When it comes to period pain, there’s a seemingly endless amount of things to be said. Specific kinds of pain tablets work for some, while other people swear off painkillers completely, opting for a heating pad and some rest. Some of us swear by a hard, sweaty workout, while others would rather shoot themselves, and need chocolate and Netflix.
But when it comes to period pain food, the rules of eating pretty much start and end with chocolate. However, scientists have been hard at work figuring out what’s best for fending off cramps and what eases those pelvic contractions. In the East, Chinese women have a strict set of diet restrictions to ease period pain. We’ve scoured the research to figure out if there’s any truth to what period pain foods work.
#1 Fish oil can make period pains better
Here’s how it works: period pain is triggered by the contractions your uterus makes to expel the lining. These contractions are created in part by a group of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. But not all prostaglandins are created equal. Research in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology notes that prostaglandins created when the diet is high in fish oil are ‘less potent’, and thus, would create less painful contractions. Another source of less-painful prostaglandins? Vegetable oils, like sunflower and corn.
#2 Try a high-vegetable diet
Around the time before your period, resist the urge to gorge on pizza (animal fats) and switch it out for vegetable stews, soups and salads instead. The same study published in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology notes that there’s a relation between a diet low in vegetables and increased period pain. Adding more vegetables is though to lower the amount of oestrogen in the body, leading to fewer pains. “Plant based diets are shown to increase the concentration of sex-hormone binding globulin, thereby lowering the concentration of bio-available estrogen,” the study notes.
READ MORE: Two Periods In One Month: 6 Reasons Why
#3 Don’t skip breakfast
One study found that when women had a history of skipping breakfast, their period pains were worse. Women who had restricted dieting also experienced more painful symptoms. It’s thought that cutting out a ton of food would also remove a variety of vegetables and healthy fats from the diet, increasing period pain. Women with irregular periods were more often in the midst of a restrictive diet.
#4 Stay away from oily, sugary and salty foods
One study found that “meat, oil, sugars, salts, and coffee worsened menstrual cramps, while foods containing omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and may alleviate them.” This echoes a study of Chinese women, who adopted a specific diet during their periods: they stayed away from oily, fried and spicy food, while opting for warm food only. 74% of them stay away from cold food and drink during their periods and avoided coffee, saying it made their symptoms worse. Instead, they opted for warm drinks and food and drank ginger tea, which makes sense, since ginger is anti-inflammatory.
If you’re looking for even more tips on lessening your period pains, join the Periods Circle in the Zoie app! It’s moderated by a healthcare professional, and you can ask questions, swap tips and get the best out of your periods – every cycle. Download the Zoie app here.