At the heart of good menstrual health, we have to maintain a healthy lifestyle - which includes having a balanced diet. Keeping up with all of your body’s nourishment needs is essential to maintaining our body’s life processes including the menstrual cycle.
It’s no secret that if you are in good overall health, your menstrual flow along with premenstrual symptoms will be regular and more manageable. A good diet is a balanced meal plan with the right amount of micro and macro nutrients. Macronutrients include carbohydrates and fats while micronutrients include vitamins, minerals and proteins.
In this article, we will focus on the specific micronutrients that are essential for the proper functioning of the menstrual cycle. They are as follows:
Vitamin B1: Also known as thiamin, this vitamin helps with replenishing blood in the body and in digestion of complex carbohydrates. Some natural sources include whole grains, meat and fish. Brades and cereals fortified with thiamin are also available in markets. Ingesting alcohol can slow down the absorption of thiamin and can thus increase risk for developing PMS.
Vitamin B2: Also known as riboflavin, this vitamin helps convert vitamin B6 and B9 into simpler forms which can be absorbed by the body. Riboflavin also works as an antioxidant. It even helps in red blood cell formation. Some sources include milk, eggs and mushrooms.
Vitamin B6: Also known as Pyridoxine, Vitamin B6 is popularly known for helping with carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism. It also helps convert tryptophan (an amino acid) to serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates our mood) and can thus help with the emotional symptoms of PMS. Sources include pork, chicken, oats and soya beans.
Vitamin B9: Also known as folate, is an extremely essential vitamin for pregnancies but is also known for supporting the function of iron in our body. (Iron is an important mineral for healthy menstruation as you will read more about later on). This vitamin is also involved in the production of dopamine and serotonin which help regulate the emotional symptoms of PMS. Sources include spinach, asparagus, turnips and beets.
Vitamin B12: Also known as Cobalamin, this vitamin helps with cognitive function. If you have heavy flow during your period, make sure to increase your intake of Cobalamin as it helps with red blood cell production. Some natural sources include meat, fish, cheese and eggs.
The above vitamins are also available in a single B-complex pill as well as separate supplement pills.
Vitamin C: Also known as Ascorbic acid, this vitamin is essential in the production of haemoglobin in the body. Thus helps replenish the haemoglobin lost due to menses. A deficiency in Vitamin C along with Iron can lead to anaemia. Some natural sources include oranges, lemons, strawberries and broccoli.
Vitamin D: This vitamin helps with calcium absorption. Calcium is an important mineral for menstruators! It also helps reduce inflammation in the body which is common during PMS. Some sources include, Oily fish, liver, egg yolks and red meat. (Commonly available in supplement form)
Iron: Iron supplements help with relieving anaemia and with development of haemoglobin in the body. It also helps relieve fatigue. Some natural sources include shellfish, spinach, red meat and legumes.
Zinc: Zinc helps relieve pain and menstrual cramps. Some sources of Zinc include milk products, breakfast cereals, oysters and red meat.
Magnesium: Helps in relaxation of uterus muscles and thus helps with relieving menstrual cramps. Sources include nuts, pumpkin seeds and chocolates.
Calcium: commonly found in dairy foods and green leafy vegetables, calcium helps reduce behavioural changes during the premenstrual phase. It also helps relieve water retention and bloating.
Potassium: Potassium is well known for helping relax muscles, and reduce bloating by reducing water retention. Bananas, beans and beef are good sources of potassium.
I do encourage all of you to have a talk with an expert nutritionist about what micronutrients you might be missing out on and what foods you could include in your diet to help replenish lost nutrients. When looking for good food supplements, talk to your health physician about what is safe and right for you.
The above mentioned nutrients are called micronutrients because they are required in minute amounts. An excess of any of these nutrients could become toxic and cause poisoning. Hence, make sure to take a thorough look at what you are already consuming before making changes to your diet!
Content by: @_sanj.anna
Graphics by: Gargi