Eating to Reduce Pain & Inflammation

The menstrual cycle is a time when underlying nutrient deficiencies can manifest as pain, fatigue and mood swings. A diet rich in organic, nutrient-dense foods can serve to extinguish chronic inflammation and pain associated with menstrual cramping.

The following recommendations are based on the latest research and intended to support women minimize menstrual pain and cramping. It is important to discuss the right type of diet for yourself with your doctor to ensure supply of macronutrients that meet your individual needs.

General Tips

  • Eating breakfast is associated with a lower incidence of painful periods. Eat a breakfast rich in protein and plant-based fats to maximize blood sugar and hormone regulation benefits.
  • Fish, eggs and fruit have been associated with less pain during periods 
  • Wine has been associated with more pain. Minimizing alcohol intake is one of the first steps to support your liver metabolize hormones.

Nutrient Recommendations to Reduce Pain

Magnesium

  • Dose: 250-500 mg/day is associated with reduced pain scores
  • Watch for diarrhea
    • Type matters: Citrate vs. Glycinate vs. Malate
    • Consider topical applications:
      • Magnesium oil rubbed on hypertonic muscles
      • Epsom Salt Baths (not during menses)
  • Magnesium rich foods: Spinach, Quinoa, Almonds, Cashews, Dark Chocolate, Black Beans, Edamame, Avocado.

B-Complex

  • B1 Thiamine – 100 mg/day helped alleviate dysmenorrhea completely in 87% of study subjects.
  • B3 Niacin – 100 mg bid and q 2-3 hrs during cramps.  Causes uncomfortable flushing sensation, but can help pain.   
  • B6 Pyridoxine– 100-200 mg for 10 days premenstrually
  • Food sources:
    • Whole grains (brown rice, barley, millet) 
    • Meat (red meat, poultry, fish) 
    • Legumes (beans, lentils)
    • Seeds and nuts (sunflower seeds, almonds) 
    • Dark, leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kai lan) 
    • Fruits (citrus fruits, avocados, bananas)

Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

  • EFAs –2000 mg EPA and DHA combined reduced pain scores in dysmenorrhea.
  • Food sources: Salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies

Ginger

  • Ginger rhizome capsules, 250 mg four times a day for three days starting day one of menses
  • Found equally effective as ibuprofen in one small study
  • Food sources: Recommended as an herbal tea. Steep 1 inch ginger root in hot water. Add honey to taste.

Luteal Phase Guidelines

  • Decrease foods that are:
    • High in Arachadonic acid and saturated fats (beef and pork) 
    • Food sensitivities 
    • Salt, sugar, alcohol
  • Increase foods that are rich in:
    • Essential Fatty Acids: Salmon, herring, anchovies, walnuts
    • Sources of magnesium and calcium: Dark chocolate, green, leafy vegetables

  • Bio-flavonoids and vit C: Citrus fruits, Kiwis, Cherries
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Avoid dairy
As always discuss the optimal diet for you with your doctor. Depending on your symptoms, bloodwork is available to assess your levels of Omega 3, B12, B9, Vitamin D, Magnesium and Iron, to name a few.  In cases of iron-deficiency, a diet low in arachadonic acids and meats may not be right for you. The best diet is individualized.

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Shreya Soni ND

Shreya Soni ND

Dr. Soni is a naturopathic doctor practicing in San Jose, CA. She is an expert at investigating underlying causes of complex health issues with a major emphasis on endometriosis. Her training includes naturopathic medical residency from the University of California Irvine, doctorate in naturopathic medicine from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and biomedical engineering from the University of Virginia.

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