What to Eat and Not Eat to Support Healthy Menstruation

A well balanced diet and adequate exercise can go a long way towards healthy menstrual periods.  Dietary therapy for menstrual problems are a big part of my recommendations for cases of infertility, PMS, dysmenorrhea (painful periods), amenorrhea(no periods), irregular cycles, and menstrual hemorrhaging.  This article is about baseline nutrition for prevention of menstrual problems.

First, some key points:

  • If you’ve been having menstrual problems for more than just a month or two, you should definitely get checked out by a medical professional if you haven’t done so.  Ensure you have taken adequate measures to address serious medical problems.
  • Especially if your problems are serious, make sure to get a second/third opinion – why? nobody is perfect, and for example, having a hypothyroid issue is often misdiagnosed as dysmenorrhea. You don’t want to get wrong treatments.
  • Many women believe that their menstrual problems are just part of being a woman, like they’re cursed, and so might as well just live with it.  Don’t believe it.  The experience of countless women, over thousands of years, living in situations much more poor in resources than ours have proven otherwise.

Now, lets talk about what ‘foods’ are NOT helping your cycles. Here is a list of dietary restrictions to support healthy menstrual cycles.

Coffee is not good for youAvoid:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Coffee
  • Cold, iced drinks; too much fruit or raw food
    • even if a food is natural, it could be too ‘cold’ for an individual from a Traditional Chinese Medical perspective.   For example, loose stools and fatigue are usually signs of issues with too much cold in the body.  This article of mine on hot/cold foods goes over this issue.
  • Refined sugar
  • Hydrogenated fats (shortening, margarine), polyunsaturated & trans-fatty cooking oils like Canola
  • Constipation is bad for your general health and needs to be addressed
  • Environmental Toxins
    • Flouridated water suppresses thyroid activity, upsetting the hormonal system
    • Chlorinated water destroys vitamin E, essential for menses
    • Non-organic meat have steroid  residues which can affect your hormones
    • Anything canned, receipts, and most plastics leak hormone disruptors.

Also be aware that IUDs and oral contraceptives are known to cause difficulties, especially in the long term.  Learn about the pluses and minuses of these and see if you believe they are worth it.

Specific Key Nutrients necessary for healthy menses and their sources:

  • Vitamin E– essential for keeping blood flowing smoothly and preventing undue clots.  Helpful in treatment of excess or scanty menses, irregular cycles, and hotflashes.
    • Sources: whole grains like wheat, rice, oats; cabbage, broccoli; sprouts, nuts and seeds. If you want to take supplements, wheat-germ oil is a better source than pills.
    • Vit. E in the body is destroyed by chlorinated drinking water, most polyunsaturated oils (rancidity), estrogenic compounds like those in oral contraceptives, and pollution.
  • Calcium and Zinc levels begin to decrease in the body 10 days before the periods starts.
  • Vitamin C– increases iron absorption.  When taken in whole foods which also provide bioflavinoids, helpful for excess bleeding, bruising, varicose veins.
    • Sources: cabbage, bell peppers, broccoli, sprouts, parsley…
  • Iron and iodine – Help to replace lost blood.
    • Good sources: Legumes, most veggies, whole grains.  Seaweeds and Spirulina micro-algea are great sources.
  • Protein , B vitamins, vitamin A, – essential for hormones, blood.
    • Sources: whole grains, green vegetables and yellow vegetables like carrots.
  • Fatty acids, found in green vegetables, micro-algea (spirulina) –  help overcome cramping and pain.

To sum it all up, if you eat a diet with a variety of whole foods which include grains, legumes, and vegetables, and observe the restrictions above, you’re heading the in the right direction.

Key tips

  • Instead of mega-dosing on vitamin pills, put sea-algea like chlorella and/or spirulina in your diet as they are great natural sources of many of the nutrients you need, available in a form that is easily assimilable by your body.
  • During your period, get plenty of rest, avoid stress and exposure to cold/damp conditions.

Remember that eating well is only one part of keeping your menstruation healthy and painless, but its a crucial part.  You should also get exercise.  And, of course menstrual health is directly related to your emotional health, which needs nurturing with the right diet too!

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