Do We Actually Need To Eat More Calories When Menstruating
This article was first published in The Skeptical Inquirer
Shark week, moon time, the crimson tide, a visit from Auntie Flo: whatever you call it menstruation is the roughly monthly interval during which the uterus sheds its lining. For the uterus owner, it is not generally a super fun time cramping, bloating, headaches, and fatigue are just a few of the symptoms associated with that time of the month.
The symptom I want to focus on today, though, is hunger. Whether for chocolate, pizza, or any food really, an increased hunger is a commonly reported phenomenon during, or right before, menstruation. Although we know that periodic changes in appetite can be influenced by fluctuations in hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, I became curious whether this increase in hunger also correlated with an actual increased need for energy from food. Just like our bodies produce the sensation of thirst when they require more hydration, maybe they produce the sensation of hunger during menstruation in part because of an increased caloric need.
So, what do the BMR studies tell us about menstruation?
Tearing Down Is Always Easier than Building Up
It turns out that BMR in menstruating individuals actually starts during the bleeding portion of the cycle. It hits its lowest point approximately one week after menstruation begins and then steadily rises again until the start of the next period. The trend in BMR actually mimics this infographic of the endometrial lining very well.
When To See A Doctor
If despite following all these things, you do not see an improvement in your period or cramps, then it is best to see a doctor. If you have irregular periods, spotting or bleeding in between your periods, heave bleeding or pain that does not go without popping a few pain killers, then you must see a doctor immediately, as this could be indicative of other underlying issues.
Can I Eat Raw Fruits During Periods
A. Yes, raw fruits and vegetables are easily absorbed by the body and therefore can be consumed.
Written by Sanya Hamdanion Jul 18, 2017
Sanya Hamdani is a skincare enthusiast and lipstick hoarder, she truly believes no two red lipsticks look exactly alike. With a Master’s degree in Communication & Journalism and 5+ years of digital writing experience up her sleeve, Sanya has some of the biggest beauty experts in the country on her speed dial. When she’s not swatching products or writing about the latest trends in beauty, you will find her watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. or cooking up a storm in the kitchen.
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Foods To Avoid When Menstruating
Next, lets get into the foods you should avoid on your period . Eating the wrong foods during your period can exacerbate your symptoms like bloating, mood swings and decreased energy levels. No one needs that, so at the very least try and wean yourself off the following food groups for the duration of your cycle. This is what not to eat when youre on your period:
Drink Fennel Seed Water
What does it do:
Fennel Seeds are the most ancient methods to induce periods at early dates. It is one of the most common items on the kitchen shelf, and has no side effects.
How to use:
Boil about 4 cups water in a pan and add 1 heaped tablespoon fennel seeds and cover. After the mixture cools down, sieve and store in a glass bottle or jar.
Drink one glass on empty stomach and several times during the day to have early periods.
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Dont Skip Meals Or Fast
If youre an intermittent faster, its important to give fasting a break during your period, says Kelly Mulhall, nutritional therapist and founder of hormone balancing programme The Natural Balance. For many women, especially those that have heavy periods and experience a lot of blood loss, energy levels can drop when menstruating due to the loss of iron which transports oxygenated blood around the body. In order to ensure energy and blood sugar levels dont drop, its best to get three proper meals a day, two litres of water and snack on some fruit if energy is low.
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Salmon Or Other Oily Fish
A simple salmon salad or pasta is great to eat during your period, according to the experts.
One scientific study found that omega 3, found in Salmon, is effective in helping to ease breast pain. Whilst another study found that this fish oil is effective in reducing period pain. Its also a common natural remedy for PMS.
As Mina explains: Omega 3s found in Salmon are known to decrease inflammation which can help reduce the intensity of period pains. Additionally, iron rich fish such as salmon can help counteract your dip in iron levels experienced while menstruating.
Nurse Midwife Sarah Toler adds that the omega 3 in salmon can improve mood disorders pre-menstruation too:
If you experience depression or anxiety before or during your cycle, you may want to consider eating foods high in omega-3 like salmon, nuts, or flax seed oil, she says. Some research suggests omega-3 fatty acids might reduce anxiety and depression and increase our ability to focus.
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Chocolate And Ice Cream
Sometimes all you want to do is curl up on the sofa with a tub of Ben and Jerrys. Yet this comfort food could actually be doing more harm than good, as Mina explains:
Foods such as these are really high in both saturated fat and sugar. When we eat excessive amounts of foods such as these, were putting ourselves at risk of weight gain, skin problems, diabetes and heart disease not to mention mood swings!
Wed recommend swapping milk and white chocolate for dark when the cravings kick in thanks to its high iron content. And any other sugary treats can be enjoyed though moderation is key.
Don’t Ignore Other Lifestyle Habits
There’s some evidence that maintaining a healthy body weight may help prevent PMS, and that overweight or obese women are more likely to have symptoms. Being physically active helps keep your waistline in check and works wonders to release stress.
“Stress plays a huge role in the intensity of PMS symptoms,” Kolp tells WebMD. So find ways to relax your mind, whether it’s exercising, deep breathing, or doing yoga.
Feeling tired is yet another sign of PMS, so you might need more sleep than usual. Lastly, ditch the butts: A recent study showed that smoking, especially in your teens or early 20s, may increase a woman’s risk for moderate to severe PMS.
Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson, ScD, associate professor of epidemiology, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Rebecca Kolp, MD, ob-gyn, medical director, Mass General West, Waltham, Mass.
Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, Salem, Ore. author, Eat Your Way to Happiness, Harlequin, 2009.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists patient education pamphlet: “Premenstrual Syndrome.”
Mayo Clinic: “Premenstrual Syndrome.”
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Weight And Your Menstrual Cycle
Maintaining an overall healthy weight can help to keep our menstrual cycles regular, said Huntriss, adding that losing or gaining weight can affect your cycle. Adipose tissue in which fat is stored is an endocrine organ that is involved in the production of and release of hormones, including those involved in reproduction and our menstrual cycles, said Huntriss. Having a high or very low proportion of body fat can lead to changes in the levels of oestrogen and other reproductive hormones in the body, leading to problems with ovulation and regular periods, she concluded.
This article is not a replacement for medical advice. See a GP if you are concerned about your menstrual cycle or symptoms. This article was published in October 2021.
Tip : Track Your Menstrual Cycle
Tracking your menstrual cycle will help you plan out your month so you know when and how to support your mind and body. For instance, make room for some quiet me-time and days to slow down before the first day of your period.
And make sure you have the grocery shopping for healthy, healing foods done before the period cramps, moodiness or cravings hit you.
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Tip : Consider Doing Some Very Light Exercise For Lower Back Pain
This is especially useful if you experience lower back pain during your period. Look into relaxing yoga poses to relieve menstrual cramps and relax the body.
Any type of exercise, no matter if its restorative yoga or cardio, will help you produce endorphins and help you feel better. The key is to listen to your body and decide what type of exercise will benefit you most.
Keep in mind that there is no golden rule to follow that will make all period symptoms disappear. And should you end up eating a pack of chocolate chip cookies instead of apples and almonds, thats okay! The important thing is to focus on you and your needs, and if a chocolate chip cookie is what you need, then eat it.
Remember, this is about supporting your body. It will not make your periods completely painless but it will reduce some of the pains and discomfort. Love your body and your body will love you back!
Foods To Avoid During Periods
Sugar cravings will likely hit you during your period, but it is important to remember that refined sugars and processed food might worsen the symptoms of your period. While it is okay to give in to your cravings occasionally, dont make it a habit. Scroll down to find out which foods to avoid during your period.
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Say Goodbye To Stress
A stressful life can delay your periods. If you are leading a life full of tension, anxiety and worries, then be sure to expect irregularities in your menstrual pattern.
So, if you want to have a proper period schedule and even get them earlier, then relaxation is a must. You might resort to various activities that you think have the potential to soothe and calm you.
Most importantly, reduce your workload. You can choose to spend time with your friends or family. Pursue your favorite hobbies, get to watch some movies. With excruciating pain or burden of work, you can never enjoy a happy period.
Befriend Bananas Pineapples And Kiwi
Bananas contain vitamin B6 and a healthy dose of potassium, which can help relieve your bloating and cramping symptoms, registered dietitian Lisa DeFazio told Redbook.
While you’re building that smoothie, you might want to throw in some chunks of fresh pineapple as well. Besides being delicious, pineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme that fights inflammation.
A little kiwi can make your fruit medley a triple threat when it comes to beating cramps. Rich in the enzyme actinidin, kiwis can help you digest protein more easily. They also contain fiber that can help move things along so you aren’t dealing with constipation on top of your cramping, according to registered dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield.
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Quinoa Buckwheat Bok Choy Kale Swiss Chard
In week three , there is both a surge of estrogen and progesterone and then a decline, writes Integrative Nutritionist Alisa Vitti in 4-Week Cyclical Hormonal Health Plan on the Dr Oz website.
This affects brain chemistry, and ultimately, our mood. Grains provide B vitamins, which give your body the building blocks to produce serotonin to help keep moods stable. Greens contain calcium and magnesium, which help your body use the hormones you do have efficiently. Grains and greens combined provide your body with plenty of soluble fiber to help move estrogen out of the body as quickly as possible.
Putting Foods To Work
The key to success is to follow the diet strictly so that the beneficial effects are evident over time.
Eat plenty of:
- Whole grains: brown rice, whole-grain bread, oatmeal, etc.
- Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, etc.
- Legumes: beans, peas, lentils
- Fruits: apples, mangoes, berries, oranges, etc.
- Animal products: fish, poultry, meats, eggs, and dairy products
- Refined grains: white bread, refined cereals, pastries, etc.
- Added vegetable oils: salad dressings, margarine, and all cooking oils
- Fatty foods: doughnuts, cheese, French fries, potato chips, etc.
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Period Symptoms & Nutrition: The Bottom Line
When it comes to figuring out how to make your period lighter, it all comes down to keeping a good balance of nutrients. The above tips will make quite a difference, and if you eat your meals in smaller snack sizes, then you can keep the cravings at bay and the bloating away.
If you have PCOS, you can take helpful supplements along with the points mentioned above. Moderation is the key here, ladies!
1. Adamson J, Erythropoietin, iron metabolism, and red blood cell production., retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/87235732. Ryan Raman, MS, RD, What Does Magnesium Do for Your Body?, retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-does-magnesium-do3. Kris Gunnars, BSc, 22 High-Fiber Foods You Should Eat, retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/22-high-fiber-foods4. Jeanie Lerche Davis, Antioxidants in Fruits, retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/antioxidants-in-fruits#1
What To Eat After Your Period
Starting already towards the end of your period, when your flow is lighter, you will want to focus on food that supports estrogen production. Its the hormone responsible for boosting your mood and energy levels.
Youll feel your absolute best during this phase, which leads up to ovulation, so this is a great time to start a new habit, focus on new workout routines and schedule social appointments.
- Adding a tablespoon of flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds to your salad, porridge or energy balls can naturally increase your estrogen levels.
- Make the most of the rise in energy levels, and get active. Support your muscles growth and body by making sure that your body gets enough proteins.
- Youre appetite will decrease during this phase, so focus on eating your meals regularly. It will be a lot easier to focus on healthy foods in smaller portions, so if theres a new healthy recipe you want to try, this is the menstrual phase to do it.>
- Its a great week to consume calcium-rich foods such as kale, spinach, collard greens or turnips.
- But theres also a downside to all of the energy coming from the estrogen-peak: some might feel anxiety or stress. If thats the case for you and you feel restless, try to meditate a little and add a ritual that includes drinking chamomile tea, taking a few moments for yourself and relaxing.
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