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Foods to avoid during your period

by Sonia Chartier, on 6 September 2017, Healthy Eating, Women's Health
period

When your period arrives, you get hungry, and more likely than not, it’s not salad you’re hankering for. If you’re like most women, despite your best intentions, you crave cookies, chocolate, chips and ice cream.

But other than the risk of these foods going straight to your hips, do they have an impact on your period?

The simple answer is yes: whatever you do, avoid the call of the chip! But unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), food alone can’t solve every menstruation-related issue. If you’re looking to relieve period pain and problems, you need to take your whole lifestyle into consideration. Avoid stress and find ways to relax: exercise (even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing), do some stretches and eat well.

Note that food has no proven impact on how heavily you bleed. Period bleeding is usually heavier during your first two years of fertility and in the lead-up to menopause. Your flow may also be heavier in the first few cycles immediately after you give birth or have an IUD inserted. Around a third of women experience what is considered to be “heavy bleeding.”

A heavy flow is often associated with cramps. Some foods can help relieve them, but the first thing you need to know is that when you’re a heavy bleeder, you’re more likely to suffer from an iron deficiency. Given that iron is carried by the blood, even a so-called normal period will cause some iron loss. As a result, women require twice as much iron in their diet as men. The tell-tale signs of an iron deficiency are slight to extreme tiredness, lack of concentration and a pale complexion. If you agree with at least two of the following four statements, you’re probably among those whose periods would be considered “abundant,” in which case you should talk to your doctor about how to make up for that iron deficiency.

  1. I have to double-up on my sanitary protection (tampon and panty liner or pad)
  2. I sometimes stain my clothes or bed sheets
  3. I have to change my tampon or pad around every two hours
  4. I find large clots (over an inch wide) in my menstrual blood

If this is you, it’s best to adjust your diet to avoid foods that prevent iron absorption and, conversely, increase your intake of foods that promote it:

Avoid…

  • Tea and herbal teas
  • Coffee
  • Milk and other dairy products

Choose…

  • Meat
  • Vitamin C (e.g. from citrus fruits)

The iron-rich foods group includes oysters, mussels, as well as red meat and poultry offal. Given that saturated fats can make cramps worse, it’s a good idea to choose seafood- or plant-based iron sources like tofu, lentils, legumes, spinach (remember Popeye?), molasses, dates (to reduce your sugar cravings), peas and whole grains.

To avoid cramps, whether or not they’re linked to abundant menstrual flow, it’s best to avoid foods that boost inflammation and stress.

Try to stay away from:

  • Overly fatty or sweet foods: pastries, chips, ice cream, etc.
  • Products containing caffeine: coffee, tea, energy drinks
  • Alcohol

Instead, opt for foods with known anti-inflammatory properties:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish and flax and chia seeds
  • Calcium-rich foods: tofu, almonds, sardines and kiwis are good options, but avoid dairy products because of their saturated fat content; season your dishes with thyme
  • Magnesium-rich foods: seafood, Brazil nuts, almonds and green leafy vegetables

For those who just can’t resist the sweet call of sugar, dark chocolate might come in handy. While it does contain quite a bit of sugar and fat, you can console yourself knowing that its high magnesium and antioxidant content, combined with its positive effect on the “happiness hormone” serotonin, fully make up for its drawbacks.

References:
http://irondeficiency.com/patients/menstruation
http://www.passeportsante.net/fr/Actualites/Dossiers/DossierComplexe.aspx?doc=regles-douloureuses-role-alimentation

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