Solidly aimed at 50% of the population this one. Sorry.
When I’m on my period I literally crave fatty, sugary, salty foods. When you spend a lot of time trying to eat well this is pretty annoying so I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time looking into why and what I can do to try and make myself feel better (because I suffer from horrible cramps most months and bloat enough to feel like I may actually be pregnant with a baby Elephant) without giving into eating 10,000 calories of pure fat and sugar a day.
Just before and during our periods our Serotonin levels lower (less feel good hormones), our stress hormones spike (not helping in the feeling good department) and our bodies use more calories making us feel hungry more often. It’s therefore not hugely surprising we want to comfort eat- but apart from eating too much of the crap stuff affecting your body shape aims (I won’t say weight!) eating too much sugar will also cause a spike followed by a crash and burn which also doesn’t make you feel good in the long run.
I’ve therefore been making an effort to read up on what foods will help make me feel better without having a negative affect on looking after myself in general to try and implement them more into my diet .
Foods To Eat:
- Water – Not really food but hydrating well helps keep skin clear, prevent bloating (the better hydrated you are the les likely you will retain water) and reduce cramps.
- Almonds – also sesame seeds / flax seeds- these have calcium in them and calcium (but not dairy) can help reduce cramps.
- Dark chocolate – A little dark chocolate can help relax muscles and so reduce cramps, it will also help release some happy hormones.
- Celery – Full of water but not full of calories so a good option if you feel the need to constantly graze!
- Hummus- This one may be a bit controversial. I have read that chickpea’s can help you sleep better and also help improve mood. I have also read however that they can be classed as a Legume and cause bloating so perhaps eat in moderation.
- Pineapple – Help relax muscles (less cramps) and reduce bloating
- Bananas – Helps relax muscles (reduce cramping) also contains Vitamin B6 which can help improve your mood. Banana’s are also good at helping to regulate the digestive system, which some women can have problems with during this time.
- Tea – Yes it has caffeine in it, but it’s apparently better for you than coffee (which can increase anxiety levels and cause you to and retain water). Other types of tea can also help: Green tea for instance provides a little caffine still, peppermint tea can help soothe an upset stomach, Chamomile tea is relaxing and can help reduce anxiety.
- Spinach / Kale- These Superfoods have Calcium in them which assists in alleviating cramps. They are also Iron rich (our iron levels can drop whilst we are on our period hence why we crave iron rich foods).
- Salmon – This is full of omega 3 and Vitamin D. If you can eat it the week before you are due on it can have an anti – inflammatory effect.
- Oranges – Provide Calcium which can help relax cramping muscles and Vitamin D (can help regulate your mood).
- Brocolli – Full of Magnesium, potassium, Calcium, Vitamins A, C, B6, E – Good for improving your general mood and fighting fatigue.
Foods To Avoid:
- Fizzy drnks – Can cause bloating, plus sugary.
- Processed foods – Tend to be high sodium – sodium boats. Making food from scratch can reduces salt intake).
- Fried foods – Can elevate estrogen levels.
- Legumes( – I mentioned this before – some things I’ve read say hummus can help, others say avoid Kidney beans, blackbeans et.c due to their bloating effect.
- Refined grains (- refined foods can interfere with blood sugar levels and regular control of appetite, so whole grains are a better option than cookies, white bread etc.
- High fat foods – Can affect hormone activity and contribute to inflammation (and cramps)
- Coffee – Can increase anxiety / stress levels and contribute to water retention.
Really, this list is not too different to the type of foods I’d want to eat more of / avoid at any other time of the month but if you tend to feel a bit rubbish at certain points in your cycle knowing how you can help manage those symptoms (painkillers and hot water bottles aside) thinking about your diet isn’t a bad starting point.
Note- I’m not a trained nutritionists this is simply based on my own research about something that affects me- I would always recommend you see a qualified dietitian should you need advice!