What should you drink to help period cramps?
Your diet plays an important role in reducing period cramps; not only what you eat, but what you drink too. As a nutritionist, as well as A.Vogel’s Women’s Health advisor, there are 6 drinks I always recommend which can help to ease period cramps:
- Healthy caffeine substitutes
- Green smoothies
- Ginger tea
- Chamomile tea
- Peppermint tea.
There are also a few drinks which can make period cramps worse and which I recommend steering clear of, including sugary drinks, coffee, milk and alcohol.
Now, let's go into a little more detail about how the 6 great drinks above can help your period cramps.
Keeping yourself hydrated is always essential but it becomes even more important during your period. That's because water helps to avoid bloating, which is not only uncomfortable, but can often be accompanied by pain as well. One way to help uncomfortable period cramps and bloating is to up your water intake.
During your period, warm water is better than refrigerated water because your body can use it immediately without having to heat it up. This means you get the benefits of it straight away rather than having to wait a while.
However, if you want to drink something a little more exciting during your period then you could try our recipe for detox water. With a mixture of fruit and vegetables, this drink is both refreshing and tasty!
Extra advice: Cravings, which can be problematic during your period, can also be a sign of thirst so this problem may be reduced if you keep yourself hydrated. You should try to drink at least 1.5-2 litres of water every day.
2. Healthy coffee substitutes
Caffeine can make your period cramps even worse so it’s best to avoid as much as possible during your period. However, if you’d still like to enjoy a hot drink with your breakfast or as an afternoon pick-me-up, you could turn to a herbal tea or try a coffee substitute such as Bambu.
This is made from a mix of organic chicory, Turkish figs, malted barley, wheat and Greek acorns which makes it completely natural. Chicory is known to have a positive impact on the digestive processes so, if you are feeling a little queasy as a result of your period, this coffee substitute can have a doubly useful effect.
It's important to bear in mind that decaf coffee also contains caffeine, so you're not completely safe even if you opt for your favourite beverage in a decaf form!
Extra advice: Balance Mineral Drink is another great alternative to coffee - its impressive vitamin and mineral content is great natural way to boost your energy!
3. Green smoothies
A good, fresh smoothie can also help to ease period pain, especially if it's full of leafy green veggies! This kiwi and ginger green smoothie, for example, provides vitamins and minerals that your body may be lacking at this time of the month. Amongst the list of ingredients are almond milk and spinach which are good sources of magnesium and iron.
Many women struggle with fatigue and low energy during their period, and these can be made worse by low iron levels so, at this time, it can prove helpful to up your intake of this valuable mineral. Magnesium, on the other hand, has a relaxing effect on muscles which helps to ease cramps. Plus, it can also impact upon mood, working to reduce anxiety and encourage better sleep!
Or, why not try our super fruit and veg green smoothie? You can choose a range of flavours to add to your smoothie – why not include some flaxseeds for some bloat-busting fibre and anti-inflammatory omega-3? Or, throw in some pineapple for a healthy dose of bromelain, another anti-inflammatory that can help with your period pains. Celery also makes a great addition to any smoothie, as its impressive potassium content can help to manage bloating.
Extra advice: If these don't take your fancy, you can find a whole variety of smoothie recipes on our food hub!
4. Ginger tea
Ginger is a great ingredient that can do wonders during your period! It has anti-inflammatory properties so it can help with painful cramps. In fact, research has found that ginger was just as effective as ibuprofen when it came to relieving menstrual pain.1 Also, if your period is accompanied by nausea, sickness and stomach upset, ginger can help to relieve you of these issues.
You can increase your intake of ginger by putting it in soups or smoothies, though ginger tea is another tasty option. You can buy good quality ginger tea from most health food stores. So, why not swap your usual brew for one flavoured with ginger and see if that helps your cramps?
Extra advice: Make your own ginger tea by steeping some fresh ginger in hot water, adding in a drizzle of honey or a slice of lemon for some extra flavour.
5. Chamomile tea
Research has found that compounds within chamomile tea may prove beneficial for menstrual cramps.2 This is because these compounds (hippurate and glycine) can help to relieve muscle spasms, as well as working to relax the uterus. Like ginger, chamomile also has anti-inflammatory properties which may help to reduce cramp further.
I think it's also important to note that these caffeine-free drinks are very calming so, if you find that your mood is unpredictable during your period, these could be some great options for you.
Extra advice: Our friends over at Jan de Vries have a wide range of refreshing herbal teas including this Organic Chamomile Tea from Heath and Heather.
6. Peppermint tea
This is yet another tea which is thought to ease period cramps as well as settle digestive issues. One particular study found that peppermint oil relaxes the stomach muscles and reduced both the duration and severity of menstrual cramps for many of the young women who participated. Researchers concluded that this was due to the anti-spasmodic properties of its menthol content.3
Tea can be made from the peppermint leaves, which is where oils like menthol can be found and which give this tea its refreshing, minty flavour. So, this makes it a good option to try if you are suffering from nasty period cramps.
Extra advice: Green tea and raspberry leaf tea can be great for reducing period cramps too, thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties!
What drinks should you avoid on your period?
As I’ve discussed in previous blogs, there are a number of foods you should attempt to avoid during your period but, equally, there a few drinks you should steer clear of too.
High sugar content in the likes of fizzy juice and energy drinks can cause energy levels to rise rapidly and then crash, which leaves you even more lethargic than when you started. As fatigue is often an issue during your period, it's advisable to steer clear of sugary drinks in case the problem is worsened.
Another reason to forego the fizzy juice is the unnecessary bloating that can come along as a result of the carbonation. This is not something you'll want to deal with if on top of difficult period cramps.
Plus, although good quality dark chocolate contains antioxidants and could potentially help with your period symptoms, hot chocolate drinks should also be avoided. These are often made using a cheaper quality of chocolate and they're usually packed with sugar!
Extra advice: even fruit juices from concentrate can contain lots of sugar so, instead, opt for squash or fresh fruit juice not from concentrate.
This is a big no-no during your period, hence my recommendation for herbal teas and coffee substitutes at this time. As I discussed in my blog, '5 reasons to avoid caffeine during your period', caffeine can make you feel jittery and anxious, plus it activates the sympathetic nervous system which can leave you feeling anxious and stressed. It also acts as a stimulant which means it can cause hormones to fluctuate, which isn't exactly ideal if your period means your mood is all over the place anyway.
What's more, caffeine can interrupt blood glucose levels which can contribute to food cravings which, again, are common during your period.
Extra advice: energy drinks, fizzy juice and tea all contain caffeine.
Milk contains saturated fats which have the potential to increase inflammation and irritation which is, in turn, likely to worsen period pain. Plus, dairy also contains a chemical called prostaglandin which can contribute to cramping. Therefore, unfortunately, this is another drink that shouldn't be consumed in large amounts whilst you are on your period.
Other drinks containing milk, such as hot chocolate and teas, should also be avoided for these reasons.
Extra advice: yogurts, milkshakes, cheese, ice cream and butter all have the potential to cause problems too.
Some women find it helpful to cut back on their alcohol consumption during their period as it can dehydrate you. This, in turn, can make period symptoms like cravings and fatigue more severe.
Extra advice: you can find more information on alcohol and periods in my blog 'Boozy periods: what are the effects?'.
What else can help your period cramps?
So, in this blog we've covered 6 great drinks for period cramps as well as some foods which are not so great when it comes to your period. But, what else can you do to help with period cramps?
- Exercise! Although it might not be top of mind during your period when you're not feeling your best, gentle exercise can help to release endorphins and ease the muscles. Check out my blog for some simple exercises to do on your period.
- Up your nutrient intake. Vitamin D can help to reduce your period pain as it reduces your levels of prostaglandins, an inflammatory chemical involved in shedding the uterine lining and contributing to period cramps. Omega-3 can also help here as it is a natural anti-inflammatory. Read my blog for more information on vitamins and minerals to help your period.
- Take a hot bath or use a heat pad. This can help to soothe painful period cramps plus it can help if you suffer from back pain during your period.
- Have an aromatherapy massage. A large review of studies on the use of essential oils found that inhalation, oral use and massage with essential oils reduced period pain more than placebo.4 Massage can also help to increase blood flow!
- Try acupuncture. It is believed that placing pressure on specific trigger points on the body can relieve pain. One review concluded that acupuncture was more effective than painkillers at reducing period pain.5
- Try cinnamon. Studies have found that cinnamon could be beneficial for soothing painful period cramps. You can try adding it to some morning oats for breakfast or make a tasty curry for dinner. Find out more in my blog here.
- Get a good night's sleep. Did you know that, if you're sleep-deprived, you are more likely to be sensitive to pain? What's more, if you suffer from painful period cramps, you can find it difficult to sleep well at night. I advise how to sleep well during your period in this blog.
- Visit your doctor. If period cramps and other symptoms trouble you every month, you should talk to your doctor to find out if there is anything they can offer you for your pain. Painkillers or certain methods of contraception, such as the pill, can be prescribed to manage more serious issues that may be contributing to your period cramps.