Anyone who has ever experienced PMS before knows that cramps are real, and they can be terrible. But before you go ahead and grab some ibuprofen, consider grabbing a snack, too — there are foods to eat when you have period cramps that will actually make your life so much easier.
You know how it goes. Every month, that one week rolls around and after feeling bloated for a few days, the cramps set in and all you want to do is either eat everything in sight, or simply rip your uterus out completely. It’s not always a pretty picture, and we seriously don’t get enough accolades for surviving the roller coaster that is having a period. As much as many of us want to assuage our cramps with pizza and wine, those foods really aren’t helping you eat your way to comfort. If anything, they’re actually making your cramps worse. Yikes.
"PMS may be more significant among women with nutritional deficiencies," Joyce Faraj, PhD, RDN, CDN, a nutritionist at Mountainside, a rehabilitation center, tells Bustle. "Increased PMS symptoms [have been seen] among women with lower intakes of complex carbohydrates, fibers, calcium and higher intake of simple sugars and sodium, lower intake of calcium, magnesium, and B6. High dietary intake of vitamin D may reduce risk of PMS. There is also a lower risk of PMS in women with high dietary intakes of thiamin and riboflavin."
Faraj says that inflammation might be higher if you're PMS-ing, so try seeking out anti-inflammatory foods. "Salmon and other fatty fish, lean meats, almonds, black beans, nuts, chickpeas, dark chocolate, lentils, peas, sunflower seeds, garlic, ginger, rosemary, extra-virgin olive oil, turmeric, and cinnamon," are all examples of anti-inflammatory ingredients that can be helpful.
Here are my 12 go-to foods to help you power through your period without the mind-numbing cramps.
1. Dark Chocolate
Do you ever wonder why you crave chocolate around your period? Your body knows what it’s doing when that craving sets in. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants that can help your body's inflammatory response fend off the dreaded cramps.
You know drinking water is necessary for your body to function in every way possible, but it also can help you out with all those cramps. Down as much as you can in a day, and you’ll feel like a new human.
Just like eating a banana after you exercise, eating it when your uterus starts cramping is a great way to get your muscles to chill the hell out. The reason is that bananas contain potassium, which, if you have too little of, can contribute to cramps.
There are vitamins and enzymes in pineapples that actually relax your muscles to combat the cramps, plus this fruit has the added bonus of boosting your mood.
This fish is rich in omega 3s and vitamin D, which both help to fight those painful cramps just like an anti-inflammatory would.
A cup of tea, green tea, or chamomile tea specifically will sooth your mind, body, and soul. Snuggle up with a warm cup after a long day, and ease into its effects.
Foods that are rich in calcium will also help reduce the pain of cramps. You’ve now got your breakfast idea for the length of your period. You’re welcome.
Flaxseed works just like salmon by providing the omega 3s you need to help stop those muscles from tensing up and ruining your entire day.
Green smoothie, anyone? Kale is one of the best plant-based sources of calcium that relieves the pain associated with your period.
Reach for a handful of walnuts for a great snack that’ll keep those omega 3s running through your body.
11. Peanut Butter
Forget a spoonful of sugar; hit a spoonful of peanut butter instead. Peanut butter is high in vitamin E — another magical vitamin that helps with inflammation and cramping.
12. Sunflower Seeds
Just like peanut butter, sunflower seeds have vitamin E in them. Plus, they are one of the most delicious snacks of all time, so go ahead and eat as many as you want.
Even if your cramps make you feel awful, you gotta eat during that first phase of your cycle. Making delicious choices can help you say buh-bye to those cramps and hello to a period free of pain.
This post was originally published on April 5, 2016. It was updated on June 20, 2019.
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