Oh the mighty big red! Thanks to Aunty Flo, we will continue to have a love-hate relationship with her. From mood swings, to cramps, intense food cravings, annoying headaches and the good ol bloating that makes it really hard to fit into those cute jeans – we can never seem to get away from it every single month. Yup, we’re stuck.

Although we can’t stop your cramps or bloating, we can chat more about the nutrients and foods to consume that may help to ease the symptoms or help you better manage them. We hope you’ll find more balance throughout your monthly cycle. But first let’s just say, if your symptoms seem to be unbearable and it’s impacting your quality of life, please see your gynecologist (OBGYN) ASAP!

The menstrual cycle has three phases. Within the three phases, there may be some foods you can eat or things you can do to help ease the symptoms of your period. FYI – days are based on an average 28 day cycle.

Let’s chat the Follicular Phase (Days 1-12):

The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period. Throughout the follicular phase, your brain releases hormones that stimulate the production of eggs in your ovaries and increases estrogen production. During period blood loss, try to increase iron, vitamin C and B vitamins to help promote blood cell production and prevent anemia. If you do have low levels of vitamin B12, it can contribute to fatigue, dizziness and nervousness.

During this time, eat more:

Iron – beef, chicken, turkey, dried beans, leafy greens, egg yolks, fortified cereals

Vitamin C – citrus fruits, kiwi, pineapple, cantaloupe, kale, yellow peppers, broccoli

B vitamins:

B12 – clams, salmon, tuna, fortified cereals, fortified plant-milks and some fortified soy products

B6 – turkey, fish, potatoes, starchy vegetables, non-citrus fruits

Anti-inflammatory herbs and spices – ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cilantro, garlic parsley. incorporate these herbs your meals, to help combat cramping and inflammation.

Get into the Ovulatory Phase (Days 12-14):

Eggs are released from the ovary (aka ovulation) into the fallopian tube. During this time, you’ll probably notice a change or increase in your cervical mucus, which happens to help capture and nourish sperm for fertilization.

Some people notice things like breast tenderness (ouchie!). Many women may also experience increased energy and libido (heeeeey now). Hormone shifts around ovulation have been known to increase sugar and even salt cravings — so prepare yourself and keep plenty of healthy, easy-to-grab snacks at hand.

It’s also a good idea to consume fiber rich foods to prevent bloating and ensure bowel regularity (~25 grams should be the goal, ladies!). Fermented foods can also help promote gut health, bowel regularity and fluid balance. Check out a few faves from our list below!

Eat more of this:

Fiber – fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans. We suggest eating whole foods over fiber-supplements if you are able to

Sweet fix — dark chocolate (say no more!), fruit, apple chips, etc. .. you get the point!

Fermented foods — kombucha, kefir, yogurt

Finally, let’s get in to the Luteal Phase (days 14-28):

This phase begins right after ovulation. Estrogen and progesterone levels increase which prepare the egg for implantation. A non-fertilized egg will pass through the uterus until the uterine lining sheds and that’s it, period over — back to the first phase!

Ladies, are you always suffering from cramps? Research reveals that women who experience greater painful periods have lower levels of prostaglandins (a chemical released to stimulate contraction and breakdown of the uterine lining). Some research shares that the prostaglandin production is related to the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in one’s body.

Eat more of this:

Omega-3 fatty acids – walnuts, flax seeds, sardines, salmon, leafy greens, avocados to name a few. If you do not get enough of these in your diet, you can consider taking a fish oil supplement (shoot for at least 1500 mg DHA/EPA per day).

Bloating is also a common during the follicular and luteal phases, as are food cravings, thanks to fluctuations in hormones like estradiol and leptin. Besides avoiding salty, processed foods, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to help combat the bloat and stay hydrated. Here’s a blog post we wrote to give you tips to stay hydrated!

So, how was your month overall? If you’ve had a month filled with junk, lots of booze and little exercise, your period may be not be the best. If you’ve taken care of yourself, your period may be better and more manageable!

When it comes to the wine, tequila, consider avoiding your favorite alcoholic beverages if you are experiencing PMS symptoms. This may be different for everyone but sources do say that drinking alcohol may worsen symptoms like headaches, mood swings, etc. It’s okay to have them in moderation throughout the rest of the cycle but we would suggest avoiding all together towards the start of your period.

Being a woman is a beautiful thing, so let’s embrace it as much as we can. To sum it all up, treat your body right with nutritious foods. Try to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, plus lots of healthy fats, lean protein, fresh fiber sources and plenty of water and you’ll be on your way to slay your period every month.