Due to their menstrual cycle, women can experience dysmenorrhea, or menstrual cramps, and menorrhagia, or heavy menstrual bleeding. In the case of both conditions, the foods you eat may help to minimize symptoms. By making nutritional changes for each occurrence each month, you can begin to make symptoms a thing of the past.
Iron for Heavy Bleeding
Menorrhagia causes heavy bleeding, sometimes more than twice your normal levels. If this occurs, you can lose significant amounts of iron via blood loss. Iron deficiency can be common in menstruating women and causes symptoms like fatigue and weakness. Increase your intake of iron-containing foods throughout your menstrual cycle. Meat sources such as liver, red meat and seafood are high in iron; however, you also can increase iron intake by eating more dried fruit, nuts, beans, spinach, broccoli, whole grains and iron-fortified cereals. You'll absorb more iron if you eat something containing vitamin C along with non-meat sources of iron.
Calcium to Reduce Menstrual Cramping
Calcium is a mineral associated with building healthy bones and teeth. However, it may have some applications in minimizing the harmful effects of menstrual cramping. Taking a supplement of 1,200 mg of calcium carbonate each day was shown to reduce menstrual cramps in women, according to Go Ask Alice! a health resource from Columbia University. However, you should not take more than 2,500 mg per day. You also can increase your intake by eating low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese or green leafy vegetables.
Your body uses vitamin B-6 to manufacture new red blood cells. When you lose red blood cells via menorrhagia, your body will need more to build new cells. Also, vitamin B-6 is required for your blood sugar to stay at healthy levels. This can help prevent menstrual cramping-related mood swings and fatigue. Vitamin B-6 is found in fortified cereals, bananas, spinach, sunflower seeds, avocados, tomato juice and salmon. Increasing your intake of these foods may help to minimize the effects of your period.
Foods to Avoid
Just as foods can help reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramping and bleeding, foods can aggravate your symptoms. This includes eating excessive amounts of sugar -- such as cakes, cookies and pies. These are known to contribute to water retention, which make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. High-salt content foods -- french fries, pizza and other fried foods --- can also contribute to bloating. Caffeine-containing beverages like tea and coffee should be avoided as they can contribute to headaches, mood swings and trouble sleeping.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
- MedlinePlus: Painful Menstrual Periods
- Mail Online: How Changing Your Diet Can Relieve PMS
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Dysmenorrhea
- Go Ask Alice!: Foods That Minimize Menstrual Cramps
- Family Education: Nutrition and Menstruation
- FamilyDoctor.org: Anemia: When Low Iron Is the Cause
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B6