Menstrual Cycle and Nutrition: Aligning Nutrition To Your Menstrual Cycle – Part 1
Explore key nutritional considerations for menstruation
When your period arrives, it truly can be a challenging time. Nutrition and other lifestyle changes can support you having a smoother menstrual phase. Here are some tips to ponder about.
After reading this blog post, check out part 2 all about supplements for menstruation and other helpful lifestyle changes.
What is a normal menstrual cycle?
Before we dive into tips, it is smart to review what is a normal menstrual cycle.
Dr Sarah Clouthier, an integrative medicine doctor, defines a normal menstruation as:
- Regularity: Cycles between 24 and 35 days, that do not vary more than 6 days from month to month.
- Duration: bleeding 3-7 days per month.
- Flow: soaking 6 or less pads/tampons per day.
Dr. Sarah Clouthier also emphasizes that consistent changes in mood and ongoing pain are not part of a normal cycle. Mood changes can include depressive episodes, anxiety, and irritability, especially perceived a few days before the menstrual cycle. Pain requiring medication or pain in between periods or during sexual intercourse needs further medical attention.
How can food and nutrition help regulate the menstrual cycle?
For the whole month, aim for a balanced diet. Malnutrition can deeply affect hormone balance and result in unwanted menstrual symptoms.
Try the Mediterranean diet! It consists of whole grains high in fiber, lots of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil, and lean proteins mostly from seafood, dairy and poultry. This way of eating can support overall health and diminish menstrual concerns due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods.
During the menstrual phase:
- Aim for healthy fats. Healthy fats are a precursor to hormone production. Minimizing fried foods is also important as these are associated with digestive concerns which are more prominent during the menstrual phase like bloating, cramping and constipation.
Foods high in healthy fats include vegetable oils (olive, canola, sunflower, soy, and corn), nuts, seeds, and fish.
- Aim for low sodium (salt). Overconsumption of sodium will result in water retention, a common complaint during the premenstrual and menstrual period.
- Minimize alcohol and caffeine consumption during menstruation. Excess of these substances can aggravate uncomfortable GI and mood symptoms.
- Eat protein at every meal and have whole grains for blood sugar control. This will support management of sugar cravings, which will in turn aid with mood imbalances during the period.
- Avoid heavy meals that are difficult to digest. Instead aim for probiotics and prebiotics to support healthy microflora, such as fermented foods including sourdough bread, sauerkraut, kimchi, plain yogurt and kefir. Healthy microflora can improve absorption of key nutrients like B6 and magnesium that support healthy periods.
Make a 5-month commitment to a healthier menstruation. Choose one of the dietary recommendations above and work at it for a month, the following month choose another one to work on. Track your findings and progress in a journal and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Learn more in part two of nutrition and menstrual cycle where I dive into supplements and other helpful lifestyle changes.
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