Diet and lifestyle Tips for Menstrual Health

Periods…talking about it is such a taboo that most people, even women shy away from it. This is the reason why women, especially young girls are not well aware of menstrual cycles and how important it is to talk about. Almost every woman must have experienced that awkwardness while going to buy sanitary pads, especially when they are given that newspaper-covered packet. So, let’s just open our minds and educate others as well, on how much of importance it holds.

A menstrual cycle is a monthly series of changes in which a female’s body releases an egg, which if not fertilized, leads to the shedding of the uterus lining called endometrium in the form of blood, out through the vagina. A normal monthly period cycle lasts for 3-8 days and occurs after every 21-28 days.

2 major phases in women’s life in regard to menstruation

  • Menarche is the first menstrual cycle, or first menstrual bleeding in females which is often considered as the central event of female puberty, as it signals the possibility of fertility.
  • During menarche, many girls undergo delayed periods which can be due to stress, as adolescence is such an age where academic stress, obsession with a slim figure, and many other things are quite common.
  • In such a condition, they start fasting or skipping meals in order to be in shape, which they get influenced by social media platforms.
  • In order to be in shape, many girls start adopting symptoms of anorexia and bulimia which is basically vomiting out foods run by their psychology. Forcefully vomiting, further leads to hormonal imbalance because the nutrients from food are not fully absorbed by the body leading to nutrient deficiency, which further turns into hormonal imbalance.
  • In such conditions, it is extremely important for parents to keep a healthy relationship with their children and help them to cope with such stressful conditions. Parents should maintain a friendly atmosphere with their children so that a child can discuss their problems with them.
  • Nowadays, girls are gaining early menarche which is due to incorrect eating practices, and having more packaged and processed foods, which in turn leads to certain changes in the body and early onset of periods.
  • During this time, it is crucial for parents to know about their children well and understand all the psychological stress and wrong eating practices and indulge them in eating healthy home-made meals, as per their body’s requirements.
  • Menopause, on the other hand, occurs when a woman hasn’t menstruated in 12 consecutive months and can no longer conceive naturally. It usually begins between the ages of 45 and 55 but can develop before or after this age range.
  • Menopause in females usually comes with irregular periods, hot flashes, and weight gain. Some females also start getting mental stress and they feel depressed. This might be due to a lack of proper intake of foods that could regulate their periods and cope with their mental health.
  • Along with menopause, comes different health issues such as joint pain, irritability, weight gain, aging, etc. The main reason is a lack of proper diet, sleep, and exercise in daily routine.
  • With progressing age, calcium starts leaching out of the bones during menopause or after menopause, and it is important that females should take proper calcium intake through food along with calcium, vitamin D should also be ample in the body as both of this vitamin D and calcium are helpful in bone formation.
  • Along with diet, including some exercise or movement is very important as the body should not feel lethargic all the time. Instead, the body should always be active and some physical activity should be present in the daily routine. 30 minutes of regular exercise per day can really be effective.
  • During stressful conditions, deep breathing exercise helps a lot as oxygen is circulated properly in the body, and calmness is felt in the body.
  • Drinking 8-10 glasses of water can help reduce hot flashes, bloating problems and reduce other symptoms like dryness and weight gain.

Following these helpful tips can make the menopause transition easier for women.

Have you ever wondered why many females suffer from irregular or disturbed menstrual cycles? 

  • There could be many reasons but the most common reasons are- Stress, wrong eating practices such as having junk food most of the time, disturbed sleep-wake cycle can lead to an improper menstrual cycle which is called irregular periods.
  • One of the reasons for irregular periods can also be PCOD (poly-cystic ovary disorder) or PCOS (poly-cystic ovary syndrome) in which small cysts are formed in either of the ovary or in both ovaries. The main reason for this is refined foods and products.
  • However, periods can be regulated with a proper and healthy diet as well as by following a good routine. Eating and sleeping according to sunrise and sunset is the best method to stay healthy and away from diseases.
  • The last meal of the day should be near sunset and sleep time should be at least 1-2 hours after the dinner.

To effectively manage this, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional to develop a personalized diet plan for PCOD.

Basic knowledge about the foods needed pre, during, and post-mensuration cycle-

  • Food rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, calcium, and vitamin D, and low in animal fats, salt, and caffeine may reduce the risk of troublesome PMS symptoms.
  • Avoiding salt can help reduce fluid retention, abdominal bloating, breast swelling, and pain.
  • High caffeine intake can cause irritability, poor sleep, and menstrual cramps.
  • A healthy diet consists of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, fish, and other sources of omega-3 foods such as flax or chia seeds, dairy food, proteins such as legumes and eggs, and a variety of whole grains such as rice, rolled oats, different flours such as Barley (Jaun), sorghum (jowar), finger millet (ragi), pearl millet (bajra).
  • Increase your intake of calcium-rich foods such as nuts, low-fat dairy products, tofu, and broccoli.
  • Iron-rich sources such as pomegranate, beetroot, green leafy vegetables, dates, etc. Should be added to the everyday dietary routine. Having iron-rich sources is extremely important before and after periods so that blood lost during the menstruation cycle can be completed and the body should not face iron deficiency.

Vitamins important and helpful during menarche, as well as menopause, are-

  • Vitamins B1 (thiamin) and B6 (pyridoxine)
  • It can help with PMS.
  • Both vitamins reduce pain, cramps, and mood disturbance.
  • Vitamin B-rich foods are- Milk and milk products, dark green leafy vegetables, and organ meats.
  • Vitamin E (natural alpha-tocopherol) 
  • Vitamin E helps reduce pain and menstrual blood flow.
  • Green-leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E
  • Vitamin D 
  • Sunshine vitamins can help regulate your cycle, relieve muscle pains, and improve moods.
  • The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. So, sitting in the sun for about 10-15 minutes early morning every day can help in improving PMS.

The minerals required are

  • Magnesium 
  • Magnesium relieves menstrual cramps.
  • Improves premenstrual mood changes, especially irritability, and anxiety.
  • It can help with muscle relaxation, muscle cramps, and sleep.
  • Magnesium-rich foods are- eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; nuts and seeds; and soy products.
  • Calcium (Ca)
  • Reduces menstrual cramps, fluid retention, mood disorders, and food cravings.
  • Calcium-rich foods are- Milk and milk products, and green leafy vegetables.
  • Zinc (Zn) 
  • Helps relieve menstrual pain, cramping, and depression.
  • Foods rich in zinc are- Poultry, chickpeas, nuts (such as cashews and almonds), seeds, legumes, and dairy.
  • Iron (Fe)
  • Helps in proper iron reserve in the body.
  • Helps in preventing periods of pain.
  • Iron-rich foods are- Green leafy vegetables, beetroot, pomegranate, dates, raisin, fig, prune, and brinjal.
Menstrual pain

During the menstrual cycle, most of the females experience pains in the stomach, back, legs, or other parts of the body. The intensity of the pain may be different for every woman or even some females do not feel any pain. However, the pains can be controlled and even minimized to some extent if a proper diet is taken. Exercise and yoga also play an important role in coping with periods of pain. There are many yoga postures that help in relieving menstrual pain and relaxing the pelvic muscles.

Many women tend not to discuss with other people, mostly young girls do not share their menstrual issues with their mothers. This further leads to more complications because the pains could also be due to certain deficiencies which could not be detected until and unless this issue is discussed with elders.

Tips to instantly overcome menstrual pain are-

  • Sipping chamomile tea can give a relaxing effect to the body during menstrual pain.
  • Applying heat to the areas where there is pain such as the back, stomach, etc. can help in relieving periods of pain as it relaxes the muscle.
  • Sipping lukewarm Ajwain water can also help ease painful periods.

Things to add to a regular routine for preventing/ minimizing periods pain are-

  • Raisin-kesar water can be given to both females undergoing menarche and menopause to regulate the period’s cycle. Moreover, raisins are a good source of iron.
  • Include complex carbohydrates in your diet such as Arbi, sweet potato, raw banana, etc. This is because complex carbohydrates increase the levels of serotonin which relaxes the body and relaxes the mind.
  • Soaking in a warm bathtub or taking a hot water shower is another way to surround your pelvic muscles with the warmth they need to relax.
  • Yoga can also be helpful in reducing period cramps.
  • Avoid certain foods such as caffeine, salty foods, and alcohol that can cause water retention, bloating, and discomfort.

How to keep hygiene during the menstrual cycle-

  • Change your sanitary napkin after every 4-6 hours.
  • Never use cloth instead of sanitary napkins.
  • Wash your undergarments properly and dry them under the sun.
  • Keep yourself clean and take a bath 
  • Discard used sanitary napkins properly.

By prioritizing self-care and making positive choices, women can pave the way for a healthier and more comfortable menstrual experience.

Avatar photoLavleen Kaur

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