Can what you eat affect menstrual cramps? A new analysis of studies related to menstrual pain (also called dysmenorrhea) suggests that diet could be a key contributor. Research shows that while diets high in inflammatory foods such as meat, oil, sugar, salt and coffee can make pain worse, eating vegan has been shown to tame pain by reducing the inflammation that contributes to it. The research findings were recently presented at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) in Atlanta, Georgia.
This research was designed to study the effect of diet on menstrual pain and identify foods that contribute to it and those that can reduce it. The research was conducted through a literature review which found around 20 studies that looked at eating habits that led to menstrual pain. They were composed of questionnaires, randomized trials and nested control studies.
In general, these studies have shown that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation and that foods high in fatty acids omega-3 fatty acids Reduce it. Additionally, other inflammatory foods such as meat, sugar, salt, and coffee make cramping worse by increasing prostaglandins, which constrict blood vessels in the walls of the uterus, causing cramping.
Research also shows that certain foods have the opposite effect. Notably, people on a vegan diet have been found to have the lowest levels of inflammation, and a plant-based diet can reduce cramping in the long run.
Research cites a study published in a scientific journal Nutrition research, where participants were randomized to follow several different diets, from vegan to omnivorous. Those who followed a vegan, vegetarian or pesco-vegetarian diet (a vegetarian diet including fish) all had a significant reduction in body inflammation compared to omnivorous diets including meat, although menstrual cramps were not measured directly.
Vegan diet reduces menstrual pain
Lead researcher Serah Sannoh of Rutgers University says she undertook this research in part because she wanted to find natural remedies for herself. menstrual pain. During her senior year in high school and college, Sannoh experienced unbearable cramps during her period.
“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,” Sannoh, lead author of the Rutgers University research, said in a statement.
“Learning about different foods that increase and decrease inflammation, which subsequently increase or reduce menstrual pain, revealed that diet is one of many contributors to health outcomes that is often overlooked,” Sannoh said.
According to NAMS, about 90% of teenage girls suffer from menstrual pain and cramps. In some cases, the pain may be so intense that it interferes with daily life. “Since period pain is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism among teenage girls, it is important to explore options that can minimize pain,” said Stephanie Faubion, MD, medical director of NAMS, in a statement. “Something like changing the diet could be a relatively simple solution that could provide them with substantial relief.”
Sannoh hopes the research findings will inspire women of all ages to make dietary changes to improve their lives, especially during their menstrual cycle. “I hope this research can help menstruating women reduce the pain they experience and shed light on the importance of holistic treatment options,” she said.
Which Vegan Foods Reduce Inflammation?
In addition to the potential for reducing monthly menstrual cramps, listening to foods that reduce inflammation can bring you closer to optimal health. These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Other research has shown that a vegetarian and plant-based diet reduces inflammation in the body, likely due to the high number of antioxidants found in plant foods.
Another one study Posted in Obstetrics and Gynecology and led by Neal Barnard, MD, found that a low-fat vegan diet significantly reduced pain and PMS in many women. The study included 33 women who either followed a low-fat vegan diet or their usual diet and then switched treatment. The diet change was designed to do two things: it eliminated all animal fats and almost all vegetable oils, and the emphasis on plant-based foods increased the fiber content of the diet.
While the study participants were on the low-fat vegan diet, their pain intensity was significantly lower than when they were on their normal diet. They also noticed less water retention and fewer mood swings.