What To Eat During Your Menstrual Cycle
Before, During, After Your Period
Many do not realize that what you consume before your menstrual cycle, during, and after affects your monthly cycle. Each year, approximately 18% of women suffer from period pain that cannot be resolved through medication. Depending on the food eaten, the amount of serotonin produced is altered, with a goal to consume foods that increase serotonin. This change in hormones (not only serotonin but other hormones present) is known to cause atypical menstrual cycles, among other disorders. Keep reading to find out what to eat on your periods each phase.
Changes In Estrogen And Progesterone
Hormone changes control monthly cycles. So, it is common for hormones like estrogen and progesterone to fluctuate during the month. However, the combination of estrogen and progesterone has increased symptoms during the pre-menstrual period each month.
These changing hormone levels of progesterone and estrogen affect other hormones like serotonin, which alters things like the body’s temperature and blood flow. This imbalance causes many PMS symptoms like mood swings, bloating, changes in appetite, cramps, anxiety, tiredness and more.
What Happens During Menstrual Cycles According To Chinese Medicine
The menstrual cycle causes women to experience periodic and alternating symptoms of blood insufficiency and qi stagnation. Two main patterns experienced during a menstrual cycle include:
- Blood deficiency – after your period
- Qi Stagnation – before your period
Blood Deficiency: When blood loss from monthly menstrual period is not replaced by nourishment or enough rest, blood deficiency can develop. Some of the common symptoms of blood deficiency include:
- Tiredness, weakness, fatigue
- Pale complexion, lips and nails
- Dizziness, poor or blurred eyesight
- Cold hand and feet
Qi Stagnation: The pattern of Qi stagnation is generally observed as a pre-menstrual syndrome. As the blood collects in the uterus ‘stagnates in the uterus’ symptoms of Qi stagnation can occur. Some of the common symptoms of Qi stagnation include:
- Sudden mood swings
- Bloating, gas
- Stress and anxiety
- Weight gain
- Joint and muscle aches
Chinese Medicine experts recommend paying close attention to each phase of your menstrual cycle. Adjusting your diet before the start of your period and at the midpoint of your cycle (ovulation) can help replenish blood and remove stagnation. Let’s check what to eat during period!
Chinese Medicine Dictates Which To Eat During Periods And Why
Throughout the process of a monthly cycle, different foods hold power to balance the body and maintain a healthier period. As the period is broken into four cycles – ovulation, luteal, menstrual, and follicular phase various foods are intended to be eaten throughout the cyclical process.
What To Eat 2 Weeks Before Your Period (Ovulation Phase)
The ovulation phase brings with it the importance of maintaining kidney health. In TCM, this is done by consuming “warming” foods that help balance the energy of the kidneys. These organs are responsible for reproduction, making them essential during this phase.
- Warming foods such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, rice, oatmeal
- According to a 2021 study, consuming a diet rich in scallions and ginger can help warm and regulate blood energy.
- Avoid cold foods such as vegetables and fruits
Consume small portions of food throughout the day – this can help to stabilize blood sugar levels
What To Eat 1 Week Before Your Period (Luteal Phase)
The luteal phase, also known as the pre-menstrual phase, is when pre-menstrual syndrome can occur. During this time, estrogen generally increases, which can cause a sense of tiredness. Keep your energy high by consuming magnesium and B6-filled foods in this phase.
According to a 2012 study, increasing magnesium and B6 during the luteal phase has positive benefits and lessoned PMS symptoms, including cravings, mood swings, swelling, and depression. You can consume foods like
- Dark leafy green vegetables, spinach,
- Bananas, avocados, beans, mushrooms
- Nuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds
- Fish, Bone broth
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary foods
- Drink plenty of water
What To Eat During Your Period (Menstrual Phase)
The week of your menstrual flow is considered the initial phase of the cycle. During this time, it’s best to rest as much as possible. As blood depletes during this time, so does the iron found in the body. According to a 2017 study, consuming this particular type of vegetable or any that produces indole-3 carbinol helps regulate estrogen levels to reduce menstrual pain.
- Eat more blood-building foods
- Foods rich in protein such as red meat, beef liver
- Comfort foods such as stews, casseroles
- Whole grains, vegetables
- Other iron-rich foods include greens like spinach, legumes, red meat, pumpkin seeds, and quinoa.
Cruciferous vegetables should also be noted as what to eat on your period as they aid in regulating symptoms during this phase. For some women, it is normal to have sugar cravings on periods. So what to eat when craving chocolate on period? Healthy alternatives such as fresh fruit smoothies and energy bites can be good choices.
What foods help with period cramps?
Pain, bloating, and nausea can result from a blockage or obstruction in the movement of blood and qi (essential energy) during the menstrual cycle. Additionally, because blood is a yin (cool) l, you are more likely to experience yang deficiency in your pelvic area during your period. Your blood and qi may get stagnant as a result, resulting in cramping. Which is why it is important to consume warming foods that help with period cramps.
Avoid cold and uncooked food as they tend to be Yin heavy.
Consume foods that can increase Qi in your body such as grains, cereal, rice – brown rice specifically, potatoes, yam and whole grain bread
What not to eat on your period?
At the same time, there are also some foods you need to avoid during the period. Spicy and salty foods should be avoided since consuming these foods may upset your digestive system and cause water retention. Similarly, the intake of coffee can also bring about water retention and bloating, which will make your period a hard time to live. So do remember to limit their intake.
What To Eat The Week After Your Period (Follicular Phase)
After the period occurs, this is when blood deficiency is most prevalent. According to a 2020 study, progesterone and estrogen cause fluctuations in body temperature during the month, with a generally lower temperature occurring in the follicular period and also associated with yin.
During this time, women are in yin, or weak blood, period because of the blood lost during menstruation. It’s essential to replenish your blood through nutrient-dense foods or foods that promote yang.
- High-protein foods, including liver and meat, are highly recommended to rebuild the blood.
- Leaning into yang foods includes adding items that are high in fat, folic acid, and B12.
- Adding fruits, nuts, beans, peas, dairy, and fish during this period are excellent ways to increase folic acid and B12.
- Meat especially organic red meat
- Molasses – very high in iron
- Pumpkin, cherry, beetroot, carrots
- Whole grains, buckwheat, legumes
In conclusion, maintaining a balance of hormones, including progesterone and estrogen, aid in providing a more regulated and less painful experience during the menstrual phase. This can be achieved naturally by consuming foods that coincide with each monthly phase before, during, and after menstruation. These nourishing foods also help balance qi stagnation, improve blood deficiency, and encourage healthy kidney functions. If you are interested in a personal foods for period plan based on your specific monthly needs, reach out to a health provider to discuss TCM and any necessary herbal supplements.
Menstrual Maintenance For Healthy Periods
Menstrual Maintenance by GinSen are supplements for regulating the menstrual cycle naturally. Ideal for irregular periods – absent periods, heavy/light period flow, period clotting and balancing hormones. It also supports the well-being of female fertility organs to help promote fertility.
For more information about how Chinese Medicine can help you during periods, book your free consultation with our Chinese Medicine experts today
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our clinics website: GinSen where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.