Our bodies go through a lot each month. Painful period cramps, PMS, bloating and bad skin are just some of the conditions that women frequently experience because of their period. However, there are some simple steps you can take such as eating the right foods, which can ease the symptoms of periods and make it a bit more comfortable.
Dr Linda Booth advises on the top ten plant-based foods to eat which can make that time of the month a little more bearable.
Ten plant-based foods to eat to ease symptoms of periods
To ease PMS
Oats, pulses, lentils and brown rice
Soluble fibre found in foods like oats, pulses, lentils and brown rice help to keep your bowel movements regular and remove any excess hormones and toxins from building up and recirculating around the body. Constipation can cause endotoxins to penetrate the bowel, over-burdening the liver and spilling into systemic circulation affecting other body symptoms and organs, including your hormone balance.
Beans are packed full of magnesium, which helps regulate serotonin – the neurotransmitter that has a huge impact on your mood. Women who suffer from bad PMS have been found to have low levels of magnesium so upping it in your diet could well make you feel less irritable. If you’re time-poor, choose beans on toast, but if you fancy a hearty winter dish, use lots of kidney beans in a chilli con carne.
If you find yourself eating lots of carbohydrate-heavy foods like pasta and spaghetti just before your period, it’s probably just because you need cheering up. Eating pasta creates tryptophan, which tells your brain to create serotonin to boost your mood. In fact, without carbohydrates, your brain can’t produce serotonin. Choose wholewheat pasta with a tomato based sauce to keep it light and healthy.
Women with diets high in leafy greens have fewer painful periods. This is because leafy greens are packed full of magnesium. When your body lacks that nutrient, it can cause spasms in the uterus and in the smooth muscle tissue of the bowel. This can contribute to period pain and bowel problems like constipation. Opt for spinach or kale as a whole pack boils down to hardly anything and cooked spinach provides a greater amount of iron than eating it raw.
To ease bloating
Fermented foods like sauerkraut – finely cut cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria - help with bloating, painful intestinal gas, diarrhoea and constipation. It can be eaten as a side dish or incorporated into cooking, such as sauerkraut soup with sausage as a simple but effective winter warmer.
Fresh peppermint is brilliant to eat during your period because of its ability to soothe indigestion, gas, pains, diarrhoea and period cramps. Brew with hot water, or tear fresh mint leaves into soda and lime juice for a refreshing soft drink.
To improve iron levels*
Packed with copper, phosphorus, vitamin E, and zinc, sesame seeds are a rich source of iron and are easy to sprinkle onto salads and in sandwiches. You can buy sesame seed biscuits too which make a great snack on the go.
Dried apricots are an excellent source of iron and nutrients. Keep a stash in your handbag to snack on in the day or eat with yoghurt and honey for a healthy dessert.
For better skin
For skin that’s suffered from a particularly bad breakout, tomatoes are a natural and effective way to reduce blemishes and scarring – they contain lycopene as well as being rich in vitamin A which promotes regeneration and helps speed up skin cell turnover.
Pineapple is great for your skin too – the enzymes within it can improve hydration and remove dead cells giving you a glowing complexion. It’s also a great option for when you’re craving something sweet. It’s not only full of vitamin C, but it helps boost the production of serotonin.
Expert comment from Pink Parcel, the monthly luxury femcare subscription service - and Dr Linda Booth, resident Pink Parcel dietitian.
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