Ever heard that age old saying: you are what you eat!

Well Divas, it’s time to start taking nutrition more seriously. After all, nutrition is a huge factor that influences our everyday lives. When done right it can make amazing improvements on our general health and well-being, it can even help with those pesky period symptoms.

Now, there are many things that influence our bodies, not just what we eat, including our own menstrual cycle. In fact what we eat, how we exercise and where we are in our menstrual cycle all tends to work with (or against) each other and can affect our PMS symptoms, and possibly even disrupt our menstrual cycles. This means we have to get more in touch with our cycles and understand how foods affects our bodies in both positive and negative ways.

First we recommend you take the time to understand your menstrual cycle. This means researching and understanding what is happening to your body during the different phases of your cycle. For example when your period is about to begin, your progesterone levels rise as your body prepares to shed the uterine lining and this as well as other factors can cause you to experience PMS symptoms. Understanding your cycle and body can be a very liberating experience. In fact many users of The DivaCup like the fact that they get to know more about their body and menstrual flow when using the cup.

There is a lot to learn about menstruation and diet, too much in fact for just one blog post! An interesting book that discusses the importance of considering your cycle when it comes to nutrition and exercise is “The 28 days Lighter Diet”. Some of the great tips from this book and from other industry generated experience have been combined to bring you a collection of tips and tricks to help you achieve a healthier period.

First let’s talk about what we should do:

How is What You Eat Affecting Your Period?

Sleep.

During your period your body is hard at work as hormone levels rise and your uterine lining sheds. Conserving energy with an extra bit of sleep is an excellent way to help you feel better during your period. An 8-hour sleep during your menstrual cycle is also important to help your body stay healthy and when your period hits, we recommend adding an extra half hour to your sleep regiment. Trust us, it helps!

Calcium.

Calcium is very important for women and is needed on a regular basis. If women do not get enough calcium it can lead to painful cramping and can also cause hormonal imbalances. Though calcium is also available in supplement form, it is important to discuss the incorporation of supplements with you health care practitioners before starting any supplement programs. Some great natural sources of calcium include sesame seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, quinoa and beans.

Iron.

Is a common nutrient-deficiency in women and if you find yourself looking pale, feeling tired or cold, you may have an iron deficiency. We lose iron every month with our menstrual flow and so it must be replenished. There are many natural sources of iron such as chickpeas, lentils, seafood, cooked spinach, pumpkin seeds and beef to provide the iron that is needed for our bodies.

Protein.

Is an essential part of every woman’s diet as it provides valuable energy to the body. There are many different sources of protein that you can draw on but we recommend eating whole foods such as whole fruit, veggies and wheat, which are all excellent forms of protein. Chicken, beef and fish are also great sources of protein. Looking for more energy in your day? Eat more protein.

Vitamin E.

An antioxidant that improves circulation, Vitamine E can be a very beneficial nutrient when on your period. Some of the symptoms of being vitamin E deficient are dryness of the skin, lips and hair. Vitamin E can help to relieve period symptoms and it can be found in foods like avocados, egg yolks, spinach, seeds, and broccoli.

Hydration.

Women lose about 1-2 ounces of blood during a regular period, so you need to keep drinking water to replace your body’s loss of fluid. It is recommended that you drink roughly 8 glasses of water a day, now a lot of you might have heard this numerous times before and drinking the recommended amount seems next to impossible, but you don’t have to just drink water. You can get your recommended amount of water by eating more steamed vegetables, soups, smoothies and oils in your diet. Also avoid things that dehydrate you like coffee, sugar and alcohol.

Magnesium.

An essential nutrient and a natural muscle relaxant that has been shown to help or even sometimes prevent period symptoms can be found in many foods such as beans, tofu and peanuts. Note: women who are deficient in magnesium often find themselves craving sugars such as chocolate because magnesium affects our blood sugar levels, which if low makes our bodies start to crave sugars. You may also want to be a little bit cautious of having high doses of magnesium, as too much magnesium can have a laxative effect.

Vitamin B6.

Aids in the metabolism of proteins and red blood cells and has been cited in numerous studies to relieve depression. Some vitamin B6 rich foods are potatoes, bananas and oatmeal.

Now let’s look at a few foods to limit for a healthy reproductive cycle and better nutrition overall.

You may not want to read this, but the best dietary changes to make are the ones we don’t really want to make. This means that we need to limit or cut out artificial sugars, caffeine, smoking and alcohol.

How is What You Eat Affecting Your Period?

Sugars.

It is important to manage your refined sugar intake not only because it can make you gain weight, but it can also disrupt your body’s blood sugar levels. Eating sugary foods will cause your blood sugar levels to go up and the higher your blood sugar goes, the more sever your period symptoms may be. It’s important to keep them at a steady level and so we recommend natural sugars in moderation.

Caffeine.

The ol’ morning motivator can cause heightened anxiety and lead to sleep deprivation, which in turn can cause PMS symptoms. Though it is worth noting that some people may find that a little bit of caffeine can help with period cramps.

Smoking.

Smoking can be very dangerous as it can disrupt and cause irregularities to your menstrual cycle.

Alcohol.

A depressant that often makes PMS symptoms worse.
And there you have it, some great suggestions on what to eat, and not eat, for a healthier period and lifestyle in general. It is important to make the right food choices, particularly when you have PMS, as eating healthy can help to beat those pesky PMS symptoms for good.

Book Feature:

Ellen Barrett and Kate Hanley are the co-authors of the brand new book The 28 Days Lighter Diet: Your Monthly Plan to Lose Weight, End PMS, and Achieve Physical and Emotional Wellness. The book covers how to sync your diet, exercise, and life to your cycle, so you’re working with your body instead of beating it into submission.