Suffering from bloating, cramps and a low mood for a few days each month is a tiresome norm for many women.
But could what you eat and drink while on your period be making your symptoms worse?
While experts say some women do just suffer more with PMS or cycle-related symptoms, there could be nutritional factors exacerbating them.
MailOnline spoke to experts about all the food and drinks to avoid when on your period.
Could what you eat and drink while on your period be making your symptoms worse? Anyone who menstruates will be able to tell you that their mood, body image, shape, performance and sleep all change throughout their cycle.
When on your period it’s natural to reach for a big bag of crisps.
But eating too much salty food can leave the tummy feeling swollen and bloated – much like the sensation experienced just before, or during, your period.
This is because the body retains extra sodium, according to Ro Huntriss, a London-based consultant fertility dietitian and founder of Fertility Dietitian UK.
In turn, the amount of fluid held in the body rises by around 1.5 litres.
High salt levels tend to be found in overly processed and packaged foods, like crisps and processed meats.
It is recommended to opt for fresh, whole foods when on your period, and to season meals with herbs and spices rather than salt to help reduce water retention.
Eating foods packed with refined sugar can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a crash later in the day.
Experts say this can worsen mood swings, fatigue and irritability that are already commonly experienced during menstruation. It can also contribute to a general feeling of instability or feeling overwhelmed.
And one 2018 study in BMC Women’s Health found that women who ate more sugary snack foods throughout the month suffered increased period pains compared to those who ate less added sugar.
Trying to curb any sweet cravings with fruits, natural sweeteners or snacks with a balance of protein and fibre can help maintain stable blood sugar levels, according to Sophie Dillon, a London-based nutritionist.
Fatty and fried foods
Foods high in saturated fats, such as deep-fried snacks, fattier cuts of meats, processed dairy and confectionery, can promote inflammation within the body.
This can exacerbate period-related symptoms like cramps, bloating and tenderness.
This is because eating these foods can trigger the body to release prostaglandins — chemicals that trigger period cramps and cause inflammation.
So, in theory, some of the tastiest foods can promote inflammation and may worsen PMS symptoms, says Dr Adiele Hoffman, Buckinghamshire-based medical advisor at period tracker app Flo.
She added: ‘There’s no evidence to suggest that avoiding these whilst actually on your period might help.
‘But an overall healthier diet could not only help period pains but your overall health as well.’
Miss Dillon suggests opting for lean proteins, ‘healthy’ fats such as seeds, nuts, fish and avocado and swap frying for grilling or steaming to maximise the nutrient profile of your food and reduce period symptoms.
Caffeine is a stimulant that many use for a morning energy boost.
However, aside from giving you a buzz, experts say it can also affect hormone levels, increase anxiety and disrupt your sleep pattern.
During menstruation, when hormonal fluctuations are already occurring, caffeine consumption can intensify symptoms like breast tenderness, irritability and sleep disturbances, as well as impact your mental health by increasing anxiety.
Switching to caffeine-free herbal teas or reducing caffeine intake can help manage these symptoms better, Miss Dillon said.
Ms Huntriss said: ‘Anxiety can be another symptom that women experience when on their period.
‘Caffeine can increase anxiety levels in some people, so minimising caffeine could be a wise consideration for those that experience anxiety.’
It is recommended not to exceed 400mg of caffeine daily which is around 4 mugs of instant coffee. But some people may benefit from having a much lower intake.
Carbonated drinks, including sodas and sparkling water, can introduce excess gas into the digestive system.
Miss Huntriss said this can lead to bloating, making you feel uncomfortable.
Bloating is commonly experienced during menstruation and experts say carbonated drinks can exacerbate this.
‘Choosing non-carbonated alternatives like plain water or herbal teas, can help prevent additional bloating,’ Miss Dillon said.
You may have heard of the ‘beer belly’.
Well alcohol is another drink that can make you feel bloated, Miss Huntriss said.
Miss Huntriss suggests minimising your alcohol consumption during your period if bloating is something you are commonly affected by.
She added: ‘Another thing to be aware of is that alcohol is a depressant.
‘If you feel that you are affected by low mood during your period, it may be advisable to find a non-alcoholic alternative which may help to improve your mood.’
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