In the words of Gillian McKeith and the hit noughties TV show, You are what you eat’. It’s nothing new. We know that diet is closely linked to physical as well as mental health. After smoking, diet is the single biggest risk factor for cancer in the UK. Yet too many of us find ourselves wondering why we feel sick, bloated and sluggish with a major spot breakout after a weekend gorging on pizza and ice cream washed down with copious amounts of fizzy drink. According to data published by the Medical Research Council in 2017, an estimated 70,000 premature deaths a year in the UK could be avoided if diets matched nutritional guidelines.
On the bright side, this also means that diet can have a massively beneficial impact on our physical health and wellbeing. With this in mind, it is no surprise that what you eat can influence your menstrual cycle. It is not uncommon for severly underweight women, or women who have lost a significant amount of weight in a short period of time to stop getting periods as their bodies are unable to produce the adequate levels of oestrogen. Here we look at what to stock up on, and avoid, during your period.
Foods that cause bloating. During our periods, high oestrogen levels cause increased water retention, which equals bloating. And whilst our period cravings pull us towards the baked goods and salty snacks in the supermarket, doughnuts and crisps are guaranteed to make us feel worse. Salty foods cause further water retention, whilst trans-fats in junk foods increase oestrogen levels. Fizzy drinks and legumes are also to be avoided during your period as they also cause bloating.
Stock up on:
Water! Staying hydrated is important every day, but particularly on your period.
Boost your iron levels by eating dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and chard. If you think about the amount of blood we loose during our period, it is little wonder we may feel sluggish and worn out. Making a concerted effort to increase our iron intake is perhaps the most important dietary change we should be making during our time of the month. For those of you who don’t love their greens, red meat is also an excellent source of iron.
Whole grains such as brown rice, pasta and bread are proven to boost energy levels.
Calcium-rich foods to lift mood. Found in milk-based products, green vegetables, soy and oily fish, this mineral is extremely important for women. High levels of calcium can ease cramps, aches, and pains, acting as a muscle relaxant.
Vitamin D, required by the body to absorb calcium. It also regulates the enzyme that converts tryptophan into serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Together, calcium and vitamin D ward off PMS symptoms.
Foods to boost serotonin production. This is particularly important for menstruating women, to help counter the effects of PMS. Amongst its many benefits, vitamin B6 (or perodoxine) helps to produce this mood regulating hormone. Red meat, bananas, chickpeas and nuts are excellent sources.
Omega 3 fatty acids are known to relax muscles and subsequently provide natural pain relief. Period pain sufferers, take note! Find them in oily fish, walnuts, avocado, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed.