As a female, your body is quite different from men's bodies, considering your menstrual cycles and the capability to carry a baby. It is a privilege men will never experience. It is essential to eat a healthy diet to achieve optimum energy levels. During menstruation, you may feel lethargic, drained or unsociable. The good news is that integrating certain foods and nutrients can prevent these symptoms.
This beautiful, yet often unpleasant, process occurs monthly in a healthy, fertile female. Regularity confirms that your body is capable of producing and growing a fetus. An absent or irregular cycle signifies something is wrong, whether it is a result of inadequate nutrition, low body weight, hormonal imbalance or stress. At the start of each cycle, estrogen levels rise, helping the uterus lining grow and thicken. An imbalance of estrogen and progesterone levels can inhibit a normal cycle and may be influenced by your nutritional and caloric intake.
Considering the amount of blood lost during menstruation, women are more likely to become anemic than men. Anemia occurs when there are fewer-than-average circulating red blood cells and lower-than-average hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is the iron-containing oxygen-transport molecule in red blood cells. Iron attaches to circulating oxygen, and in iron's absence, hemoglobin function and oxygen transport throughout the body fail. Anemia symptoms include lethargy, weakness, pale skin and nausea. Women need about 18 milligrams of iron daily, as approximately 1 milligram of iron is lost for every day of menstruation. Your consumption of folate and vitamin B-12 is also necessary for the release of mature, healthy red blood cells. Increasing your daily intake of iron, folate and vitamin B-12 will help improve your energy levels.
During your period, you may experience cravings for sugar, chocolate and other refined carbohydrates. Your cravings often result from the extra nutrients your body requires, due to an increase in hormone levels and possibly increased insulin release, dropping your blood sugar and causing you to crave or require more sugar/carbohydrate sources. Eat healthy fats and cut down on refined carbohydrates and caffeine, which only make you more tired. Sweet cravings can indicate a hormonal imbalance of greater estrogen than progesterone levels. Vitamin B-6 may also help with premenstrual symptoms, but further study is required.
The best food sources of iron, besides red meat, include wheat, pulses, dark green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, dried fruit, black beans, eggs, blackstrap molasses, dates and pumpkin seeds. To increase your iron absorption, eat an orange or take a vitamin C supplement of approximately 200 to 250 milligrams with your meal. Vitamin B-12 is solely found in meat, eggs and dairy products unless you take a vitamin supplement. Folate is found in many food sources, especially meat, fish, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, legumes and lentils. To alleviate tiredness, avoid tea, alcohol or calcium with your meals, as these inhibit iron absorption.
- Woman'sHealth.gov: Menstruation and the Menstrual Cycle Fact Sheet
- Better Health Channel: Nutrition -- Women's Extra Needs
- Runner's World: How Menstruation Affects Your Running
- Illinois Department of Public Health: Facts About Women's Wellness-Nutrition
- NHS: Anaemia - Iron Deficiency
- Introduction to Nutrition and Metabolism; David A Bender
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images