Chances are you're familiar with the cramps, bloating, fatigue and mood swings that accompany a monthly period. Menstruation occurs when your uterus sheds its lining, causing bleeding and sometimes uncomfortable symptoms. Although you can eat normally during menstruation, certain foods -- often the ones you are craving -- can make cramps and other symptoms worse.
Foods or beverages that contain caffeine can make some types of menstrual cramping worse. Congestive cramping -- those dull, achy pains -- causes the body to retain fluids. Certain substances, including caffeine, can make your body hold more fluids. Caffeine also causes your blood vessels to narrow, which can increase tension throughout your body, making your menstrual cycle more uncomfortable. Beverages to avoid because they contain caffeine include coffee, black and green teas, sodas and energy drinks. Choose beverages such as water, fruit or vegetable juice, herbal teas or milk.
Like caffeine, sugar can cause constriction of blood vessels, which can lead to uncomfortable menstrual cramping. Eating a diet high in sugar can also add to the fatigue you are already experiencing during your period. Although your instinct during menstruation may be to grab a package of cookies, you should avoid foods high in simple sugars. Examples of sugary foods you should steer clear of include cookies, candy, cake and other sweets. Choose fresh fruits, such as melons or berries, when you are craving something sweet.
Compounds called prostaglandins act as hormones and can affect symptoms of menstruation. Your body uses fatty acids in the diet to produce prostaglandins, which are at their highest level right before menstruation. Some types of prostaglandins can trigger muscle tension and contractions, causing pain and cramping. If you have painful menstrual cramps during your period, you may want to avoid fatty foods, such as animal meat, dairy products and eggs.
You should also avoid alcohol while menstruating. Alcohol is harmful to your liver, which helps to break down estrogen. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to high levels of estrogen, causing painful menstruation symptoms. If you have any food allergies, eating these foods can increase typical side effects of your period. Other problems that can make your period worse include poor posture, lack of exercise and stress. Foods that can help relieve menstrual symptoms are healthy whole grains, fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Menstruation
- Women’s Health Information: Menstrual Cycles-What Really Happens in Those 28 Days
- Medline Plus: Caffeine
- Healthy.net: What are Menstrual Cramps?
- The Savannah Tribune: Sugar Causes Fatigue
- National Cancer Institute: Tea and Cancer Prevention
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images