Lucky are those who can go on with their day smoothly without their menstrual cramps coming in the way while they’re on their period. For some of us, period pain is so excruciating that it simply becomes impossible to do so.
“Mostly, menstrual cramps are caused by the release of prostaglandins from the uterine membrane. Prostaglandins cause inflammation, muscle contraction, cramping, and blood clotting which leads to the pain. These cramps can range from mild (where women are able carry on with their daily tasks) to very severe (where one needs to stay home and rest),” says Dr. Dharini Krishnan, Chennai-based nutritionist.
Now, did you know that usually doctors say that if your menstrual cramps are so unbearable that they bring your life to a halt and make it impossible for you to go on with your day, there is most probably an underlying health condition to blame for it?
From endometriosis to polycystic ovarian disease to pelvic inflammatory disorder, the reasons could be many. However, there is also a high chance that your period cramps are unbearable due to certain nutritional deficiencies.
What nutritional deficiencies, you wonder?
Well, there could be many. But, in this specific context of period pain, we’re referring to an iron deficiency.
“Globally, 30% of women are iron deficient. India as a country has a similar percentage of women with an iron deficiency,” Krishnan points out.
When a woman is on her period, she loses iron along with the menstrual blood. Thus, it makes it challenging to correct the iron deficiency.
But, why do you need iron to deal with period pain?
According to Krishnan, women who do not consume enough iron in their diet could have lower haemoglobin and ferritin levels which can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, tiredness during pre-menstruation as well as period cramps during the menstrual cycle.
“Hence, it is crucial to supplement the body with iron-rich foods as regularly as possible—but especially before your period arrives as it can help bring the levels of haemoglobin and ferritin to the normal range and prepare the body better for the blood loss that is to follow,” she says.
How can you up your iron game?
Krishnan suggests adding the following foods to your pre-period diet to up the iron quotient:
And you’ve got to keep these pointers in mind as well
Krishnan surely wants you to incorporate iron in your pre-period diet. But, while you’re at it, she wants you to keep these points in mind as well:
1. Most vegetarian diets have iron-rich foods (such as green-leafy veggies) in the Indian diet along with anti-nutrients, which reduces the iron absorption capability of the body. However, cooking these foods lowers the content of the anti-nutrients and makes the iron content available to the body. Hence, try to have cooked iron sources.
2. Always consume dates or raisins between meals along with vitamin C rich foods (like lime juice or amla) to ensure optimum iron absorption is at optimal levels.
3. Don’t forget to include zinc sources such as pumpkin nuts and seeds in your diet because even zinc can help decrease period cramps.
4. High-fibre foods must also be consumed at least a few days before getting your period as they can eliminate excess estrogen that your body might produce, reduce inflammation, and thus, alleviate pre-menstrual tension in your body.
5. Steer clear of eating junk food before or during your period as the high amounts of trans fats and sugars present in them can make your period more painful.
6. Avoid rigorous exercise during the menstrual cycle, but do include mild walking or light yoga.
So, ladies, consuming iron is extremely important for you to be physically healthy but it is also required to soothe the painful cramps during periods.