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Does nutrition really impact my menstrual cycle and pains?

Updated: Feb 26

There isn't enough research and data to accurately say with a 100% certainty which supplements to take or not take during our premenstrual phase. Some research papers suggest one supplement, only for the next one to debunk it. So how do we truy know whether our nutrition can impact our cycle?



a women thinking and planning her nutrition and how it will impact her menstrual cycle and pains


Part of the problem is that menstrual pains are different for every woman. Sure, there are some common denominators, but the "package" of PMS symptoms are different. Forgive me for the lame comparison, but it's like ordering a trio at your local fast food joint. The items on the menu might be the same, but you might take a BigMac with a side of fries and coke, while your friend will opt for a salad and a side of fries with a bottle of water. You both might get menstrual cramps, but one of you gets headaches and joint pains while your friend gets mood swings and fatigue. Bad metaphor? I thought so too.


Regardless, this complexity makes it very challenging to assess accurately which nutrients are efficient. Often, it feels like a 50/50 chance.


That being said, there is more and more research showing up which is promising for those of us who are constantly seeking better ways to sync to our cycle and minimize the PMS pains. In 2023, a research was done to assess whether nutrient intakes had any impact on menstrual cycle symptoms. The results suggest that there is in fact a correlation between some nutrient intake, specifically around polyunsaturated fatty acids, and the decrease of PMS symptoms. Other researches have shown that niacin and iron can be beneficial. So who do we believe and how do we figure out what WE need to do?


First and foremost, we need to remember to not break our heads with this. Overthinking can be more detrimental than anything else. Getting in too deep can cause unnecessary stress over something that can be quite simple.


Second, as with all nutrition, health and exercise elements in life, the nuances and details may be different for everyone, but there are always some common grounds that we can align on.


Third, because the nuances are different for each of us, we need to be willing to do our own research and experimentation (safely of course!) to find out what works not just for our biology, but for our unique lifestyles. Not everyone has children, and not everyone works 40+ hours a week. We're all different, and we need to take that into account.


So here's my 3 tips to learn how to minimize your menstrual pains with nutrition:


Stick with whole foods.

  • Whole foods contain the rich and complex "bundles" of both macro and micronutrients your body needs to function properly. By eating balanced meals that are mainly composed of whole foods, you eliminate the need to try and account for all the micro and macros.

Before taking on any new supplement or practice, understand your baseline

  • Before trying a new supplement, you need to understand your baseline. You need to know what your point A is to know whether you're getting to point B. If you don't know where you're starting from it will be challenging to understand whether you have actually made things better or worse.

Introduce ONE new thing at a time.

  • We often have the tendency to try ALL the magic pills out there at once. One of them has got to work right? The problem here is that you won't know what's actually working. Was it the iron? Or was it the vitamin B-complex? No way to know. Long term is that you won't be able to stick to is because you don't know what's working and you'll have spend time, energy (and perhaps money) unnecessarily.


Further, in my own research (and personal experimentation), I have found these 4 tricks help the most for me:

  1. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables just after ovulation to help detox the liver and usually means less acne breakouts during PMS.

  2. Turmeric and omega-3 (from fatty fish) for anti-inflammatory properties the week before my period and the first 3 days into my period helps minimize the menstrual cramps.

  3. Soy-based foods like tofu, soy milk and edamame to help balance the estrogen dip the few days leading up to my period helps with minimizing the mood swings, irritability and even my skin conditions.

  4. Chicken liver pate for an extra dose of iron the day just before my period and the first 3 days of my period to help replenish the iron loss and ensure healthy blood flow.


As with all things health and wellness, it's an incredibly personal journey. What works for me may not work for you 100%. It's worth trying, experimenting and see it as a game so you don't get too frustrated or demotivated in the process.


All the best,

Yaya









Sources:

  1. Ghazzawi HA, Alhaj O, Bragazzi N, Alnimer L, Jahrami H. Menstrual cycle symptoms are associated with nutrient intake: Results from network analysis from an online survey. Women’s Health. 2023;19. doi:10.1177/17455057231185624 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/17455057231185624

  2. Wyatt KM, Dimmock PW, Jones PW, Shaughn O'Brien PM. Efficacy of vitamin B-6 in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: systematic review. BMJ. 1999 May 22;318(7195):1375-81. doi: 10.1136/bmj.318.7195.1375. PMID: 10334745; PMCID: PMC27878. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC27878/

  3. https://www.who.int/tools/elena/review-summaries/daily-iron-women--daily-iron-supplementation-for-improving-anaemia-iron-status-and-health-in-menstruating-women

  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022316622002528#:~:text=Compared%20with%20participants%20with%20typical,after%20adjusting%20for%20BMI%2C%20age%2C

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