Every 28 days or so, it happens. The cramps, the headaches, the backaches, the inevitable mood changes, and the bloating all hit you like a truck, sometimes taking you out of commission for a day or an afternoon, completely changing the way our clothes fit, our mood regulates, and our body behaves. Your period arrives and you know what to expect… for the most part.
Luckily, depending on our period, it could tell us different things about our health. The severity of your symptoms could depend on your fitness level and whether or not (and what type) of birth control you’re using. But overall, the classic period symptoms affect us all and more than anything, we all tend to gain a little weight right around that time of the month. Ask any of your girlfriends, they’ll undoubtedly agree.
We’ve already learned that moving—even going for a walk—can help to ease period cramps and make that moment much more bearable. But there are also dietary choices that we make right around that moment that can actually help to alleviate certain symptoms that are associated with menstruation.
Here are the foods you should add to your diet, right before your period, and while you’re menstruating to help make that time fly by, with little or no pain.
Fatty fish like salmon (and sardines, mackerel, and albacore tuna) is high in omega-3 fatty acids and actually helps to relax your uterine muscles, helping to release the pain you’re likely experiencing. Adding salmon to your egg-loaded breakfast, or making one of these 30-minute salmon dinners can help to make those extra-annoying cramps that much calmer.
Craving sugars during your period? That’s one of the most common cravings and leaves us reaching for cookies, cakes, and all kinds of sugar-added desserts. But there is a more natural and nutritious way to fix that craving without giving into processed foods. Watermelon has the sweet element that’ll help satisfy you, but will not bloat you like processed sugar will. As an added boost, it’ll also hydrate you (hey, ‘water’ is in its name!), which we know help with bloating and cramps, no matter the time of the month.
Rich in vitamin B6, foods like avocados are known to boost your mood and help regulate blood flow. The vitamin also helps with pain management and relieves cramps in both the uterine area, as well as in your breasts. It’ll also help to ease fatigue and headaches that commonly signal the arrival your period.
While watermelon helps you get that sweet taste you want during your period, sometimes the visit of Aunt Flo calls for a serious serving of chocolate. So when you need it—no judgments here, we crave it too—reach for dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cocoa and enjoy the serotonin (happy hormone) boost you’ll receive from a couple squares.
When your period comes around, one of the most noticeable symptoms is no doubt, bloating. So don’t worsen your bloating (and the fit of your beloved denim) by eating foods that make you feel bloated. So instead, boost up the amount of fiber you consume in the days before your period — and daily, throughout your cycle — to make sure your system is running properly.
While you’re adding these period-combating foods in your diet, take out these foods that might just worsen the most common symptom.
While almonds and fiber-loaded foods decrease your bloating and let your gut work properly, carbonated and sugary drinks like soda make your bloating and waistline even worse. Plus, the addition of processed and artificial sugars in soda lead to a momentary boost in mood and energy—only to be followed by a serious crash.
Fried foods and fast foods are high in trans fats, which increase your estrogen hormone levels, making the cramps and emotional ups-and-downs you feel during your period that much more pronounced.
At any point in your cycle, but especially when you’re menstruating, make it a point to avoid caffeine as much as possible. Caffeine can not only make you more anxious and stressed, but it can also enhance your senses, making your breasts feel even more tender than they already did.
Processed foods—also known as the boxed and canned foods that line the long shelves of our grocery stores—tend to be incredibly high in salt. From pasta sauce to canned soups, to cereals and bread, processed foods are high in sodium, which directly leads to bloating. Skip the processed foods and help avoid any extra swelling up while you’re on your period. Since high-sodium foods cause you to retain water, especially in the belly area, skip on snacks like chips, fast foods, and take-out dinners.
In dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese hides one pesky additive: saturated fat. And saturated fat, on its own, leads to inflammation, which can make your digestive system more stressed. At a time like menstruation, that is some seriously unwanted stress, so do what you can to avoid dairy. In addition to your digestive system, dairy also leads to worsened cramping, and irritation, making your breast pain and uterine pains much harsher. Dairy foods are full of arachidonic acids, a well-known acid that makes these cramps and pains much worse.
While it may seem like there’s nothing else we can do it help limit and cut back on the painful symptoms that come with our monthly period, changing up your diet can just make it a much more pain-free experience. We’re all in this together, ladies, and with a few dietary changes, we can make it as bearable as possible.