If you were blessed with a uterus, you were also likely blessed with period cramps. As fun as they are, I don’t know any women who wouldn’t like to eliminate them all together. That is why I’ve created a list of foods that are going to be super important if you want to eliminate period cramps for good.
Now, this being said, severe period cramps can be caused by an array of issues. They can point to conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, PCOS and other hormonal issues.
If your period cramps are severe, to a point where everyday life is difficult, it’s time to see your doc!
But, if your period cramps are simply a nuisance that you want to reduce as much as possible, this article is for you.
Diet is going to be a big part in treating premenstrual syndrome or PMS, which not only includes period cramps, but also moodiness and food cravings.
In fact, one study found that college students who had PMS also were often deficient in vitamin D, calcium and magnesium.
So, you may have one of these deficiencies and not even know it!
By consuming foods high in these nutrients, you can ensure you do not have any hidden deficiencies that can make your period cramps more painful.
Things to consider
It’s also important to note that these foods need to be eaten on a daily basis (not just during your period) and that it often takes time to correct a nutrient deficiency.
I would give it a good two months or two cycles before you can expect to see huge improvements (I’m basing this off the studies that have been done).
If you have started including these foods into your diet for several months and haven’t experienced any improvements, I would suggest trying other methods.
But, according to these studies, adding more foods high in vitamin D, calcium and magnesium into your diet will likely improve your PMS symptoms, and will definitely improve your overall health.
You also may be wondering why you should eat these foods as opposed to simply taking a supplement.
Though I do think it’s beneficial to supplement with vitamin D if you get less than an hour of sunlight every day (we get most of our vitamin D from sunlight), I would not recommend supplementing with calcium or magnesium.
It’s always best to get your nutrients from your food when you can.
First off, supplements can be expensive and there is a much higher chance of toxicity versus if you get your nutrients from food.
Also, in multivitamins, nutrients can compete for absorption. For example, when zinc and copper are consumed together, zinc can inhibit the absorption of copper.
Finally, nature often provides synergists (aka nutrients that work together) naturally in whole foods. For example, the lactose in dairy helps absorb the calcium in milk.
Though it’s totally your choice which way you want to get these nutrients, I would suggest going the food route. Plus, who doesn’t love food?
Foods to help eliminate period cramps
Now, let’s get into it! I’ve separated the foods into three categories: Calcium, Vitamin D and Magnesium.
Also an important reminder – we get most of our vitamin D from the sun! So if you don’t get outside often, I would suggest a supplement along with consumption of vitamin D rich foods.
I would suggest trying to include 1-2 foods from each category into your diet for at least two months (or two periods) and monitor how your period cramps improve.
1. Dairy products
Milk, cheese, and yogurt are all great sources of calcium and vitamin D! One isn’t necessarily “better” than another, so choose one that you absolutely love.
I find that making one big smoothie daily really helps me get in my daily servings. I add milk, yogurt, fruit, veggies and seeds! It’s delicious and chock full of nutrients.
2. Non-dairy fortified plant milk
If you are lactose intolerant or have an allergy, plant milk can be a great option. Soy, almond, cashew and oat are sold in most stores.
But, it’s important to make sure the plant milk is fortified with calcium. I would recommend looking for greater than 30% of the daily value for calcium per one cup serving.
3. Fortified cereal
This may seem like an odd one, but cereal is often fortified with calcium! It can be a great option since cereal and milk often go together.
If you dislike the other two calcium-rich food options, adding fortified cereal to trail mix or having it by itself can be a good option for you.
Look for a cereal with around 10% of the daily value of calcium per serving.
Vitamin D-rich foods
Salmon is not only delicious – it is jam packed with period cramp fighting nutrients! In fact, all fish are great sources of vitamin D (though salmon is particularly good).
I recommend marinating and oven baking your salmon for the perfect flaky texture. But, to each his own!
Mushrooms are an interesting food, considering they are really a fungi. But, nonetheless, they are delicious and nutrient packed!
Pro-hack: Saute your mushrooms in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You’ll thank me later.
1. Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens are going to your best source of magnesium (as well as many other amazing nutrients). There are so many forms to try out: spinach, kale, collard greens, beet greens, bok choy.
Try out a few varieties! Saute them with some olive oil and garlic, throw them in a smoothie, add them to a savory soup or as a base for a salad. However you choose to eat them, you’ll be getting in a great source of magnesium.
Fruits such as bananas, dried apricots and avocados are especially good sources of magnesium in your diet.
Throw them in a smoothie, make a trail mix or try out some delicious avocado toast. Luckily, fruit tastes delicious on it’s own as well!
3. Nuts and seeds
Nuts like almonds and cashews, as well as seeds are full of muscle relaxing magnesium!
I personally love nut butters, especially almond butter. I throw it on toast, in smoothies, even in cookies (my personal favorite). Tahini especially works well in baked goods.
4. Beans and peas
Beans and peas, or legumes, can be great for fighting period cramps. They are also a great source of fiber to aid with digestion.
They are also super versatile! Here are some of my favorite forms: hummus, soups, refried beans, salads, in baked goods (yes, that’s right).
How to start adding period cramp friendly foods into your diet
You can likely find many of these foods around your house, so why not start today?
Try out new recipes, or stick to ones that you already love that include these foods!
Remember – healthy eating should be enjoyable. If the only form of dairy you love is cheese, start by adding more cheese in your diet.
Start adding these foods in little by little and find ways to make them taste good. Experiment with new foods and new habits, and see what works for you.
In the end, these foods will only work for you if you find a way to add them into your life in a sustainable way. These changes are meant to last a lifetime!
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments, or just comment below! Also follow me on Instagram @tasteitwithtia for more free resources and recipes.