What Foods Make Period Cramps Better. That dull, aching throb in your lower abdomen that hits a couple of days before your period starts. Period cramps, aka dysmenorrhea, are no joke for many women. While over-the-counter meds can provide some relief, you may be looking for natural solutions to keep the discomfort of cramps at bay.
When that time of the month arrives, there are minerals and chemicals in some meals that help calm the uterus and lessen menstrual cramps. Read on to discover the top picks for foods that may help provide a sigh of relief for your monthly menstrual woes.
What Causes Period Cramps
Before diving into the best foods to beat period cramps, let’s quickly look at what causes them in the first place. When you menstruate, your uterus contracts to help expel its lining. The resulting squeezing and relaxing of the muscles leads to pain and cramping, known as dysmenorrhea.
Prostaglandins, hormone-like fatty acids, are released when you get your period. Some types cause contractions in the uterus, while others are inflammatory. More prostaglandins equals more intense cramping.
In addition to primary dysmenorrhea caused by natural hormonal fluctuations, secondary dysmenorrhea is associated with underlying reproductive issues like endometriosis or fibroids. These conditions can exacerbate cramping.
While you can pop a painkiller when cramps come knocking, certain foods provide natural ways to find relief by decreasing inflammation and relaxing contracted muscles. Let’s explore some options!
What Foods Make Period Cramps Better: Foods Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
What you eat up to and during your period matters when minimizing monthly discomfort. Focus on getting adequate vitamins and minerals that have demonstrated benefits against period cramps.
Magnesium helps relax muscles and acts as a natural muscle relaxant. Load on magnesium-rich foods to help avoid tense uterine muscles and miserable cramps.
The greatest sources are those dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, avocados, bananas, and dark chocolate.
Also known as thiamine, vitamin B1 plays a crucial role in muscle and nerve function. Low levels have been associated with more severe menstrual cramps in some women.
You can get your fill of B1 from pork, sunflower seeds, black beans, green peas, lentils, and nutritional yeast.
This antioxidant vitamin reduces inflammation and prostaglandin release. Foods high in vitamin E may decrease the intensity of period cramps.
Reach for almonds, sunflower seeds, avocados, spinach, broccoli, kiwi, and trout to increase your vitamin E intake.
Research has linked vitamin D deficiency with more painful periods. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory properties likely help.
Get your “sunshine vitamin” dose from fatty fish, dairy, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified foods. Catch some rays to spur vitamin D production in your skin, too!
Like magnesium, calcium helps relax muscular contractions that lead to cramping during your period. Smart calcium choices include yogurt, milk, cheese, spinach, collard greens, sardines, and tofu.
This mineral counters muscle spasms and curbs prostaglandin release. Bananas, sweet potatoes, beans, dried apricots, yogurt, and spinach serve plenty of cramp-fighting potassium.
Learn more: How to Prevent Nosebleeds in Winter.
Inflammation kicks cramps into high gear by stimulating prostaglandin synthesis. An anti-inflammatory diet of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats may help mitigate menstrual pain.
For centuries, ginger has been used to relieve menstrual cramps and nausea. The potent plant compounds called gingerols are thought to ease pain and inflammation.
Sip ginger tea, add ginger to stir-fries or smoothies, or munch on ginger candies to harness its soothing properties.
Bright yellow turmeric contains the anti-inflammatory compound curcumin, which blocks prostaglandins and other chemicals that spark muscle contractions.
Whip a turmeric latte, use it liberally in curries and soups, or mix it into mustard for cramp relief.
Green tea’s catechins, which are antioxidants, offer anti-inflammatory properties antispasmodic effects that may decrease period cramps.
Enjoy a few cups of green tea daily, or take a supplement if you struggle with painful menstrual cramps.
These ruby red gems are chock full of anthocyanins, antioxidants that fight inflammation. Cherries in any form can help tame period cramps.
Keep a bag of frozen cherries on hand for smoothies or chow down on fresh cherries when available during peak season.
Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have potent anti-inflammatory effects. Less inflammation equals less painful contractions and cramps.
Aim for at least two servings of salmon or oily fish like sardines or mackerel each week.
Walnuts provide plant-based omega-3s called ALA to quell inflammation. They also contain magnesium and other minerals that facilitate muscle relaxation.
Add walnuts to salads, yogurt, oatmeal, or snack on a handful plain to reap their benefits before and during your period.
Other Cramp-Fighting Foods
Beyond anti-inflammatories and nutrients, a few other foods have compounds that specifically target menstrual cramps. Add these items to your plate to minimize monthly suffering!
Citrus fruits like oranges contain a flavonoid called hesperidin that boasts antispasmodic powers. Eating oranges and drinking orange juice could help relieve cramps.
Enjoy fresh orange slices, whip up an orange smoothie, or sip on some tangy orange juice for a dose of hesperidin.
A warm cup of chamomile tea not only soothes nerves but relaxes smooth muscle tissue as well. The herb’s apigenin content reduces spasms.
Steep a strong chamomile tea and slowly drink it to reap the antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory benefits for cramp relief.
Bananas provide a tasty two-fer for fighting cramps. They contain potassium to counter muscle contractions and magnesium to relax the uterus.
Munch on one daily or blend frozen bananas into a cooling smoothie to leverage their alleviation period cramps.
Traditionally used for stomach upsets, studies show basil contains antispasmodic and analgesic properties that ease menstrual cramps.
Add fresh or dried basil to tomato sauces, soups, pesto, and other dishes to maximize its cramp-fighting abilities.
The cocoa bean contains flavonoids that limit prostaglandin production and magnesium for muscle relaxation. Enjoy dark chocolate in moderation as a premenstrual treat!
When selecting chocolate, opt for the dark variant with a minimum cacao content of 70%. Small amounts have a significant impact.
Foods to Limit or Avoid
Certain foods can ease cramps, but others may make them worse. Limiting or avoiding these items during your time of the month may provide extra relief:
- Caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate the body and exacerbate cramps and bleeding.
- Added sugars – The blood sugar spikes and crashes exacerbate cramps for some.
- Refined carbs – Like added sugars, these digestive troublemakers increase inflammation.
- High sodium foods – Excess sodium causes bloating and water retention, further contributing to cramps.
- Dairy – Some women report dairy worsens breast pain, bloating, and cramps.
Recap: Beat Cramps with the Right Foods
What Foods Make Period Cramps Better? Focus on fitting in more magnesium, vitamin B1, vitamin E, vitamin D, calcium, and potassium. Anti-inflammatories like ginger, turmeric, cherries, green tea, and walnuts can also ease cramping.
Finally, incorporate chamomile tea, oranges, bananas, basil, and dark chocolate for their targeted effects against period cramps.
While small dietary changes likely won’t eliminate cramps, they may take the edge off and help you get through that time comfortably and cramp-free! Now, eat your way to reduced menstrual misery each month.