Periods are a fact of life for most women. Still, it wasn’t that long ago that it was considered taboo to even discuss a woman’s period in public. While the Internet and social media have helped to change this, awareness around the connection between your period, your diet and your mental health is still being discovered. What we do know is that your cycle can say a lot about your health, so it’s important to learn as much as you can. Here’s some advice on how to maintain good health during your cycle with nutritious foods and exercise. But first, learn more about what a menstrual cycle is.
The menstrual cycle is a monthly series of changes that occur in a women’s body as it prepares for the possibility of pregnancy: each month an ovary releases an egg (ovulation) and if this egg doesn’t get fertilized, the lining of the uterus, that has been preparing for pregnancy, shreds through the vagina, an experience that we call ‘the period’. So what makes a healthy period and how does our diet and nutrition play an important role in it?
Menstrual cycles vary between women with menstrual flow happening typically between 21-35 days and last anywhere from two to seven days. A great way to learn about your own cycle is to track when you get your period by using a cycle tracking app on your phone or keeping a written record. Your period becomes more regular and shorter as you age, but there is no normal when it comes to periods, everyone experiences it differently. That being said, there are ways to directly improve your menstrual experience and maintain a healthy period.
Your diet plays an important role in keeping you healthy, and directly affects your menstrual cycle. A healthy diet is high in vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, fish (other sources of omega-3 fats), proteins, whole grains, and more natural foods that aren’t processed. If you are someone who has a heavier period, it is also important that you eat lean meats (red meat and chicken) to ensure that you’re getting a proper source of iron and protein. A great way to start changing your diet is to increase your intake of calcium-rich foods like broccoli and nuts.
Now those are some ways you can improve your overall diet to ensure that you have a healthy period, but did you know that there are also some diet changes you can make to help you tackle premenstrual syndrome (PMS)? PMS can hit you out of nowhere and leave you feeling bloated, irritable, and outright exhausted. But fear not, a lot of women go through it so you aren’t crazy or moody, just someone who menstruates. So how can we fight against PMS? Dr. Linda Bradley, and Ob/GYN has some tips:
- Exercising: getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week
- Reduce salt: this can help get rid of unwanted bloating and if you experience breast tenderness
- Hydrate: at least 64 ounces of water a day keeps you healthy and reduces bloating and aids in digestion
- Vitamin D: if you aren’t getting it naturally in your diet you can consider vitamins/supplements
- Snack on nuts: as mentioned before, nuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids
- Limit alcohol: if you’re of age to drink you might want to limit your intake especially while on your period
- Limit caffeine: not only can too much caffeine disrupt your sleeping habits but it can also contribute to PMS symptoms
There are a lot of things that contribute to a healthy period, but ensuring that your body is getting the nutrients and protein that it needs from a healthy diet is a key factor. Minimizing stress, getting enough sleep, and letting your body rest when it begs for it are also some lifestyle changes that can positively impact your period experience and nutrition journey.
Here at EmpowHERto we are dedicated to not only period education but also period activism, which is why we have launched the HERstration initiative to tackle period poverty in our own communities. Our hope is that through both education regarding healthy periods as well as direct activism we can change the narrative and stigma around periods and make sure every person who menstruates has access to information and products to help them through it.
Follow us @empowherto for more information on period health. Click here to donate to HERstration.