Your menstrual cycle can be A LOT, and that is even before you add the cramps and endometreosis many women go through without relief. One way to make it a little easier? Food!
Ahead of World menstrual Hygiene day 2020 (28th May), it seems like a good idea to dive into what we can eat through the 4 phases of the cycle to make the trip a little less intense.
Let’s do this.
THE FOLLICULAR PHASE (Just after your period)
Here, you need to focus on getting your energy back up. So Iron and B12 should be a major part of your diet. Eat red meats, chicken, liver, beans and dark leafy vegetables like nakati and dodo. B12 occurs naturally in the meats mentioned but if you are vegetarian, you can eat fortified cereals or get a supplement. Why is B12 so important? It helps prevent a type of anemia that makes you weak and tired.
Help your body absorb that iron by pairing your meal with some vitamin C in the form of orange juice, guavas or cauliflower. Avoid coffee and cocoa (those contain polyphenols that mess with the absorption of iron.)
THE OVULATION PHASE
This shortest phase of your cycle is the ‘superstar’ phase. You are literally glowing and feeling awesome and confident. All you need is to keep a healthy diet going.
Eat your proteins, and do not cut out carbohydrates or fat, you need them too.
It’s nice to have snacks on hand too. Make a nut mix with ground nuts, sim sim, almonds, pumpkin seeds and some raisins. You will need it in the next phase when things change almost abruptly.
THE LEUTAL PHASE
Unless you have a keen eye on your cycle, this might be the phase where you feel like you ‘just can’t’ and you just don’t know why.
Mood swings kick in and there might be fluctuations in appetite; either wanting to eat a lot more or not eat at all. But you must. This is where your already made nut snacks come in handy. Set an alarm to remind yourself to get your full meals if your appetite is struggling.
Don’t skip the calcium. Milk and youghurt are a great source but so is soya and fish with bones, like sardines and mukene.
Bloating and or constipation might rear their heads so you want to keep adequately hydrated. Drink water and if you’re not a fan, jazz it up with fruit juice. Water melon is great and Uganda is blessed to have it almost all year round. You can also just cut up some fruits and drop them in your water bottle. They will pep up the taste and hopefully make you feel a little better. These fruits also double as a source of fiber.
One of the benefits of the period starting is that the mental fog starts to clear for some women. You have Aha! Moments. ‘SO THAT’S why I was out of sorts’.
Eat iron rich foods now, you need them.
For me, busheera (millet porridge) is literally like an energy drink now.
Eat some comfort food too. Comfort doesnt have to be decadent though. Swap that rolex and chips for some rice, go for that fortified bread. Sweet potato? Eat it. Pumpkin? Eat it. Cabbage? Eat it. Keep the hydration going, not just because it is good for you but because it will stave off those headaches. A piece of chocolate is fine here (particularly dark chocolate), a tub of ice cream is not. It will give you a fast energy boost but it will soon drop, leaving you tired and moody.
Take care of yourself here, you have made it. Until next month.
NOTE: The menstrual cycle is different for everyone. The same woman will not have the same experience every month. But if you get in the habit of eating right, you can offer your body the support it needs. Listen to your body and check with a doctor for advice when in doubt.
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All pictures from unsplash.com