From excruciating stomach cramps to debilitating bone pain, so many women endure menstrual symptoms that make their lives a misery every month.
But the key to banishing these effects could be as simple as a few simple dietary adjustments, according to a growing body of research.
In a new tip, the North American Menopause Society says women should aim to eat a diet rich in salmon, eggs and vegetables, instead of turning to comfort foods like candy, chocolate and take-out food.
Indeed, the former are packed with healthy fats and antioxidants that reduce inflammation – the body’s immune system response to an irritant.
Before a period begins, the cells that form the lining of the uterus begin to break down and release large amounts of inflammatory prostaglandins.
These chemicals constrict the blood vessels in the uterus and cause the muscle layer to contract, causing painful cramps.
NAMS also recommends that women stay away from coffee. Caffeine can cause blood vessels to narrow, tightening the uterus and making cramps more painful.
About half of all adult women in the US and UK experience period pain and it is the leading cause of school absenteeism among teenage girls.
Yet many do not ask for help with this. Instead, they resort to over-the-counter pain relievers which may have limited results.
In a new tip, the North American Menopause Society says women should aim to eat a diet rich in salmon, eggs and vegetables, instead of turning to comfort foods like candy, chocolate and take-out food. Indeed, the former are packed with healthy fats and antioxidants that reduce inflammation – the body’s immune system response to an irritant. Before a period begins, the cells that form the lining of the uterus begin to break down and release large amounts of inflammatory prostaglandins. These chemicals constrict the blood vessels in the uterus and cause the muscle layer to contract, causing painful cramps
NAMS analyzed peer-reviewed studies looking at diet and menstrual pain, known medically as dysmenorrhea, to see which foods exacerbate them and which can reduce them.
They concluded that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids — likely oily fish and eggs — and low in processed foods, oil and sugar, was optimal.
ARE MY PERIODS ABNORMAL?
More than half of women in the United States have menstrual pain. So when should you be worried about your period?
menstrual pain is common and most women experience it at some point in their lives.
The pain is usually felt as cramping in the abdomen and is caused by the tightening of the muscular wall of the uterus and the temporary cut off of oxygen.
See your doctor if the pain is severe or suddenly different from what is normal for you, as this may be a sign of endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease.
Irregular rules occur when the length of your menstrual cycle changes.
They can be normal or easily explained by hormones, but you should see a doctor if they suddenly become irregular, if they are very close together or very far apart (less than 21 days or more than 35 days), or if the period lasts longer only a week.
Abundant periodsin which a large amount of blood is lost are common but can seriously affect a woman’s life.
Heavy bleeding is defined as a loss of 80 ml (16 teaspoons) or more each period, periods that last longer than 7 days, or both.
Heavy periods aren’t necessarily a sign of an underlying problem, but if you notice an unusual amount of blood or it’s affecting your daily life, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.
Source: NHS Choice
NAMS Medical Director Dr Stephanie Faubion said: “As period pain is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism in adolescent girls, it is important to explore options that can minimize pain.
“Something like changing the diet could be a relatively simple solution that could provide them with substantial relief.”
The literature review found that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids, sugar, salt and meat promote inflammation, while foods high in omega-3 fatty acids reduce it.
Animal products, caffeine, and foods high in omega-6s can increase these chemical reactions, while foods high in omega-3s counteract the inflammatory effects of prostaglandins.
Serah Sannoh, lead author and graduate in public health from Rutgers University, said, “Research into the effects of diet on menstrual pain began as a search to remedy pain that I personally experienced; I wanted to understand the science behind the association.
“Learning about different foods that increase and decrease inflammation, which subsequently increase or decrease menstrual pain, revealed that diet is one of many contributors to health outcomes that is often overlooked.”
She added: “I hope this research can help menstruating women reduce the pain they experience and shed light on the importance of holistic treatment options.”
The results will be presented at the NAMS annual meeting in Atlanta, which will take place October 12-15.
More than half of women in the United States have menstrual pain for one to two days a month.
Normally the pain is mild, but for some women it is so severe that it interferes with their daily life for several days a month.
For some, the pain is also accompanied by diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headache and dizziness.
Symptoms such as bloating, tender breasts, lack of concentration, mood swings and fatigue can also appear.
For many women, periods become less painful with age and may also improve after childbirth.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends exercise, applying heat, sleeping, and relaxing to relieve cramps.
Aerobic workouts like walking and swimming promote the production of pain-blocking chemicals in the body.
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