10 Superfoods That Can Help With Your Menstrual Health
- 6 Min Read
- Written by: Jillian Lai Mei Siew
- Healthy eating habits can directly affect your period health
- A list of everyday foods to help you effectively deal with period cramps
- Nutrient-rich foods to help general menstrual health
- A list of foods to regulate irregular periods
Periods are exhausting. Periods are tiresome. Periods are annoying. We all can think of a hundred more synonyms to describe this monthly visitor. For some people, periods are worse. They are unpredictable or extremely painful, so much so that they cannot perform routine tasks.
So, if you are someone who has a bad relationship with Auntie Flow, turn to superfoods to save the day.
Foods to help with cramps and PMS symptoms
Fish, as we know, is an excellent source of omega-3, especially fatty fishes like salmon, tuna, sardine, cod, etc. Their consumption can potentially help reduce menstrual cramps and other pains associated with periods.
Most women on their periods self-medicate and pop pills like ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen, etc. These pills help with period pain known as dysmenorrhea. A study was published in the Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine, in female students of reproductive age. The aim of this study was to compare the effects of fish oils and ibuprofen on pain intensity. The results of this study favoured fish oils in treating period pain or dysmenorrhea in these women.
You’ve probably heard of flaxseed, the superfood to save the day. Now, what exactly is flaxseed? Flax is a blue flowering annual herb that bears small flat seeds with extreme nutritious value.
Dietary flaxseed has an impressive and growing research literature supporting its use in a variety of health conditions. This is mainly because flaxseed is easily available, tolerable and an inexpensive source of a variety of nutrients.
How flaxseeds can help in reducing mastalgia
Lots of women experience mastalgia, which is breast pain, during their menstrual cycle. It includes symptoms like soreness, heaviness and tenderness in the breasts. For some women, breast pain lasts more than 7 days too. The imbalance between the estrogen/progesterone ratio could be the reason behind this cyclical pain.
Flaxseed has been known and studied for its effects in reducing mastalgia. Flaxseed is an excellent source of omega-3 and phytoestrogens. The interaction between these two nutrients could be a possible explanation for its effects in reducing the intensity of breast pain experienced by some women.
Craving coffee? Try peppermint tea instead! The benefits of herbal teas, peppermint in particular, is usually used in treating a number of diseases. It is among several plants used in traditional medicine. Peppermint extract has an analgesic effect and anti-inflammatory activity.
Prostaglandins are chemicals released in the body found in the menstrual fluid. Prostaglandins and oxytocin are known to be responsible for menstrual pain and cramps. Many drugs, including mefenamic acid, a popular drug taken for PMS and menstrual pain, target prostaglandins to reduce pain.
How peppermint helps reduce menstrual cramps
Peppermint inhibits prostaglandins and oxytocin, and thus reduces menstrual cramps and period pain. A study was conducted on female students of reproductive age to understand the effects of both peppermint and mefenamic acid on menstrual cramps. The findings of this study showed that the duration and severity of dysmenorrhea were reduced with the consumption of Mefenamic Acid and mint. Peppermint can be a good alternative to this drug.
Spinach is a leafy green vegetable loaded with PMS-fighting nutrients. Spinach is a rich source of iron, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, and potassium. Iron is one of the most important nutrients required during menstruation. Iron is found in the RBCs in the blood. This means that each month there is a loss of iron during periods. These iron stores need to be replenished.
How spinach helps in regulating the menstrual cycle
Spinach contains about 3.6mg of iron per 100g and can help replete the body with iron. Not only that, Vitamin C can help in better absorption of iron, which is another benefit of spinach. Besides that, spinach also provides nutrients like magnesium and B vitamin(folate) which help relieve menstrual cramps. You can enjoy spinach smoothies , salads or soups during your periods to help improve your menstrual health.
Foods power-packed with nutrients
Red beetroots are an excellent source of nutrients that are required during menstruation. Beetroots are rich in iron and calcium, along with folate. They also have ample antioxidants. Beetroots can improve cognitive function as well as blood flow.
Due to the blood loss experienced during periods, the iron sources of the body are depleted. Iron-rich foods are required during these times. Research suggests that consumption of beets in the form of a snack bar with beet flour can help women with PMS symptoms.
Also, according to a study, women with regular menstrual cycles require an optimum level of antioxidants (as found in beets), indicating their role in normalising menstruation.
Who doesn’t love strawberries? If you’re craving some, then you are on the right path! Among berries, the strawberry is a rich source of several nutritive and non-nutritive bioactive compounds that have several health benefits. These include phenolics, i.e. flavonoids, and micronutrients such as folate, vitamin C, and minerals.
These delicious berries help in reducing inflammation in the body and regularise blood flow. In addition, they also help improve mood and cognitive function.
Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage prepared mainly in the form of black tea. Kombucha is an excellent probiotic with several benefits for the gut and digestive system. Kombucha drinks also feature minerals originating mainly from tea (potassium, manganese, fluoride ions), vitamins (E, K, B), amino acids, as well as other compounds.
Kombucha has manifold benefits in menstrual health. Firstly, owing to its probiotic nature, it can reduce the digestive discomfort caused during periods.
Secondly, vitamins and minerals can help reduce menstrual cramps and symptoms. Drinking kombucha tea may even help in reducing the number of painkillers consumed during periods.
Also, physicians recommend the use of probiotics as a supporting alternative therapy adding to the classic hormonal treatment. Probiotics promote the growth of healthy gut flora. This reduces the bacterial enzyme beta-glucuronidase that leads to the release of a toxin that can cause hormonal imbalance and increase PMS symptoms.
Foods for irregular periods
Papaya is a delicious juicy fruit that is rich in Vitamin C and has several health benefits, it has major benefits in the menstrual cycle. Papaya is considered to be an emmenagogue, a substance that can stimulate the menstrual flow.
Being rich in Vitamin C, papaya can improve the absorption of iron in the body. Anemia is one of the reasons for missed periods, and improving iron absorption can benefit in inducing periods.
Apple cider vinegar
Thinking of drinking vinegar will probably make you wince. But this vinegar beverage has gained a lot of popularity over the years due to its multiple health benefits.
PCOS is one of the most common reasons for irregular periods. One of the causes and consequences of PCOS is insulin resistance, which is also linked to weight. Hence, obese women are more likely to have PCOS than healthy-weight women.
Apple cider vinegar is used in many weight-loss recipes. This could be one of the reasons its effectiveness is studied in regularising menstrual cycles for women with PCOS. According to a study conducted in women with PCOS, consuming the vinegar beverage showed a positive effect on insulin resistance, anovulation, and infertility in patients with PCOS.
Ginger is such a popular ingredient that it is used in so many cuisines. Loaded with antioxidants and other compounds, this root can ward off so many health problems caused by oxidative stress. Not to mention, the soothing effects of ginger tea. Ginger is also a carminative and helps with digestive problems.
Ginger has menstrual benefits as well. It can help alleviate PMS symptoms , however, its uses go beyond that. Ginger can act as an emmenagogue and induce periods as well. It has also been shown to improve the condition of PCOS, wherein irregular periods are due to hormonal changes.
Ginger poses to be an effective and important therapeutic herbal medicine alternative to improve the condition of PCOS.
So, don’t let periods drag you down. Instead, fight period problems by incorporating this list of superfoods in your diet!
For more such insightful stories on nutritional ingredients, click here.
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