Does vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids affect menstrual health?

Menstrual periods are fact in a woman’s life for about 3 decades of her life. Huge period! Isn’t it? We go through lots of physical and emotional turmoil during each period in these 3 decades.

We should also know that our menstrual health is not only hormonal affair but it is also largely associated with the food we eat. Nutrition researcher theorize that dietary pattern affect the cause and severity of menstrual troubles.

Role and sources of essential nutrients

Apart from carbohydrates, proteins and fats, these are minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids play important role in maintaining body functioning smooth their excess and deficiency can impair body function and so the menstrual cycle.

So it is important to have their adequate supply in our food.

Calcium-Calcium performs a number of vital functions in the body: It is a major constituent of bone and teeth, but it is also needed for muscle contraction, blood clotting and nerve conduction etc.. Calcium is closely interrelated with magnesium in the human body.

Researcher have found that calcium supplementation resulted in significant reduction in symptoms such as depression, Mood swings, Headache, and irritability and breast engorgement.

Sources

  • Milk and milk products
  • White beans White bean refers to any bean that is white or off-white in color, Soybean, tofu
  • Almonds, sesame seeds, dried figs, dates, walnuts, apricot, raisins berries, custard apple, oranges
  • Green leafy vegetables, okra, broccoli
  • Shrimps, crabs, eggs and chicken etc.

Magnesium –Magnesium along with calcium is involved in many crucial functions in the body that affects woman health. Magnesium supplementation has shown promise in treating premenstrual stress, menstrual cramps, mood swings.

Sources

  • Legumes-soyabean,kidney beans, black beans
  • Nuts and seeds-pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, cashews, and almonds
  • Whole grains
  • Green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, lemons, coconut, grapefruit etc.

Zinc – Copper is well recognized for its association with estrogen while zinc, on the other hand, is associated with progesterone. Zinc-to-copper ratio can be applied to the progesterone-to-estrogen ratio respectively. Those who have low zinc copper ration suffer premenstrual syndrome, heavy menstruation etc.

  • Fortified cereals, wheat germ
  • Nuts and Seeds-pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, cashew, peanuts, walnuts
  • Seafood
  • Dairy
  • Fruits-ponegranate,avocados,berries

Iron– Iron is essential for formation of blood. It is needed to overcome to combat blood loss occurred during periods

Sources

  • Green leafy vegetables,beets,broccoli,potato
  • Grapes,raisins,watermelon,apples,pomegranate,Strawberries,
  • Legumes-soybean,kidneybeans,chickpeas,spitpeas
  • Peanuts, cashews
  • Meat-chicken, red meat, seafood

Vitamin B6 – vitamin B6 can alleviate PMS symptoms through its role in the production of prostaglandin and fatty acids.

Sources

  • Wheat germ
  • Legumes, soybean
  • Milk
  • Egg,liver,meat
  • Starchy vegetables like potato

Vitamin B 12-It is needed to improve hemoglobin levels and smooth nerve function.

Sources

Vitamin B12 is generally not available in plant source but nowadays breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin B12

Animal sources are

  • milk and milk products
  • eggs, fish ,meat

Vitamin C –It is essential for integrity of blood vessels, healing and serves protection against stress (antioxidant).

Sources

  • Citrus fruits like lemon, lime, orange other fruits guava, pineapple, kiwi, papaya etc.
  • Indian Gooseberry (Amla)
  • Green leafy vegetables,cauliflower,cabbage,broccoli.tomatoes,
  • sprouts

Vitamin D- Vitamin D essential for calcium metabolism in the body.

Very few foods contain vitamin D.it is formed under the skin when exposed to sunlight.Feel free to bath with morning sunlight!

Food Sources are

  • fatty fish, fish liver oil,shrimps,oysters
  • cheese
  • egg yolks
  • mushrooms

Vitamin E-Vitamin E is helpful to reduce blood loss and reduce pain occurring during periods.

Sources

  • Wheat germ oil, whole grains
  • Almonds,peanuts,sunflower seeds, dried apricot
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Milk
  • All whole sprouted seeds

Essential Fatty Acids (EFA)-Omega 3 EFA are essential for production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins which are needed to reduce pain during menstruation.

Sources

  • Fish, fish liver oil
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseeds
  • Soybeans
  • Eggs

These are general guidelines for improving menstrual health but a balanced diet is always helpful for general wellbeing. Remember nutrition needs differ from woman to woman depending on their physical condition and lifestyle.

For effective results you need to give yourself at least three months on your new diet to allow for any health changes. Give yourself longer, say six months, if you missed continuity.

Sometimes you may not be able to do it. This is perfectly normal. Don’t feel guilty for eating “inappropriate” diet or missing “appropriate” diet.

If you miss it start healthy diet again on the next day.

Enjoy the food !Happy eating!

Why am I crazy before periods?

If you are feeling some changes in you let it be physical, emotional or mood disturbance before your periods then you might be suffering from premenstrual stress or syndrome (PMS). It affects menstruating woman at any age.

For some women it just monthly bother and not very difficult to handle but for some it could be so tough that it needs intervention.

What is premenstrual syndrome?

Premenstrual syndrome is wide range of physical and psychological symptoms occurring before your periods starts. These symptoms may occur 1 or 2 weeks before menstruation (period) and these are not due to any physical or psychiatric illness.

You will feel better after period starts and symptoms disappear when period ends.

When the symptoms are moderate to severe these are called PMS but symptoms if more than severe then it is called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

What causes PMS?

Cause of PMS is unknown but following one or more factors may be included.

  • Changes in hormonal levels– It is linked with changing hormone levels due to menstrual cycle. Levels of female sex hormones Estrogen and Progesterone vary throughout menstrual cycle. PMS is related to cyclical fluctuation of Estrogen and progesterone and their effect on neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain)
  • Water retention in the body
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Prostaglandin Impact 
  • Psychological and psychogenic effects

Risk factors for PMS

There are many factors which do not cause PMS but can worsen it are

  • Women in their late 20’s and early 40’s.
  • Nutritional deficiency-Many vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids are involved  in helping to ease PMS
  • Weight and Physical activity –Likelihood of PMS is more in women who are obese and have less physical activity.
  • Stress-it seen more in women who are under physical or emotional stress.
  • Having other physical illnesses.
  • Consumption of excessive alcohol, caffeine and salty food.
  • Smoking.
  • PMS occurs more often in women who:
    • Have had at least one child.
    • Have a family history of depression.
    • Have a history of postpartum depression or mood disorder

What are the symptoms of PMS?

Presentation and severity of PMS vary with woman to woman and may be different every time.

Symptoms of PMS can be as follows but it is not necessary all of them occur at the same time and are sane in all women

Physical Symptoms

  • Bloating
  • Headache or backache
  • Acne
  • Cramps
  • Tender breasts
  • Constipation or Diarrhea
  • Low tolerance to light or noise
  • Craving for certain food
  • Feeling tired
  • Change in appetite
  • Difficulty in sleeping etc.

Psychological symptoms

  • Anger outbursts
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Social withdrawal
  • Tension or anxiety
  • Trouble with concentration or memory
  • Feeling of sadness
  • Crying spells
  • Reduced interest in sex etc.

How the PMS is diagnosed?

There are no laboratory investigations needed to diagnose PMS. From your symptoms and its time of occurrence and how much it affects your life, your doctor will diagnose PMS.

Doctor may diagnose you having PMS if you have few of these symptoms and fulfilling following criteria.

  • Occurring five days before your period for at least three menstrual cycles in a row
  • Relieved within 4 days of the onset of periods
  • You are not on any pharmacologic therapy, hormone therapy or drug or alcohol use
  • They refrain you from social or economic performance.

How do I get rid of PMS?

PMS can be managed in many ways. If the symptoms are mild to moderate and not associated with any other illness you can help yourself by doing following changes in your lifestyle

  • Take over the counter NSAIDS pain reliever like paracetamol or ibuprofen for headache, cramps, backache etc.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet most of the time with lots of fruits, vegetable, wholegrains, dairy and pulses.
  • Avoid processed meat.
  • Avoid salt, sugary foods, caffeine, smoking and alcohol.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Find healthy way to reduce stress talk to somebody close about stress, cultivate hobbies.
  • Go for Yoga, meditation.
  • Along with the modern medicine Homeopathic medicine and Ayurveda Medicine has very good results in dealing with PMS.
  • Keep record of your symptoms so that you can show it to your doctor for better managementof PMS.

Consult your doctor if

  • Symptoms are not relieved by Lifestyle Modification
  • If your symptoms are affecting your daily life significantly.