Stay away from these foods when Aunt Flo is in town.
Your period can make you feel bad. Do you really need to know the science of why?
Because when I start reading about high levels of prostaglandins and menstrual water retention, all I’m thinking are cramps, bloating, cramps, bloating, please make it stop — and all the while, I’m reaching for my favorite comfort foods, like red meat. Mmmm. Isn’t a big ol’ hamburger or a juicy steak supposed to be great for when you’re menstruating? And how about bowl of ice cream? Good time to treat myself, right?
Actually, no. “Period cramps and that time of the month can be debilitating,” says Dr. Sherry A. Ross, Women’s Health Expert and Author of she-ology. The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period.
“There are many dietary suggestions that will help reduce the pain associated with cramps and other symptoms related to PMS and get you through that time of the month.”
Likewise, there are foods that are just going to make your period pain worse. For example: my old standbys of steak and ice-cream. Turns out that the arachadonic acids in red meat stimulate the prostaglandins that cause cramps in the first place! And dairy products can cause bloating and also contain arachadonic acids. See where I’m going with this? By all means, use some hacks to make your period less awful — but also avoid these seven foods during that very special time that comes once a month.
1. Dairy products and calcium-rich food
As previously, stated, don’t reach for dairy products when you have your period (thank God for Ben & Jerry’s introducing dairy-free ice-cream!). But this also goes for foods that are rich in calcium, too. “Dairy products (cheese, yogurt, milk), sunflower seeds, spinach, soybeans, kale, figs, almonds, sesame seeds and tofu are excellent sources of calcium, but can contribute to intestinal bloating and gas,” says Dr. Sherry.
While cramps and general malaise might make you feel sluggish, having a cup of coffee or another caffeinated beverage is not going to make you feel better — and in fact can make your PMS even worse — especially if you’re consuming more of it to combat those pre-menstrual blahs. Try an herbal or fruit-based tea, instead. Dr. Sherry also recommends adding ginger to hot water for a cozy, caffeine-free beverage.
3. Soda and sparkling water
Unfortunately, a seemingly-innocent glass of seltzer isn’t going to be much better than your favorite cola; it could cause even more bloating and gas (also, new research shows it accelerates tooth decay). Dr. Sherry recommends going for regular ol’ H2O, instead: “Drinking water, warm or hot, helps relax the uterine muscles,” she explains.
4. Salty stuff
As much as you might want to settle down with a plate of french fries during your period, another culprit behind water retention and bloating is, sadly, delicious salty foods like fries and potato chips. Dr. Sherry explains that satisfyingly crunchy cucumber and celery make great snacks and are hydrating, too.
5. Processed food
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than 70 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed and restaurant foods — not the salt shaker.” In other words, you might think you’re avoiding salty stuff while actually consuming a lot of it via processed foods like hot dogs or canned vegetables. That’s why it’s important to check the sodium levels on the Nutrition Facts labels. (FYI: Here are seven surprisingly healthy vending machine snacks you can safely reach for when your junk food cravings reach peak levels.)
Don’t be tempted to drown away your crampy, moody, bloated sorrows with a beer or cocktail. Alcoholic drinks can cause water retention, bloating, and prolonged menstrual cramps, so hold off during shark week. And if you’re game, try going alcohol-free altogether for a month or two to reap the other benefits of a booze-less lifestyle.
Why, oh why, does sugar have to be on this list, when chowing down on a chip-studded brownie feels so darn good in the moment when I’ve got the period blues? Period-related sugar cravings are real, after all — but unfortunately, so are blood sugar levels, which can make you feel irritable or more anxious or fatigued when they’re elevated, giving way to the emotional rollercoaster of period moodiness. Dr. Sherry recommends dark chocolate if you’re in need of a fix (in fact, research has found it’s not only safe but good for you to eat dark chocolate daily! I knew there had to be a silver lining in here somewhere…).
Images via shutterstock.com, giphy.com and tumblr.com.
Comment: What foods or drinks make your period pain worse?