Periods can be a pain, so anything that can ease that monthly "meh" feeling can come as a relief. But getting more vitamin C might not have much of an effect, despite rumors high levels can affect hormones. Instead, staying active and eating a balanced diet of healthful whole foods is your best bet.
Video of the Day
Vitamin C and Menstruation
Rumor has it that taking vitamin C for periods can affect your hormones and even make your period come sooner.
But the evidence on this comes mainly from animals — with limited relevance to humans. For example, an October 2012 study in the Journal of Clinical Gynecology & Obstetrics found that rabbits given high levels of vitamin C had an increase in estrogen and a decrease in progesterone levels in their womb tissue.
"This has translated into a common myth that large amounts of vitamin C can 'induce' bleeding by changing the ratio of estrogen to progesterone," says New Orleans-based Maria Sylvester Terry, RDN, dietitian for Ochsner Health's Eat Fit NOLA program.
While there's no strong basis for the claim that vitamin C can affect your period cycle, she says if you're curious about boosting vitamin C, you should choose food sources.
High-dose supplements can cause digestive issues, and if you're taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, vitamin C could increase your estrogen levels too much, according to the Mayo Clinic.
But making sure you eat vitamin C-rich foods is a great choice, especially during your period. That's because vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, and getting enough iron can be a challenge for people with heavy periods. Opt for produce like:
- Bell peppers
Other Vitamins for a Healthy Cycle
You can get these from a balanced diet that contains foods such as:
- Whole grains
- Green vegetables
- Low-fat dairy
- Fatty fish
- Lean meat
However, going mostly plant-based is probably best. An August 2018 study in PLOS One suggests an association between eating meat and having more painful periods. There was also a link between drinking soda and painful period cramps, so you may want to skip the carbonated drinks, too.
Read more: 7 Benefits of Healthy Eating
What About Pineapple or Herbs?
Another rumor: Pineapple can prompt a period or even induce labor. According to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the theory is that because bromelain, an enzyme in pineapples, can break down the protein in tissues, it can also soften the cervix, leading to labor. However, Sylvester Terry says the claim is not supported with significant evidence. "Neither canned nor fresh pineapple contain enough bromelain to induce labor or a period," she says.
When it comes to medicinal herbs, some may have the potential to affect menstruation. A review of research studies in the March 2018 issue of BioMed Research International identified five traditional herbs that have shown some early evidence in impacting infrequent or missed periods in small human studies:
- Foeniculum vulgare (fennel)
- Mentha longifolia (wild mint)
- Paeonia lactiflora (Chinese peony)
- Sesamum indicum L. (sesame)
- Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree)
The researchers call for more rigorous research into these five herbs before drawing any firm conclusions.
If you're thinking of going the herbal route to help with your periods, do so carefully — the U.S. Food & Drug Administration warns that dietary supplements, including herbal ones, are not regulated like medicines. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement to make sure it's right for you.
The Bottom Line
If you want to leverage your diet to have better periods, try skipping the soda, going easy on meat and filling your plate with a balanced mix of healthful whole foods to see if it works for you. And though vitamin C won’t “force” your period to come, it’s great for your health in other ways.
- Journal of Clinical Gynecology & Obstetrics: “The Effects of Ascorbic Acid on the Estrogen/Progesterone Levels in the Isolated Rabbit Uterine Muscle”
- Maria Sylvester Terry, MS, RDN, dietitian, Ochsner Eat Fit NOLA, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Mayo Clinic: “Vitamin C”
- Office of Dietary Supplements: “Iron”
- University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center: “The Truth About “Natural” Ways to Induce Labor”
- BioMed Research International: “Herbal Medicine for Oligomenorrhea and Amenorrhea: A Systematic Review of Ancient and Conventional Medicine”
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration: “FDA 101: Dietary Supplements”
- PLOS ONE: “Lifestyle and Prevalence of Dysmenorrhea Among Spanish Female University Students”