron that is found in oatmeal has actually been shown in one study to reduce the effects of PMS symptoms. Oatmeal is also a known easy-eat for those upset stomachs, which we are all too aware of during those menstrual days.
CHOCOLATE (DARK) – Yes, chocolate! Saving the best until last, dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants, as well as rich in iron and magnesium. As we already know, increasing our iron intake during our periods can only improve our feelings, (especially when the source is chocolate based). Studies have also shown that magnesium can reduce the severity of some PMS symptoms, and one 100 gram bar of 65-80% dark chocolate contains over 50% of our recommended daily intake of magnesium. So if you feel the chocolate craves increasing, make sure you’re reaching for the dark chocolate, and not one filled full of nasty refined sugars and dairy elements and you can indulge, whilst helping yourself out physically too.
(c): Cristina Gareau
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WHAT TO AVOID ON YOUR PERIOD
Unfortunately there are some foods that, despite how much your body may be craving them or you happen upon an unavoidable temptation, they are just not going to help. As we all know, depriving ourselves of something we crave can have some emotionally catastrophic results (cue the tears) however, some alternatives to the detrimental foods can easily be as enjoyable, satisfying and simultaneously help relieve some of those symptoms leaving you all round a much happier human!
CAFFEINE – A staple in many of our morning routines, whether in coffee or black tea, we are all susceptible to feel the sleepy-feels until the caffeine is racing through our veins! However, unfortunately, caffeine is not your friend during your period, despite how much it may feel like it should be, especially if you’re feeling the period-related sleep disturbances. Caffeine makes our blood vessels constrict, which can ultimately have a tightening effect on the uterus, emphasising those cramps and pains.
Caffeine can cause additional bloating and water retention, as well as the caffeine dehydration exacerbating those period headaches. However, caffeine withdrawal can aggravate those too, so if you’re used to caffeine in your morning, maybe try reducing from coffee to black tea instead to reduce the caffeine effects, without causing withdrawal symptoms too! Caffeine can also be known to cause digestive issues. If you tend to get diarrhoea during your period, reducing your coffee intake could ease this from happening.
SUGAR (refined) – Sugar cravings are quite normal and some sugar is ok, especially if it’s a more natural based sugar, however refined sugar can cause a spike in energy, which is always followed by a crash which can then worsen our mood. If you tend to feel depressed or anxious during your period, reducing or eliminating your sugar intake can help regulate your mood. Artificial sweeteners are an equally bad choice, since they're shown to disrupt hormones as well. So if you're craving something yummy, reach for some of that unsweetened dark chocolate instead or a perfectly ripe seasonal fruit can serve up the necessary sweet-tooth substitute.
ALCOHOL – Reaching for that nice glass of red wine might seem like a good idea, however, it won’t actually make you feel better. Whilst having its own negative effects on the body, like dehydration, it can also be known to exacerbate your PMS symptoms. The dehydration can really fuel those headaches, it can further disturb your sleep, and the alcohol and dehydration combo can cause more bloating. It’s best to stay away from the stuff for those menstrual days, relaxing with a chamomile or peppermint tea and some of that helpful dark chocolate!
So it’s not really rocket science, but treating your body with a little extra TLC during our periods, and being a little more purposeful with the food we are eating, can make a real difference to the hormone balances and nutrient depletions. This can all make our monthly menstrual days that little bit easier to handle. You can also start increasing the intake of these good-flow-foods in the few days before our period bleeding begins to really lay the foundations for an easier time and fuel our body to the best of its ability.