What nutrients can help you beat those evil cramps? Here, we give you the low down on nutrients to ease and manage cramp pain, featuring expert insights from Nutritional Therapist Angelique Panagos.
Bloating, menstrual cramps, back pain…these are common symptoms that many of us suffer from each cycle. The pain varies from person to person, and sometimes from cycle to cycle. You might have mild cramps one period, and DREADFUL cramps the next. But we are here to share useful tips to help ease and manage the discomfort.
Diet can affect your cramps…
We could easily make this a full blog series! When it comes to managing, soothing and preventing painful cramps there’s so much to talk about. We’re looking at diet in this post. What you eat/drink plays a crucial role in the severity of cramps. But we’re not here to preach about things not to eat! Looking at the positives, there are nutrients that can HELP.
4 nutrients to ease and manage cramp pain:
Magnesium: The Super Hero
This is top of the list for a reason (and not just because personally I now swear by magnesium to soothe my menstrual cramps!). Magnesium helps relax the uterine muscles. This is the source of your menstrual cramp pain, so it tackles the problem head-on (so to speak). According to Nutritional Therapist, Angelique Panagos, magnesium also has a whole list of additional benefits, “Having optimal levels of magnesium can help with fatigue, insomnia, constipation and cramps to name a few”.
Look for magnesium-rich foods such as spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds and (good news) dark chocolate. Leafy green foods such as spinach also help cleanse the body and liver. This is really important says Angelique, because the liver plays a key role in hormonal balance.
B Vitamins: Give me a ‘B’
Vitamins B1 and B6 can be effective at helping with menstrual cramp pain! Firstly, vitamin B6. This nutrient helps produce ‘good’ prostaglandins which relax blood vessels. This is great for reducing bloating. It can, therefore, reduce the intensity of period pains. B6 has also been shown to reduce PMS symptoms. Foods rich in vitamin B6 include legumes such as chickpeas, fish, and pistachios. Now, onto vitamin B1. Studies have shown that B1 or thiamine can significantly reduce cramps. B1 plays a key role in the cardiovascular muscular and nervous systems. So, it can also aid dipped energy levels and mood swings. Get your B1 fix from oats, seeds, beans and oranges. B group vitamins work in synergy and are best taken together, always consult your nutritional therapist if you are thinking of taking a supplement.
Vitamin E: Fighting PMS
Vitamin E works as an antioxidant and fights against free radicals. It has been linked with relieving PMS and this has been studied to assess its benefits. It’s said to aid both mental and physical PMS symptoms, from mood changes to painful cramps! The essential fatty acids in Vitamin E are said to inhibit production of bad prostaglandins and decrease side effects of prolactin. Excessive prolactin is linked with physical and emotional PMS. So basically, Vitamin E can keep you balanced, preventing painful cramps. Be sure to include vitamin E-rich foods into your diet daily you can find this in almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes and avocado for example.
The Omegas: 3,6,9 are magic numbers
Introducing the good fats! Omega 3 and 6 are polyunsaturated fats, and Omega 9 is a monounsaturated fat. These are essential nutrients for hormonal balance, which is super important to manage symptoms such as cramps every month. Angelique tells us that these good fats produce ‘essential fatty acids, which are used for fatigue, PMS and helping the body deal with inflammation – to name a few!’
Inflammation can wreak havoc on your body. It can cause digestion issues and can cause painful cramps. Sources of omega 3 include oily fish such as salmon and mackerel. For omega 6, food sources include nuts and seeds, and for omega 9 you’re looking at olive oil and everyone’s favourite, avocado!
To add these to your diet, Angelique recommends at least 3 portions of fish p/week. Plus, consider simple swaps such as using smashed avocado on toast, in place of margarine. Also, Angelique recommends snacking on nuts and seeds and use raw olive on salads and veggies.
Nourish your body
Hopefully, you’ve found these tips interesting! Remember, it’s all about balance and it’s important to nourish your body every day to see long-term benefits. Angelique advocates a healthy, balanced lifestyle to optimise your hormonal health. After all, hormones can affect how we feel throughout the menstrual cycle, not JUST when you’re on your period. We’ll be sharing more nourish tips throughout April so keep your eyes peeled. And if this blog has you looking for a nutrient-rich recipe (featuring many of the foods mentioned above), check out this Good Mood Super Bowl.
Don’t forget to stay in the know and get more tips weekly, you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Our Period Powerful Pioneer Angelique also shares tips on her personal Instagram, so if you’re looking for more nutritional insights give her a follow! Got a question? Drop it in the comments below and we’ll try to respond as soon as possible.
*This blog has been designed to be informative and educational. Remember, each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. These tips are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Always consult a GP, or dietician before making any changes to your diet, and consider dietary/allergy restrictions at all times. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professionals.
Photo cred: Asdrubal luna @infectedluna