Menstruation is a shared experience for roughly half of the global population but is hardly given the attention it deserves. Because of its taboo nature, talk and familiarity with the period cycle have been extremely limited. Many people move through life with an incomplete awareness of the complex process taking place internally and the best methods of meeting their bodies’ ever changing needs.
Evidence suggests that proper nutrition and a well-balanced diet provide a viable pathway to easing menstrual distress. There are 3 surprisingly important things that everyone should incorporate into their diet while menstruating. These additions may be the difference between living fully and freely alongside the often-dreaded period.
A research study was held involving 315 female, Japanese college students, who were broken up into groups that analyzed the importance of eating breakfast and the effects of fast or processed food consumption. The subdivisions measured the intensity of dysmenorrhea, a menstrual disorder involving painful cramping caused by disruptions to hormone regulation (Fujiwara et al.). Results from the study indicate a strong correlation between dysmenorrhea and not only the types of foods consumed but also eating patterns (23). A nutrient-dense diet that jumpstarts the body in the morning is a great beginning step towards finding hormonal balance.
Demanding work schedules, responsibility to children, and early classes sometimes make it hard to create space for nourishing yourself, but the good it does to stabilize your body makes it worth the early-morning hassle. It’s all about food prep: hard boiled eggs, overnight oats, and avocado toast are all great options for quick nutrients on the go.
As western culture continues to grow its love (and addiction) for caffeine, a precarious dependency on the stimulant also develops. According to a study by Annette Mackay Rossignol and Heinke Bonnlander, “Each additional daily cup of caffeine-containing beverage was associated with a 20 percent increase in the prevalence of premenstrual syndrome” (1108). The data showed a consistent relationship between PMS occurrences and caffeine consumption. Yikes.
The women experiencing more severe symptoms sourced their caffeine from coffee and tea rather than soda. While some health experts like Alisa Vitti, author of WomanCode, functional nutritionist, and women’s hormone specialist, acknowledge the benefits of coffee specifically, they argue that the cons far outweigh the pros.
While decaffeinated coffee still contains caffeine, the levels are significantly lower than a regular cup (University of Florida). For those looking to reduce their caffeine reliance, decaf is a good place to start and work towards a caffeine-free life with steady hormone levels.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health notes, “Over 90% of women say they get some premenstrual symptoms.” While PMS is a common occurrence, it is an indication of hormonal imbalance and should not be treated as an accepted phenomenon that always accompanies a period. The nutrients necessary to protect hormonal balance are often missing from the western diet. In her book WomanCode, Vitti writes, “The only way your hormones can achieve balance is if your body does the job—and only if you safeguard and nurture it, with every meal and habit…” (23).
Seed cycling is an increasingly popular, natural way to balance hormone levels based on your current phase of the menstrual cycle. The two major hormones that direct your cycle’s succession are estrogen and progesterone and are sometimes unbalanced, leading to menstrual distress.
The Follicular Phase is the first phase spanning Day 1-14. Add 1 tbsp. of ground flax seeds and 1 tbsp. of ground pumpkin seeds to your daily eating habits, boosting progesterone levels and minimizing the presence of surplus estrogen.
The Luteal Phase is the second phase of the period cycle and occurs during Day 15-28. With 1 tbsp. of ground sunflower seeds and 1 tbsp. of ground sesame seeds daily, progesterone creation is enhanced (Fiona). Ground seeds are great on top of salads, yogurt, and oatmeal or mixed in with smoothies. It may take a few cycles to see results but have patience and enjoy the process of becoming more familiar with your body.
Balance is a daily decision someone makes to provide for their body’s particular needs. As stable hormones and a well-regulated endocrine system are determined by dietary choices, consistent menstruation patterns are within reach for everyone.
*Note: If you have severe menstrual symptoms, please contact your doctor and work with them to diagnose the problem and return your body to its natural rhythms. The purpose of this post is to help further general understanding of menstruation and ways to mitigate unwanted symptoms.
Fiona. “Have You Heard of Seed Cycling?” Move Nourish Believe, Lorna Jane Active Living, 8 Jan. 2018.
Fujiwara, Tomoko, Natsuyo Sato, Hiroyo Awaji, Hiroko Sakamoto, and Rieko Nakata. “Skipping Breakfast Adversely Affects Menstrual Disorders in Young College Students.” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 60.6 (2009): 23-31. EBSCOhost. Web. 23 April 2019.
Rossignol, Annette Mackay and Heinke Bonnlander. “Caffeine-Containing Beverages, Total Fluid Consumption, and Premenstrual Syndrome.” American Journal of Public Health 80.9 (1990): 1106-1109. EBSCOhost. Web. 23 April 2019.
University of Florida. "Decaffeinated Coffee Is Not Caffeine-free, Experts Say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 October 2006.
Vitti, Alisa. WomandCode: Perfect Your Cycle, Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive, and Become a Power Source. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. Print.