Foods to eat during menstrual periods to reduce pain

About 80% of women experience cramps and pains during their menstruation. When you are struggling with period pain, your food can help or hurt. It would help to know what to eat during your periods to reduce pain.

A girl having painful menstrual flow

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 the mid-cycle, an egg gets released from the ovaries via a process called ovulation in readiness for fertilisation. 

If the woman has sex during that period and the released egg gets fertilised by a sperm cell, implantation begins, and so does the journey of pregnancy. 

However, if pregnancy does not occur, the woman’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 a woman that is not pregnant, the period bleeding should come every month (an average of 28 days). However, there are cases where monthly periods are absent (amenorrhea) or irregular (oligomenorrhea). 

If you have been through puberty and experience absence of or irregular menstruation, you should see a doctor for proper diagnosis as many things can be the cause. 

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, the price is high for others. Imagine going through intense pain and abdominal cramps every month the uterus sheds its lining. Unfortunately, that is the reality of many women.

According to a study of women with dysmenorrhea, 84.1% of women that participated in the study reported pains during each period. 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
  • Diarrhoea
  • Mood swings
  • Sleeping problems
  • Back pain
  • Changes in appetite

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

8 Foods to eat during periods 

Some of the best foods to eat during periods include:

  1. Pumpkin seeds
  2. Watermelon
  3. Dark chocolates
  4. Salmon
  5. Oranges
  6. Banana, pineapple and kiwi smoothie
  7. Coconut water
  8. Chamomile tea

Below, we discuss more about the listed food items. You should eat these foods during your periods to reduce pain, abdominal cramps, and other unpleasant menstruation symptoms. 

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. 

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.

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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.

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 might want to 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 chocolates contain magnesium and iron.

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

However, before you take any chocolate during your period, ensure you check its nutritional label for information about its sugar and cocoa content. 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 thus, are classified among the 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 chocolates, oranges can help prevent anaemia caused by too much loss of blood. 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 haemoglobin is produced for the red blood cells thus, preventing anaemia 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 smoothies that comes 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 food items 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 fibre 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 diarrhoea as a period symptom, but what usually cause period diarrhoea is a chemical called prostaglandin which helps the uterus shed its lining. 

A loose bowel movement characterises diarrhoea. The good news is that coconut water can help with the negative effects of this period symptom. Diarrhoea 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 spasm. According to a study, chamomile tea can help reduce severe menstrual cramps as it has anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects.

The ability of chamomile tea to relieve menstruation symptoms may also be linked to its ability to improve sleep quality. Aside from that, chamomile tea may also reduce the heaviness of a person’s period