Foods that help alleviate menstrual cramps

Certain foods are known to either trigger or lessen period cramps, below is a list of meals that'll help ease

In Summary

• It’s not uncommon to experience discomfort around your abdomen, lower back, and thighs when you’re menstruating.

• It’s important to note that some foods can lessen these symptoms, while other foods can trigger them making them worse.

A sushi platter consisting of salmon and tuna servings
A sushi platter consisting of salmon and tuna servings
Image: HANNIE PETRA

It’s hard to predict exactly how you’ll feel during your periods.

While some people barely have any symptoms, others struggle to get out of bed thanks to cramping.

Some months might be bearable while others might have you rushing to the hospital for pain-relieving injections.

It’s not uncommon to experience discomfort around your abdomen, lower back, and thighs when you’re menstruating.

Many females experience these and other uncomfortable symptoms during their menstruation.

These symptoms include:

  • abdominal cramps
  •  headaches
  •  nausea
  •  back pains
  •  fatigue
  •  hot flashes
  •  bloating
  •  mood swings
  •  diarrhoea

It’s important to note that some foods can lessen these symptoms, while other foods can trigger them making them worse.

Keep in mind, if you experience any of the symptoms listed above, adding certain foods to your diet and removing others can help ease your discomfort and help you feel better without having to rely on medicine.

For example, the food items below are known to accelerate menstrual cramps and make the period a little bit more uncomfortable than usual.

Sugar: it’s not advisable to consume sugar during your menstruation as it is inflammatory and can therefore cause cramping. On top of that, it can lead to bloating, due to water retention.

I understand that cravings are bound to come but do keep in mind that the chocolates and cakes are not your friends during this period.

Instead, opt for fruits such as watermelons and oranges.

Fat: fatty foods increase the number of Prostaglandins in your body and can make your uterus contract.

The contraction of the uterus will increase cramping and make you uncomfortable.

Caffeine: caffeine blocks a hormone that can make blood vessels smaller thereby slowing the flow of blood.

Coffee can also cause inflammation and water retention, which leads to bloating.

Caffeine also decreases your body's ability to absorb iron, which affects your energy levels and could increase period-related symptoms

Worry not, the list below is of meals that’ll help you during this period and help lessen your discomfort.

1. Salmon

Salmon and other cold-water fish are rich in Omega-3 which helps to reduce inflammation.

This makes them good for general pain relief. 

Consuming iron will counteract the dip in iron levels that you might experience while menstruating.

They are also rich in Vitamin D which helps in the absorption of calcium and other nutrients that help make period pain more manageable.

2. Milk

Milk and other dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt are rich in calcium.

Calcium has been known to not only relieve menstrual cramps but also alleviate other period-related symptoms such as moodiness.

3. Oats.

Not only are they full of fibre but they're also a good source of Magnesium and Zinc.

Magnesium can reduce cramps by relaxing blood vessels. Enjoy oats as healthy homemade granola or as oatmeal. They also bring about a feeling of fullness due to the fibre.

4. Eggs.

Eggs are packed with protein and therefore suitable for when you're menstruating because proteins are bodybuilders.

A photo of uncooked chicken eggs
A photo of uncooked chicken eggs
Image: HANNIE PETRA

They also contain vitamins D, B6, and E which work together to fight off the symptoms of PMS.

5. Chamomile/ginger tea.

Chamomile tea is delicious, caffeine-free, and soothing. It possesses anti-spasmodic properties which can help reduce menstrual cramps by relaxing the muscle and calming you.

It also acts as a hormone balancer which leads to more regular cycles.

Ginger has anti-inflammatory effects, which can soothe achy muscles on top of that it helps reduce nausea and vomiting.

6. Hot water.

Although not food, it is a common belief, that is backed by many people, that drinking hot water during your period helps to reduce cramps.

Drinking water, whether hot or cold, can reduce bloating during your period and alleviate some of the discomfort caused by it. Drinking hot water specifically can increase blood flow throughout your body and relax your muscles.

This can lessen cramps caused by uterine contractions.

7. Green leafy vegetables

It’s common to experience a dip in your iron levels during your period, especially if your menstrual flow is heavy. This can lead to fatigue, bodily pain, and dizziness.

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach can boost your iron levels and cut down on these symptoms. Spinach is also rich in magnesium.

Note:

Placing a hot water bottle on your lower abdomen or back helps 

A hot water bottle with its cloth that covers
A hot water bottle with its cloth that covers
Image: HANNIE PETRA

Mild to medium discomfort is normal but in case you're experiencing severe pain, it would be wise to see a doctor to get checked in case you have polyps, endometriosis or you're suffering from menorrhagia. Just because the pain is common does not mean it's normal. 

Other cramp remedies

Eating and avoiding certain foods isn’t the only action you can take to ease the symptoms of your period:

  • Exercise. Evidence suggests that exercise, such as light cardio (walking) and yoga, can help reduce menstrual cramps.
  • Over-the-counter medication.  Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can reduce your cramps.
  • Massages. Massaging your stomach or your back can reduce in small circular motions has been noted to help relieve menstrual pain. 

Hope the listed snacks/meals will come in handy next time you're experiencing cramps.

The trick is to start changing your diet a few days to the actual D-day so as to let your body adjust properly.

Edited by D Tarus