Whether we like it or not, menstruation is a monthly occurrence for women. Many women experience pain usually localized to the lower abdomen. But sometimes this wave like pain can also be in the lower back. This is often accompanied with headache, vomiting, dizziness, nausea and diarrhea. This condition is usually known as Dysmenorrhea. Painful menstruation will make “those days” hard to even do normal household activities, let alone take care of your little one.
Pregnancy and delivery can impact the experience during your periods. For many women who experienced pain pre-pregnancy, they might cease to have pains post-delivery due to the stretching of the uterus during pregnancy. However, few unfortunate ones complain of more painful cramps. And some others notice no change at all.
Why Do Women Experience Pain During Periods?
Here is a bit of biology for you. When there has been no implantation at the end of the menstrual cycle (i.e. if you do not conceive), your uterus produces a hormone-like substance called Prostaglandin F2 (PGF2) alpha. This substance helps the uterus to contract thus shedding the uterine tissues (which results in the bleeding during periods). Women with Dysmenorrhea produce 7 times more PGF2 alpha than women who do not. This excess PGF2 results in more contraction which in turn results in temporary oxygen deprivation in the uterus which in turn causes muscle cramps. This is the pain and discomfort you feel.
Unfortunately, we need to face this every month. Fortunately, with some smart changes in your diet, you can reduce the pain and discomfort to a great extent. Below are foods to have and foods to avoid during your periods.
8 Foods That Help In Reducing Pain During Periods
- Flax seeds for veggies and Salmon for non-veggies: Both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D can help reduce the cramps. Salmon is delicious and flavorful source of these. We recommend grilled fish because grilling retains the fish’s nutrients. If you are vegetarian, flax seed is highly recommended
- Broccoli: Broccoli is enriched with vitamins A, C, B6, and E, and minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. The calcium present in broccoli is known to reduce menstruation cramps. Additionally, the dietary fiber in it will improve digestion and hence reduce bloating – another common problem during periods. Broccoli can be stir fried, put in stew or even steam and consumed
- Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds contain about 75% of daily recommended amount of magnesium and 85% of daily recommended amount of manganese. Its magnesium content decrease water retention and bloating, while manganese help to reduce mood swings. It can be taken by roasting it or adding it in salads which in turn make salad tasty and crunchy
- Skim or low fat milk and eggs: Milk is also a great source of calcium, and hence has similar effect as broccoli we mentioned earlier. However, try to drink skim or low fat milk as high fat content can increase your cramps. Eggs, on the other hand, are good sources of vitamins D, B6, and E. Studies have shown that a diet rich in vitamin D and vitamin B can reduce the cramps
- Pineapple and banana: Pineapple is a good muscles relaxer which will in turn reduce your cramps. You can eat it plain, drink it as a juice or in a smoothie, or grill it for a delicious treat. Bananas are rich in potassium and magnesium – both of which combat painful periods
- Spinach: This leafy, calcium-rich green vegetable should be included in your diet. It can help reduce the cramps being great source of the calcium you need. Spinach can be sauté with olive oil and garlic cloves. Or it can pureed and made into any palak dish of your choice
- Celery: This is crispy and light leafy vegetable is full of water and helps with bloating. You can eat it in many different ways – you can dip it in hummus or peanut butter or put it in salad or you can add a handful of them in your fried-rice
- Dark Chocolate: We saved the best for the last! During our periods, a lot of us find ourselves craving for chocolate or something that’s sweet. Since excessive sugar and dairy aren’t good ideas and might make your cramps even worse, try eating dark chocolate. It will not only satisfy your craving, it is also known to relax your muscles, thus reducing menstruation pains
Broadly, we should include vitamin B-6, vitamin B-1, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and magnesium in our diet.
3 Food Items To Be Avoided During Monthly Periods
PGF2 results in increased inflammation in the body. Hence it is important to avoid foods that further increase inflammation response. These include:
- Caffeine-containing foods and beverages, such as coffee, tea and soft drinks should be avoided because it triggers mood swings which can make your situation worse
- Excessive water retention by the body causes bloating. Salted, processed and canned foods contain high amounts of sodium which increases water retention. So salty foods like potato chips, pickles and canned food should be avoided
- Fatty and fried foods should be avoided because it will cause digestive problems resulting in the formation of gas – which will add on to your discomfort
Apart from everything we mention above, other tips such as having a hot water bath, keeping hot water bag under your lower back and lower belly, regular physical exercise and practicing relaxation techniques or yoga will also help to reduce your pain. Aromatherapy is also proven effective. Intake of water is also important. Warm water or hot water is recommended because it will increase blood flow which will help the muscles to relax thus reducing the cramps. Stretching will also help.
These dietary tips are simple to follow – you can easily manage to include them in your diet even when multitasking with your child. And it would result in bringing a remarkable change in your discomfort during your periods. However if the pain lasts more than 72 hours or if you are bleeding heavily you should seek medical attention.