How-to guide: what to eat on your period

It’s normal for you to experience digestive issues such as cramping, bloating, constipation and diarrhea throughout your menstrual cycle. According to Jenny Carr, an anti-inflammatory health coach and the author of Peace Of Cake: The Secret To An Anti-Inflammatory Diet, “All research points to temporary hormonal imbalance that is the cause of these less-than-fun conditions.”

Carr says that during the onset of menstruation, some people will experience diarrhea and cramping [1] while others might have faster bowel movements. During the second half of one’s cycle, the body releases extra progesterone, which slows down the contractions of the bowel. Due to this, food and gas will move more slowly making you feel like you’re backed up and bloated. This can be incredibly uncomfortable. It’s important for us to treat our bodies well and let them rest during menstruation. To optimize how you feel, here are some foods that can improve and worsen unwanted menstrual symptoms.

Foods that help

While sugar cravings are common during PMS, it’s important to know what to eat and what not to eat throughout your period as this can help us minimize symptoms and increase our energy levels. So what should you eat and what should you avoid while on your period? Carr says that if you’re feeling bloated and stopped up, you should drink lots of water and eat foods high in fiber and low in sugar. This will help naturally push food through the digestive system, as well as stabilize hormones. “Some of the highest fiber, low-sugar foods to eat are artichoke, avocados and chia seeds. But of course, vegetables of all kinds along with berries, pears, and apples are an amazing choice as well,” she says.

Foods to avoid

According to Carr, there are 6 inflammatory foods we should stay away from to lessen PMS and tired feelings during our cycles including:

  • processed sugar
  • wheat, cow dairy
  • canola
  • vegetable and hydrogenated oils
  • genetically modified foods
  • alcohol

What we put into our bodies matters always, but it’s important to keep in mind that during menstruation, food has the ability to improve or worsen our symptoms drastically, so avoiding these foods will help prevent that.

Jenny Carr is a speaker, MOM-prenuer, leading inflammation expert, and the international best selling author of Peace Of Cake: The Secret To An Anti-Inflammatory Diet. 

To read more about hormone shifts throughout your cycles, check out our guide to understanding your period.

[1] Bernstein, Matthew T. (2014). Gastrointestinal symptoms before and during menses in healthy women, BMC Women’s Health

About the author

Sara Radin

Sara Radin is a culture writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her writing has been published by outlets such as Buzzfeed, Vice and the New York Times.

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