Cramps, bloating and fatigue are not uncommon during periods. While for some women, the symptoms are mild, for others, the days can be demanding. Experts recommend a good diet, hydration, exercise and sleep to overcome the disquiet one can experience during periods.
Period pain and exercise
“During the menstrual cycle, oestrogen and progesterone levels are lower in the body, which can eventually make you feel lethargic. Although there is no compulsion to exercise during your periods, it is recommended to work out during periods. It can relieve pain and accelerate the mood,” says Paranjeet Kaur, assistant professor, applied medical sciences, Lovely Professional University, Punjab.
“Working out stimulates the release of endorphin (the hormone released during pain or stress) in the body, which becomes quite effective in reducing the pain you feel during periods. In a nutshell, it is wise to include milder exercises during periods,” adds Kaur.
Dr Varini N, senior consultant, obstetrician and gynaecologist, Milann Fertility and Birthing Hospital, Bengaluru, tells Happiest Health that women who don’t have symptoms during periods can continue with their routine exercises. “Women with heavy flow and pain should avoid doing heavy exercises and opt for mild to moderate exercises like walking and stretching that will help reduce the pain they are experiencing.”
Menstrual pain can vary from person to person. Hence it is important to understand the body signals and include the type of activities accordingly.
“Some have mild pain, while others go through extreme pain. If you can tolerate the pain, you should do exercises like yoga, cycling, slow walking, dancing, stretching, light cardio and other low volume strength training activities,” points out Kaur.
Exercising during periods also increases the blood supply which can help reduce pain, apart from improving mood and reducing other symptoms like cramps, bloating, stress and fatigue. This is because physical activity can help the blood exit faster from the uterus. Hence, staying active can be a great remedy say the experts.
Cigarettes and alcohol: a big no
Menstrual pain could increase while consuming alcohol and cigarettes.
“They might lead to dehydration in the body, and eventually you feel more pain. Further, the nicotine present in cigarettes is suspected to cause severe hormonal imbalance and further leads to several fertility problems,” says Dr Kaur.
Dr Varini also talks about the risks alcohol and cigarettes pose. “Since there is water retention in the body during periods due to hormonal disturbances, consumption of alcohol will aggravate the water retention in the body.”
What to eat
Dr Varini says that easily digestible food should be consumed during periods as progesterone hormone reduces the motility of the intestine. “Eating heavy food will cause discomfort. Greasy and spicy food and the food that takes longer to digest should be avoided.”
“Fuelling your body with nutritional foods can stabilise mood swings and boost fertility. The vital key nutrients are iron and vitamin B12. Normal food cravings can be satisfied with antioxidant-rich dark chocolate and seasonal fruits,” adds Kaur
Kaur advises that food rich in fats, refined grains and sweetened foods should be avoided during periods and consumption of coffee should be reduced as it might cause nausea, vomiting and bloating. Apart from this, energy drinks should be eliminated, as they can lead to headaches and constipation.
Food craving during periods
Kaur says a person during periods goes through food cravings and hunger pangs. The body undergoes drastic hormonal imbalance which causes cravings for high carbohydrates and sugary drinks in the diet.
“In such conditions, relish dark chocolates, wholegrain bread, rice, protein shakes, oats, fruits, nuts and yoghurts to calm down your cravings. Exercise is a real booster to re-energise and stabilise the mood swings,” adds Kaur.
For people who lead an unhealthy and stressful life, their period pattern may alter. “Keep yourself stress-free and maintain personal hygiene. They help in keeping periods attuned,” adds Kaur.
Hydration and sleep
Dr Shivani Chandan L, consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Aster RV Hospital, Bengaluru tells Happiest Health that being hydrated and sleeping well are very important during periods. “They help to get over fatigue and beat weakness due to the loss of blood,” she says.
“Drinking warm water can also reduce period cramps,” notes Kaur.