Menstrual cycle: eat well as a rule

Nutrition in the menstrual cycle plays an important role, according to nutritionist Marija Stojanovic in an interview with, “as a support measure in natural processes, but especially in menstrual problems.”

Depending on the phase of the cycle, the body has different needs. In the first half of the cycle, probiotic foods like yogurt and sauerkraut would support increased estrogen levels. Phytoestrogens in soybeans, berries, and fiber for female sex hormones are also helpful. In the second half of the cycle, B vitamins have a positive effect on mood and nerves. Good sources include legumes, green leafy vegetables, oatmeal, rye bread and quinoa, according to Stojanovic.

The graphic shows a representation of the female cycle.

Graphics: GettyImages/Alena Igdeeva, Lidiia Moor;

This is what happens in the female cycle, using a 28-day cycle as a textbook example.

Stojanovic advises women: “Anyone who suffers from migraines and menstrual cramps should pay attention to a diet rich in magnesium one week before the menstrual period. To prevent iron loss, it is also important to pay more attention to iron intake, according to the expert.

fluctuating hormones

The hormones estrogen, progesterone, FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), and testosterone control the menstrual cycle, which usually lasts between 25 and 36 days. The sex hormones estrogen and progesterone fluctuate naturally during the cycle, affecting not only the body, but also the mood of women.

Gynecologist Martina Kollmann from MedUni Graz explains in an interview with “Many women tend to be more active in the first half of their cycle than in the second, and progesterone can also make the skin more impure in the second half of the cycle,” says the gynecologist.

How hormones reach cells

Hormones control the menstrual cycle. They travel through the bloodstream and thus reach the corresponding cells.

out of balance cycle

Physiological hormonal fluctuations are only partially noticeable, says Kollmann. However, noticeable changes can occur if hormone production becomes unbalanced, due to genetic and external factors such as eating habits, exercise, and stress. According to the gynecologist, the typical signs of an unbalanced hormonal balance are irregular cycles (very long or very short intervals between menstrual bleeding) and the absence of a period.

Low progesterone abdominal pain

Kollmann gives an example: “If follicle maturation is not working properly, ovulation may not occur and progesterone may be lower in the second half of the cycle.”

Another symptom of low progesterone levels is severe abdominal pain (dysmenorrhea) before and during your period. The uterus then releases more prostaglandins. Hormonal messenger substances cause the uterus to contract; the consequences are cramps, a feeling of tension and pain.

Fiber keeps estrogen in check

Previous studies show how nutrition can influence the female menstrual cycle. In a clinical study, scientists from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that a high-fiber, vegetarian, low-fat diet can help relieve symptoms of dysmenorrhea. The number of days study participants had pain per month decreased from an average of 3.9 to 2.7 days on the high-fiber vegetarian diet.

The scientists found that the concentration of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) increased by 19 percent in study participants. Protein plays an important role in the regulation of sex hormones: it binds to sex hormones and helps reduce estrogen levels, explains hormone specialist Hana Kahleova from the Committee of Physicians. According to the scientist, it is still necessary to investigate whether there are foods that are more effective than others.

A fish on a baking sheet is garnished with olive oil.

Getty Images/Maria Korneeva

Studies show that a Mediterranean diet can relieve menstrual cramps

The Mediterranean diet has an analgesic effect

A study conducted by MedUni Vienna was able to show that a Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce the pain associated with endometriosis. Pain during menstruation, during intercourse and lower abdominal pain in general were reduced by about 50 percent in study participants.

Endometriosis is one of the most common gynecological diseases; it is estimated that it affects between five and ten percent of women of reproductive age; the number of unreported cases is high.

book cover eat like a woman

Brandstatter Verlag

Andrea Haselmayr, Verena Haselmayr, Denise Rosenberger: Eat like a woman. Brandstätter, 232 pages, 28 euros.

Diet for PCOS

Diet also plays an important role in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), dietitian Jasmin Klammer tells PCOS is one of the most common hormonal disorders in women of childbearing age. Symptoms include cycle disturbances, very heavy menstrual bleeding and enlarged ovaries, often with a high level of androgens (male hormones). In many cases, affected women have insulin resistance.

Klammer accompanies patients with PCOS, her experience shows: “Diet can help alleviate the symptoms of insulin resistance, and the increase in testosterone can also be reduced. Many patients would return to a regular menstrual cycle after therapy , says Klammer, adding: “But there is no miracle diet for PCOS, since you always have to treat the cause.”

Regulate the cycle with chaste tree

Denise Rosenberger, yoga teacher and author of the book “Eat Like a Woman,” had been suffering from post-pill syndrome for almost a year. This includes a variety of symptoms that can occur after stopping birth control pills, including menstrual disturbances and painful bleeding. The syndrome can also be a sign of PCOS, Kollmann says. Cysts on her ovaries caused Rosenberger to stop menstruating. Monk’s pepper has helped her regulate her cycle: “In the meantime, I have a regular, symptom-free cycle, which I enjoy and celebrate,” says Rosenberger.

What to do with chronic ailments?

In the case of chronic, very heavy menstrual bleeding, irregular cycles and menstrual pain, a gynecologist should be consulted, says Kollmann: “Diet plays an important role, but menstrual pain is not normal, the cause must be clarified by a specialist”. says the gynecologist.

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