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How does what you eat affect your menstruation?

How can menstruation affect me? So how can diet affect menstruation?

  1. How can menstruation affect me?
    • There is blood and iron loss. You may feel fatigue and dizzy easily.
    • Uterine contractions may precipitate menstrual cramps.
    • Before the start of menstruation, you will experience changes due to the influence of hormonal change.
    • Emotionally, you may have a mood swing or get frustrated easily.
    • Physically, you may experience bloating, diarrhea and nausea.
  2. How can diet affect menstruation?
    Foods have no direct impact on uterus because once consumed, they pass through stomach and intestines which are not connected to uterus. However, certain foods may influence symptoms before and during menstruation. Selecting foods which can minimize menstrual symptoms is recommended.
  3. Recommended diets during menstruation
    1. Drink adequate amount of water
      • Recommended daily water intake is 2.7 liters.
      • It helps replenish body fluid contraction from the blood loss, and reduce headache or dizziness.
      • It can relieve abdominal bloating.
    2. Iron-rich foods (including fish, poultry, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and collard greens) can replenish iron lost through menstrual bleeding.
    3. Foods which are high in protein and fibers can help control your blood sugar level, provide sustained energy and reduce cravings.
    4. Omega-3 / Fish oil can relieve menstrual cramps, depression and mood swing.
    5. Certain herbs such as ginger and cinnamon can relieve menstrual pain. However, excessive intake should be avoided.
    6. Foods rich in vitamins and minerals
  4. Diets you should avoid during menstruation
    1. Salty / High sodium foods
      • Eating too much salty or high sodium foods can cause water retention, edema and bloating.
    2. Sweets / High sugar foods
      • Too much sugar intake can lead to blood sugar fluctuation and mood swing.
    3. Caffeine / Tea / Coffee
      • Caffeine can lead to water retention, edema and progressive headache. However, the lack of caffeine can also cause headache. Therefore, you do not have to stop drinking caffeinated beverages; just keep it in moderation.
    4. Alcohols
      • Alcohols can dehydrate your body, leading to headache and bloating.
    5. Piquant and Spicy foods
      • Spicy foods may irritate your stomach. Though it does not directly affect the uterus, spicy foods can cause burning sensation in the stomach, diarrhea, and nausea which can adversely affect menstrual symptoms.
    6. Meat / Red Meat such as beef or pork
      • It is rich in iron and helps replenish iron lost during menstruation. However, it is also high in prostaglandins which can cause uterine contraction, exacerbating menstrual cramps.

    Misconception about diets and menstruation

    1. Cold water or ice should be avoided during menstruation.
      Myth: Cold water or ice should be avoided during menstruation; some people believe they exacerbate menstrual pain and hinder complete flow of the menses.
      Truth: Ice or cold water has no effect on menstruation; menses is simply blood expelled from the uterus, and menstrual cramps are the result of uterine contraction. Our body can adjust the temperature of foods and cold beverages consumed that pass through the digestive tract only and do not come in contact with the anatomically separate reproductive tract. Hence, cold water and ice do not cause menstrual cramps and menstrual blood clots. However, this varies by person.
    2. Do not drink coconut water during menstruation.
      Myth: Thai people believe that coconut water should not be consumed during menstruation. Some may say it causes fishy odor whereas others say it causes abnormal menstruation or aggravates menstrual cramps.
      Truth: You can still drink coconut water but just not too much. Coconut water contains phytoestrogen, a natural substance having chemical structure similar to female hormone.
    3. Coconut water causes irregular menstruation and precipitates menstrual cramps
      Myth: Drinking coconut water can cause irregular menstruation and precipitate menstrual pain.
      Truth: Menstrual cramps occur when the uterus contracts under the influence of prostaglandins. Coconut water contains high level of estrogen; though not a direct cause, it may affect uterine contraction and perturb with menstruation. However, when consumed at the proper amount, coconut water is beneficial to your health as it is high in essential minerals.

     

    Summary of Diet and Menstruation
    Simply eat healthy with balanced 5-food groups and drink plenty of water.




    Article by

    Dr Asama Vanichtantikul
    Gynecologist specializing in Gynecologic Oncology and Minimally Invasive Surgery
    Doctor profile