Nutrition during the menstrual cycle is important because the body goes through several hormonal changes that can affect energy levels and nutrient needs. Adequate intake of nutrients such as iron, can help to reduce or sooth symptoms of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) and reduce the risk of anemia. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains can additionally help support overall health and well-being.

What nutrients do you need during your period?

Eating for a healthy menstrual cycle allows you to support your hormones and reduce the inflammation in the body. If your body has a higher level of inflammation, then your body’s immune system blocked hormone signaling. This can cause hormone imbalances which can lead to heavy periods, skipping periods, PMS, or complete lack of ovulation. To avoid over inflammation, it is important to eat foods which are processed as little as possible, foods which are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals also helps. Foods to include would be vegetables such as leafy greens which are a great source of magnesium. Phytoestrogens are a nutrient found in nuts, legumes, whole grains, flaxseeds, and soy. These can help decrease the effectiveness of estrogen which can cause heavier PMS symptoms. Protein is extremely important for providing a balanced hormone level. The recommended amount of protein would be getting 1 gram per kg of your bodyweight. Carbohydrates are an important part of nutrition for your cycle as low levels can negatively impact your cycle through increased anxiety, hair loss and skipped periods. Finally, fats are the building blocks of estrogen and progesterone, so they are vital to balanced hormone levels. It is recommended to choose plant-based fats more than animal fats such as in eggs, avocados or coconut oil.

Which foods should be avoided for optimal nutrition throughout the menstrual cycle?

Any foods which cause either a hormone imbalance or an increase in inflammation in the body can cause issues during your period. Sugar causes large inflammation as the pancreas goes into overdrive and can pump out too much insulin. This can stop ovulation and cause the ovaries to produce testosterone. It is recommended to keep sugar intake of 25g per day. Alcohol causes inflammation and can stress out the liver, not allowing it to process estrogen which can lead to hormone imbalance. Gluten and dairy are two of the most common food sensitivities that can affect your menstrual cycle. It is not the same for everyone, but people who are sensitive or intolerant will find that it causes greater inflammation which can have negative side effects on your menstrual cycle.

Do you lose nutrients on your period?

The biggest nutrient that is linked to menstruation is iron. Iron is found in the body through red blood cells within the blood, which means that when menstruating and losing blood, there is also a loss or iron. Usually, a balanced diet would be enough to keep iron levels regulated, with the recommended 14.8 mg of iron per day. If the iron lost during menstruation is not restored through diet, then the risk is a decrease in iron stores which can have affects such as tiredness, decreased ability to focus and a lower quality of life overall.

How to maintain a healthy level of iron during your period?

Some foods which are high in iron included minced beef, whole meal bread, cornflakes, lentils, and dried apricots. If the intake of iron through diet is not sufficient, and symptoms are being felt, then iron can be supplemented. This should be done with a doctor as not everyone tolerates iron supplements well.

How can vitamin B12 be used to help with heavy periods?

Vitamin B12 is needed for red blood cells to form and mature them. The body needs vitamin B12, folic acid and iron to produce more red blood cells and if any of those 3 are lacking it can cause anemia. Heavy bleeding can really tac the body’s demand for this vitamin. This vitamin is not as easy to consume, as it is only prevalent in red meats, organ meats like liver and eggs. Therefore, vegan, and vegetarian people often have little or no vitamin B12 in their diet. Vitamin B12 may also have an active role in causing excessive heavy menstrual flow because if the liver does not have enough vitamin B12, then it cannot process estrogen properly and this causes there to be a hormonal imbalance. It is recommended to consult a doctor for recommendations on supplements which can be taken to regulate vitamin B12.

January 17, 2023 — Grace Forsyth