Killer cramps, endless bleeding, the fear of leaking tampons—if you suffer from heavy, painful periods, this is just some of the hell you have to put up with every. single. month. That's on top of feeling bloated, tired, and irrationally irritated with pretty much everybody.
Cravings are also likely to be raging, and whilst anything in the realm of healthy eating may seem like a massive test of willpower—a few dietary changes could help to make this time of the month just a little less excruciating. Here are 6 foods to eat on and around your period:
Sipping on fresh ginger tea may help to ease painful abdominal cramping. In a research study, 150 women were instructed to take 1 g of ginger powder per day, for the first 3 days of their period. Ginger managed to reduce pain as effectively as the drugs mefenamic acid (an anti-inflammatory painkiller) and ibuprofen. To make ginger tea, peel a thumb-sized piece of root ginger, slice, and steep in hot water with a slice of lemon for 5 minutes.
Studies have repeatedly shown that women who consume the most omega-3s have milder period pain. And oily fish such as salmon (mackerel, trout and sardines too) are packed full of these wonderful anti-inflammatory fats. Aim to eat oily fish at least twice a week, and to further boost your omega-3s, flaxseeds, walnuts and omega-3 enriched eggs are all good sources.
Red meat is the richest dietary source of iron, which, if you suffer from heavy periods, could be exactly what your body is crying out for. It's wildly common for women to be low on iron during this time of the month, and the biggest sign is feeling totally wiped out! If you're not a meat eater, feast on some spinach, beans and lentils. If energy levels don't improve, get your levels tested as you may need to take a supplement.
4. Green leafy vegetables
They might not be top of your cravings list, but kale, spinach and broccoli are all high in the anti-cramping mineral magnesium (which incidentally, also helps to make you feel more chilled out). They also contain vitamins A, C, B6 and E, calcium and potassium—nutrients that have all been shown to help alleviate PMS symptoms.
5. Natural probiotic yogurt
Full of calcium which has been found to help ease menstrual cramps. Not only that, one large study found a diet with calcium-rich dairy products lowered the risk for developing PMS by as much as 40% (yes please!). Probiotic yogurt always contains "friendly" bacteria which supports a healthy digestive system and may help to ease persistent bloating.
6. Dark chocolate
Intense chocolate cravings are extremely common at this time of the month, but excessive sugar isn't a great idea and may actually make your symptoms worse. Try eating dark chocolate- it's lower in sugar than milk and white chocolate, but will still satisfy your sweet cravings, and as an added bonus is a rich source of magnesium. Sunflower seeds—these are one of the richest sources of vitamin E, which is beneficial for helping to ease sore boobs and period cramps. Avocado, eggs, liver and almonds are also rich in vitamin E, so up your intake of these foods in the lead up to your period.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.