Eating for a Perfect Period

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Welcome to the first post in our Perfect Period Series: Eating for a Perfect Period.  First, a few facts:  what you do and do not eat/drink has a direct impact on how you experience your period.  Mood swings, cravings, cramps, irritability and fatigue are all affected by your diet in the days leading up to and during your period.  {Tweet it!} You cannot go on a pizza and beer binge the week before your period and expect smooth sailing come P-time. Our culturally engrained habit of ignoring our menstrual cycles in terms of dietary and lifestyle modifications is what makes America the land of PMS.  You don’t get an award for pretending that you are just like the boys, don’t have a natural cycle.  And you certainly don’t get any awards for needless suffering.  You DO however get an amazing Organic Beauty Goddess award for being mindful of heeding the natural changes of your body’s needs!   Select specific foods for your luteal phase (the weeks between ovulation and your period), your bleeding phase, and your follicular phase (from period to ovulation) to maximize your energy and health all month long, and lead you to a perfect period.  Read on to find out how…

Foods to Increase:

1. Dark leafy greens.

These guys are Perfect Period Powerhouses, and are one of the biggest keys to unlocking easy period and happy cycles.  Make sure to have at least one serving of dark leafies every day to gain their full, period-perfecting benefit!

  • Before your period, dark leafy greens have an anti-inflammatory and diuretic effect, so they are perfect for your luteal phase.  Make sure to have a green salad or cooked greens every day during your luteal phase, and throw fennel, parsley and celery into your meals, especially if you’re prone to bloating.  Dark leafies are also amazing sources of B vitamins, which are important for balancing your hormones in your luteal phase, as well as calcium and magnesium, which are crucial for keeping cramps and headaches at bay.
  • During your period, dark leafies are your best friend, since they’re loaded with calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are amazing for minimizing and preventing cramps and headaches.  They are also full of vitamin K, which slows down blood flow, and iron, which supports your energy levels as you bleed.
  • After your period, dark leafy greens help to replenish all the minerals you may have lost during your period.  They cleanse and detoxify your blood, energize your system, and are all around amazing for your health.

2. Whole grains.

The second most vital perfect period foods, whole grains balance your blood sugar, prevent cravings, and balance hormone levels.  Eat at least one serving of whole grains every day throughout your cycle to reap their amazing, period-perfecting benefits! Quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, and amaranth are all great options.

  • Before your period, it’s super important to balance your blood sugar levels, and slow-digesting whole grains are perfect for that.  If you’re prone to cravings before your period, this is especially important for you!  Whole grains provide your body with natural energy, fiber, and loads of nutrients, which are all super important for balancing your hormones.
  • During your period, whole grains continue to help stave off cravings for period foods like sugar and simple carbs.
  • After your period, whole grains help to rid your body of excess estrogen and keep blood sugar levels in check, which is important all through your cycle.

3. Omega-3 Foods.

These foods have a potent anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which is crucial for minimizing cramps, headaches, and other period-related pain, and for maximizing energy and great moods throughout your whole cycle!  Low-mercury seafood like salmon, sardines, anchovies, herring, shrimp and scallops are great options, as are walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds!

  • Before your period, load up on omega-3 foods, which decrease inflammation in the body and boost mood, and therefore create the foundation for an easy period.  Opt for eating low-mercury seafood at least 2-3 times a week during your luteal phase!  Throw walnuts, chia or flax seeds into your morning smoothies or granola, add them to your salads, or sprinkle them on top of your lunch!
  • During your period is the perfect time to amp up and diversify your omega-3 foods, which will boost your mood, reduce clotting and heavy bleeding, and minimize cramps, headaches, and body aches to boot!  Try to eat an omega-3 rich food every single day of your period to maximize your results!

4. Beans.

These guys are loaded with protein, which is great for balancing blood sugar and minimizing cravings.  They also have lots of iron and calcium, which make them a perfect period food!

  • During your period, beans will minimize cravings and help to keep you sane.  They also have tons of fiber, which ease the digestive upset many women experience during their periods.  An added bonus is that they’re high in iron as well, which helps to offset the fatigue that can come from losing blood!
  • After your period is the time to protein up.  You’ll likely have tons of energy after your period, and you’ll want to support that with more healthy proteins.  You’ll also want to restore your iron levels after bleeding, so eating lots of beans for a few days after will be a great iron insurance policy.

5. Water.

It is crucial to stay hydrated throughout your cycle.  Before, during, and after your period, water helps to fight bloating, hormonal and blood sugar imbalance, and pain.  Opt for half your ideal body weight in ounces of fresh, filtered water every day.

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Foods to decrease:

1. Refined sugar.

This is obviously something to avoid all the time, but it’s especially important to stay away from all refined sugar before and during your period.

  • Before and during your period, eating refined sugar is a sure way to have a crappy period.  Refined sugar is congesting (read: cramps, headaches, low energy), inflammatory (ditto), and creates blood sugar and hormone imbalance (read: mood swings, irritability, fatigue, cravings, and pretty much all other PMS symptoms).  It’s pretty much the biggest bad for crappy, painful periods.  So avoid it entirely!  If you want a little sweet treat, opt for a few squares of high quality, organic dark chocolate, or better yet, some berries!  If you take sugar in your coffee or tea, switch to organic stevia.

2.  Processed foods.

Chips, cookies, bars, almost anything in a box or a bag, are all loaded with salt (read: bloating), sugar (see above), and chemicals, all of which wreak havoc on your periods.

  • Before your period, eat whole foods during your luteal phase to maximize energy, and to set up a great foundation for a healthy period.
  • During your period, eating processed food will increase bloating, cramps, cravings, and headaches.  You may get a momentary rush of happy feelings if you scarf down some Kraft Mac n’ Cheese during this week, but trust me, you’ll pay for it later. It is crucial to eat a nutritious, whole foods diet during your period to keep it symptom free and happy!

3. Alcohol.

  • In the days leading up to your period, you would do best to avoid alcohol altogether.  It can increase bloating, digestive problems, cramps, and fatigue.
  • During your period, consuming alcohol can increase bleeding, cramps, headaches and fatigue, and is best avoided completely.

4. Caffeine.

  • Right before and during your period, that daily coffee is not making things any easier on your.  Coffee makes cramps, fatigue, bloating, and mood swings during your period much worse, and it an also make you bleed heavier!  Opt for green tea or better yet, red raspberry leaf tea instead! Red raspberry leaf tea is one of the best uterine tonics out there for preventing and managing cramps, and decreasing heavy bleeding.  It’s loaded with trace vitamins and minerals and is one of the most potent period herbs out there.

5. Fatty meat and dairy

Red meat and other fatty animal proteins, as well as cheese, milk, and other dairy products are highly inflammatory to the body, which increases cramps, digestive issues, and are a straight shot to painful, awful periods.

  • Before your period, limit yourself to occasional organic Greek yogurt or hard cheese (like parmesan), and make sure you’re eating lean, organic animal protein like free-range chicken and eggs.  If you’re a milk drinker, switch to nut milk.  Use avocado as a delicious substitute for cheese in salads and sandwiches.  Try nutritional yeast as a healthy cheese substitute in sauces, soups, or on pasta.
  • During your period, avoid all dairy, and eat only lean, organic animal protein.  Better yet, switch to fish and beans as your protein sources for a truly great period!
  • After your period, eat animal protein and dairy in moderation.  But remember, these foods are special add-on’s, not the main component of your meals!

Want more ways to eat for a perfect period?  Stay tuned for our new ebook, Your Guide to a Perfect Period, coming out soon!  Make sure you’re on our mailing list to get your free copy!

{Image: PinterestKatheats.com, Pinterest}

 

3 Comments
  • nkechi njaka
    October 8, 2013

    JUST in time for my doula dinner gather this Thursday! Periods will be a topic for discussion– thanks for the food suggestions!

  • Jordan
    March 24, 2015

    Thank you so much! Really useful, after baby 2 I haven’t been taking care of myself as well and it’s so wonderful to find this article! Can’t wait to view the rest of your site. Hopefully it’ll help me pull it together:)

    • Natasha Uspensky, CHHC
      April 6, 2015

      Thanks for posting, Jordan!
      I can only imagine that with two kids, making time for self-care can be tough. But think of it this way — it’s all in the intention and the aligned small steps you take for yourself every day.

      I hope you find some great inspiration on the blog!

      xoxo
      Natasha

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