We know what it’s like when you’ve just started your period and that dull, warm, familiar ache starts pulsing in your abdomen. It’s around this same time that your mood slips and slides (and sometimes falls off a cliff), your energy levels drop like no one’s business (and you might feel like telling everyone it’s not their business), and you find yourself wanting nothing more than to curl up in oversized hoodie and sweatpants with all the chocolate and other snacks you could fit in your basket at the supermarket.
But even if you’re not in the mood for anything other than eating your bodyweight in food from your favourite takeaway while tucked up in bed and your cravings really aren’t helping, are these actually the foods you should be eating while you’re on your period? Could something be better for your mood, your bloating, or for your cramps?
Below, we’ve put together a quick, supportive guide on some of the foods that help with period cramps and that might also make you feel less bloated. We’ve also added in a list of a few foods to avoid if you’d like to feel a little bit more comfortable and less swollen and sore on days when you’re already feeling delicate!
Seven foods you should avoid while on your period
Ironically (and maybe a little disappointingly), a lot of the foods we want the most while we’re on our periods are the things that cause bloating, mood swings, water retention, and a lot of other painful period symptoms. We’ve listed some of the worst culprits here so you can see how your diet could be helping or even hindering your chances of properly relaxing and easing menstrual cramps:
Salt is one of the worst offenders when it comes to retaining water, so having a lot of it is likely to leave you feeling bloated. Cutting down on the amount you put on your food while on your period and avoiding high sodium snacks should help with this.
Having a little bit of sugar on your period is okay. It’s good for your mood, especially when you’re feeling a bit low and need something to cheer yourself up. However, it’s important that you don’t eat too much of it and cause a sugar spike that’s then followed up by a crash.
Crashes can make you feel worse, especially if you know you’re likely to become depressed, anxious, or moody while you’re on your period. By keeping an eye on how much you’re having, you can help regulate these feelings and stay feeling calm and that little bit happier.
Spicy foods might be a favourite for many, but others will find that it upsets their stomachs in the worst ways possible. Too much spice has been known to cause diarrhoea, stomach pains, and sometimes even make eaters nauseous.
If you already know you can’t handle a jalapeño, won't ever be caught eating cayenne, or aren’t used to adding tabasco to your food, your period won’t be the time to start! Your stomach needs time to get used to all of these first if you’re looking to add some hotter flavours to your diet.
Any kind of carbonated drink, from fizzy water to soft drinks like cola and lemonade, can often lead to uncomfortable bloating and buildups of trapped wind. Swapping these out for something still occasionally should take care of this in no time!
We know, we know ‒ cutting out coffee on any day of a week sounds like a one-way ticket to having an awful time, whether you’re on your period or not. But caffeinated drinks can make water retention and bloating worse, and they can also cause headaches.
They’re also often the culprit behind digestive issues, if you’re prone to these while you’re on your time of the month. We’d also say not to cut caffeine out completely if you’re used to having a few cups of it a day. The withdrawal will still end up giving you a headache if you do!
There are a few things about alcohol that can lead to worsening menstrual cramps and other period symptoms. To begin with, it dehydrates you, which might mean you’ll end up with a headache and feeling more bloated than you were before.
You might also find that it’ll make any issues with diarrhoea worse, or make you feel nauseous. You might also wind up with a hangover if you push yourself a little bit too far, which can lead to some of the worst symptoms you might have on your period. These include: Diarrhoea Fatigue Headaches Nausea Vomiting
Foods that don’t agree with you
This one might be obvious, and you’re not likely to be eating these too much if they upset your stomach anyway, but it’s still an important one to remember. If you have food sensitivities or intolerances, you should try to avoid these while you’re on your period ‒ even if it is just once.
For example, if you’re lactose intolerant but you still like to treat yourself to dairy products on the very odd occasion, you might want to skip the ice cream or hot chocolate you’ve planned. If they trigger anything like nausea or constipation, they’re likely to make any menstrual cramping you have feel worse, too.
Seven foods that help with period cramps
There’s also no need to worry if you’re looking at the list above and feeling down because you’re going to have to pass on the thing you’ve got a real craving for. There are also plenty of delicious, healthy foods that ease menstrual cramping and other uncomfortable symptoms of your period:
Fruit is a fantastic way of staying on top of cramping, period pain, and other menstrual symptoms! Bananas, oranges, strawberries, and raspberries can help with cravings for sweet things while making sure you’re not taking in a whole lot of refined sugar. Meanwhile, some large, ripe chunks of watermelon or pineapple can help to keep you hydrated.
Leafy green vegetables
You might be missing out on red meat during your period, but leafy green vegetables (and often the darker, the better) can help to give a bit of a boost to your iron levels in its place. This should stop you from feeling dizzy, fatigued, or just generally uncomfortable or in pain. Kale and spinach are both good for bringing your iron levels back up, and spinach can even help with adding magnesium to boost energy.
As a great source of omega-3 and protein, as well as magnesium and various vitamins, nuts are a fantastic snack to have on hand when you want to help with your period cramping. It’s even been suggested that omega-3s can help to reduce mood swings and depression.
You might even find that omega-3s can help to reduce menstrual pain and cramping. A 2012 study found that subjects who took omega-3 supplements during their period didn’t have to take as many painkillers, so it could also work for you!
If you don’t like eating nuts on their own, you can also try using nut butters, replacing dairy milk with nut-based alternatives, or adding them to smoothies and other drinks.
Beans and lentils
If you’re vegan, or even if you’re just not in the mood for meat, these are both excellent replacements because they offer protein and they’re rich in iron.
Adding some quinoa into your diet is one of the best ways to tackle those unwanted period symptoms. This is because it contains iron, magnesium, and protein, all while having a low glycaemic index, which means you should feel full that little bit longer and have more energy after eating it.
Quinoa is also a gluten-free alternative for those with coeliac disease.
Made out of soybeans, tofu is packed with nutrients like iron, magnesium, and calcium. It’s also a popular source of protein for many non-meat-eaters, so you’re bound to find it in shops and there will be tons of recipes online to try out.
We totally understand the need for something sweet and tasty while you’re on your period, and you’ll get all of the benefits and none of the downsides with a small bar of dark chocolate! A 100g bar of 70-85% dark chocolate contains 67% of a person’s recommended daily intake for iron and 58% of their intake for magnesium.
Drinks that help with period cramps
The foods we’ve listed above aren’t the only things that ease menstrual cramps, either. There are also a number of drinks you can make up as a quick beneficial remedy to help make yourself feel better:
Chamomile tea contains what experts refer to as “antispasmodic” properties, which means they help to reduce muscle contractions. This can provide great relief when you’re suffering from menstrual cramps. It can also help to release dopamine and serotonin, bringing your mood back up if you often find it getting low while you’re on your time of the month.
If you’re trying to stay away from dairy products, this fermented tea is a wonderful alternative and has the same probiotic benefits.
Studies have shown that peppermint tea can help to soothe a number of different symptoms of PMS or PMT, including menstrual cramps, diarrhoea, and nausea.
Of course, water is always the best thing to drink, whether you’re on your period or not! But while you’re on your days, it’s especially important to remember to have a glass or two; it’ll help keep you hydrated, and stop you from retaining water and bloating.
Oils, spices, and herbs to help with period cramps
There are also a number of different herbs, oils, and spices that you can add to your cooking (or even take as capsules) to help fight off the worst of your period symptoms. Many of them have natural anti-inflammatory properties, or help reduce the muscle contractions and swelling that we’ve all come to know as part of a period:
- Cinnamon (as 840g tablets, three times a day in the first three days of your period)
- Dill (1,000 mg of it for five days, starting two days before your cycle begins)
- Fennel seeds (as 30 mg extract, four times a day for three days when your period starts)
- French maritime pine bark extract (as 60 mg extract, once a day, every day of your period)
- Flaxseed oil (also called linseed oil)
- Ginger (as “tea”; simply slice some up and add it to hot water)
Why do we even get cravings?
It’s something we’ve probably all asked ourselves at one point, simply because we know life would be a whole lot easier without them!
It’s common to have cravings while you’re on your period because, just before your cycle starts, your body produces high levels of a hormone called progesterone. It makes you feel hungrier and want to eat more. This, combined with the fact that you’ll probably feel a little down and emotional while you’re on your days, is probably the reason we all keep eyeing up the takeaway menus every time they come around!
If you can take care of your cravings with some foods that help with period cramps, you’ll be able to throw the takeaway menu back in the drawer and get set for an easier, more relaxed menstrual cycle.
Stay comfortable, no matter what kind of cramping
We know what real discomfort and pain during a period feels like, and we want to do everything possible to suggest remedies and relief for your own cycle. If you’re all set for foods that ease cramps and you’re looking to relax and stay feeling snug for your days, we’ve got super-soft pairs of high waist period underwear to help.
These super-absorbent undies are perfectly designed to hug your tummy, so you can keep feeling as comfy as possible even when you’re feeling bloated. You’re also guaranteed a clean and dry cycle with the in-built moisture-wicking layer in its multi-layer technology!
Why not buy yourself a pair or two to get started and see how they could change the way you go through your cycle every month? We’ve even got a range of other styles and designs for you to choose from so you can pick out all the pairs you could ever need for any occasion!