Cramps, sore breasts, nausea, loose bowels — none of these experiences during your period (or any other time, for that matter) are fun. There are a few things you can do to make the experience of painful periods less frequent and intense. Thankfully, eating tasty foods is one of them.
Period symptoms are a sign that our bodies’ hormones need some help cycling like they’re supposed to. What’s the easiest way to help balance hormones? Supply the body with nutrients that make the endocrine system hum. The endocrine system is a collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate your metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things.
Although, frustratingly, women have been omitted from or underrepresented in clinical research for a long time, there are more efforts now than ever to understand women’s cycles and to identify nutrients and behaviors that result in healthy, symptom-free periods. Below are a few recommendations on how to support less painful periods from our Medical Advisory Board, which includes experts across Western Medicine, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Holistic Nutrition, and Herbalism.
1. Balance hormones by enjoying ground flax seeds daily. Flax seeds contain lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that supports healthy regulation of estrogen. A study found that when menstruating women ate 1 TBS of ground flax seeds per day during their cycle, they suffered fewer self-reported period symptoms, saw fewer anovulatory cycles (a cycle during which ovulation doesn’t happen), and had more balanced levels of measured menstrual hormones than usual. Here are a few ways we love to get our daily dose of flax seeds:
- Blend ground flax seeds into your morning oatmeal, yogurt bowl, or smoothie
- Add ground flax seeds to your favorite homemade baked goods, like granola or muffins
- Try our Cinnamon Maca Seasoning sprinkled on top of your oatmeal, toast, yogurt, or smoothie
2. Reduce symptoms with herbal infusions of red raspberry leaf, vitex, and red clover. Red raspberry leaf offers vitamins B, C, potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and iron, which collectively promote energy and immune function. Research shows that vitex reduces symptoms of PMS, including constipation, irritability, depressed moods, migraines, and breast pain and tenderness. Red clover is rich in isoflavones, which also address breast pain and tenderness, reduce hot flashes, and promote healthy skin.
And, as usual, we added a bonus food-adjacent tip that offers additional support at the cellular level:
3. Support circulation, muscle cramping, and stress with a hot, epsom salt bath. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is virtually no published research on epsom salt baths. There are a couple of studies that have explored clinical applications of magnesium sulfate (aka epsom salt), but these studies administer the epsom salt intravenously or internally. While we wait for researchers to take interest, we strongly recommend you take the advice of Herbalists and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, who have found that regular epsom salt baths can dramatically reduce muscle cramping and improve any period. How? The leading modern explanation is that the magnesium you absorb while in the bath can provide an antidote to muscle spasming, which often leads to cramping.
As always, these tips work best in conjunction with eating high-quality, whole, fresh foods that you enjoy at regular times of day. Gut health (aka agni) is a critical underlying component of all forms of health and recovery. Our agni enables us to properly absorb and incorporate the nutrients our immune system needs to heal. For more on Agni’s food philosophy, check out What to eat to fuel your agni and visit www.agniforall.com.
This article was adapted for Mama Glow and was originally published on Agni.