Foods that reduce menstrual cramps and pain

When struggling with period pain, food can help or hurt. It would help to know what to eat during periods to reduce pain.

A girl having painful menstrual flow

Key takeaways:

  • It is normal for people with vaginas to experience symptoms like cramps, nausea, acne breakouts, and mood changes during their period.
  • Foods that can help reduce menstrual cramps and pain include watermelon, pumpkin seeds, chamomile tea, and coconut water.
  • Menstrual disorders are common in people of menstruating age. If you notice symptoms like an irregular menstrual cycle or periods that are excessively heavy, see a healthcare professional.

Menstruation (also called period) is normal vaginal bleeding that occurs every month. It comes as part of a woman’s monthly cycle. 

Every month, the body prepares itself for a possible pregnancy. At the onset of a monthly cycle, egg cells start developing in the ovaries. At mid-cycle, an egg gets released from the ovaries via a process called ovulation in preparation for fertilization. If a person has sex during that period and the released egg gets fertilized by a sperm cell, implantation begins, and so does the journey of pregnancy. 

However, if pregnancy does not occur, the person's body sheds the released egg alongside the endometrium (inner walls of the uterus). Shedding of the uterus causes bleeding during a menstrual cycle. This means the menstrual blood is a combination of blood and tissue from the uterus. 

For some people, their periods are accompanied by symptoms called "period flu," which could make them feel well during their menstrual cycle.

In this article, we will talk about some foods that can help reduce menstrual cramps and pain, as well as other common period flu symptoms.

Foods that can help reduce period cramps and pain

Some foods to eat during your period to reduce pain and cramps include:

1. Pumpkin seeds

Not many people know that pumpkin seeds are edible, but they are. These seeds are not common foods like flaxseeds and sesame seeds, but evidence shows that they are a good food choice for women during their periods as they can help reduce period pain and cramps. 

Pumpkin seeds are listed as one of the best foods to eat during periods because they are rich in magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is indicated as one of the possible causes of muscle cramps and pain. For this reason, magnesium has been widely marketed as a remedy for cramps. 

If magnesium deficiency causes cramps, eating foods rich in magnesium may help relieve cramps due to menstruation. Magnesium is also effective for treating headaches, which are also symptoms experienced during periods.

Pumpkin seeds also have an abundant supply of other minerals like selenium, copper, and zinc, which all helps improve the quality of sleep. Getting good sleep can help your body deal with pain and discomfort.

2. Watermelon

You can never go wrong with watermelon slices when it comes to your health. They are also a great choice of foods to eat during periods if you want to reduce pain and cramps.

The bloating experienced during menstruation results from changes in the hormones progesterone and estrogen. The changes in these two hormones cause the body to retain more water and salt. When a person’s body’s cells become swollen with water, it causes the person to feel bloated.

According to Omar Gailani, MBCHB, DIP O&G, and a Fellow of the Royal Australian and the New Zealand College of Gynecologists, one way to reduce period bloating is by eating natural diuretics (like watermelon). 

Natural diuretics act to increase urine production. Thus, they help reduce water retention in the body by getting rid of the water as urine. This is why watermelon is listed as one of the foods to eat during periods. 

Watermelon also contains enough water, which helps keep you hydrated, and hydration generally improves the way a person feels. Watermelon is also a good source of potassium and magnesium, which helps relieve period symptoms. 

3. Dark chocolates

Image by Monique Carrati on Unsplash

When thinking of what to eat during periods to reduce pain, you should consider dark chocolates. As shocking as it sounds, dark chocolate may help relieve you of some unpleasant menstruation symptoms. 

According to research, chocolate can positively impact mood. Women who experience mood swings and depressive states during their period might find dark chocolates helpful.

Also, according to a nutritional analysis published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, dark chocolate contains magnesium and iron.

Iron is needed for the production of hemoglobin in red blood cells, and it is not uncommon for blood levels to reduce during menstruation, leading to anemia. Therefore, taking dark chocolate can help replenish lost iron, aiding the production of hemoglobin, and preventing anemia. 

But before you eat chocolate while you're on your period, make sure to check the label to see how much sugar and cocoa it has. Some chocolates contain a high amount of cocoa (which means more caffeine) and added sugar, which can all worsen your period symptoms. 

4. Salmon

Salmon is a cold-water fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Not all fats are good for health. However, omega-3 fatty acids contain unsaturated fats and are thus classified as good fats.

Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can influence inflammatory processes, reducing inflammation. This is one of the reasons why salmon is good for relieving pain, including menstrual cramp pain. 

5. Oranges

Still on the topic of loss of red blood cells during menstruation, just like dark chocolate, oranges can help prevent anemia caused by too much blood loss. Oranges are excellent choices of foods to eat during periods.

Orange is a common fruit that pops up in people’s minds each time a vitamin C source is mentioned. Orange is a great natural source of vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a vital role in immune function, but it doesn’t end there.

Vitamin C also helps in the absorption of iron. When the body absorbs more iron, more hemoglobin is produced for the red blood cells thus, preventing anemia during or after periods. 

Orange is also a rich source of vitamin D which can also help relieve other more intense menstruation symptoms. 

6. Banana, pineapple and kiwi smoothie

smoothie made of banana kiwi and pineapple can help relieve period pain

Who says you cannot drink a smoothie during your period? However, since you have to be careful about what you eat during this period of your monthly cycle, you can’t take all the smoothies that come your way. 

If you are thinking of what to eat during periods to reduce pain, you might want to try bananas, pineapple, and kiwi. Whether eaten whole or blended as a smoothie, these foods can help relieve your period symptoms. 

Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 and potassium, which can help reduce bloating and cramping. Pineapples, on the other hand, contain a healthy amount of bromelain. Bromelain is an enzyme that fights inflammation.

Also, Kiwis do a great job when it comes to beating period cramps. Kiwis contain fiber, which can aid bowel movement in women experiencing constipation during their menstrual cycle. 

7. Coconut water

Hormones are often blamed for the host of unpleasant symptoms that women experience during menstruation. While hormones are primarily the culprits, sometimes other things play a role. 

For instance, some people experience diarrhea as a period symptom, but what usually causes period diarrhea is a chemical called prostaglandin, which helps the uterus shed its lining. 

A loose bowel movement characterizes diarrhea. The good news is that coconut water can help with the negative effects of this period symptom. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, but taking coconut water will help keep you hydrated. 

Also, coconut water contains minerals and electrolytes like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which can help relieve period symptoms. Potassium can help reduce period bloating by increasing urine production and reducing sodium levels. 

8. Chamomile tea

This list of foods to eat during periods will be incomplete without adding chamomile tea. If you ever get to the point where you are worried about what to eat during periods to reduce pain, think of chamomile tea. 

Aside from chamomile tea being caffeine-free, it is also delicious. This tea can help reduce muscle spasms. According to a study, chamomile tea can help reduce severe menstrual cramps as it has anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety effects.

There may be a link between chamomile tea's ability to help with menstrual cramps and its ability to help people sleep better. Aside from that, chamomile tea may also reduce the heaviness of a person’s period

Period symptoms

Pain and cramps during periods is a common symptom for many people

For most women, their menstrual cycles come with a price. While the price is low for some, it is high for others. Imagine going through intense pain and abdominal cramps every month as the uterus sheds its lining. Unfortunately, that is the reality of many women.

According to a study of women with dysmenorrhea, 84.1% of the women who participated in the study reported pains during each period.4 This shows the high prevalence of pain among women during their periods.

Other symptoms women experience during their menstruation include:

  • Acne breakouts
  • Fatigue
  • Tender breasts
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Headache
  • Stomach issues
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Mood swings
  • Sleeping problems
  • Back pain
  • Changes in appetite

Food eaten during the menstrual period can worsen or lessen these symptoms.