Supporting your health and wellbeing during your period

Week one of the menstrual cycle is when the bleed occurs. This can leave us feeling tired but is also a time when we are losing iron, B12 and folic acid with menstrual blood.

In addition, many women suffer with cramping and pain around this time.

What to eat

IRON rich foods, such as kale, spinach, eggs, dark chocolate, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, sardines, red lentils, sesame seeds, small amounts of lean red meat, chicken, flaxseeds and quinoa.

Make sure you have some vitamin C with your iron rich foods as this has been shown to increase our absorption of iron. Include vitamin C rich foods such as bell peppers, tomatoes or broccoli and add in some fruits such as blueberries or kiwi.

There might be a reason why you are craving chocolate!

Surprisingly, dark chocolate (over 70%) as well as cacao nibs are a great source of iron (around 12g/100g). The recommended daily amount of iron is 14.8mg daily, so if you are craving chocolate, this might be why! Cacao is also a fantastic source of magnesium which is a natural relaxant.

We also need extra vitamins B12 and Folate to build healthy new red blood cells after the menstrual losses.

I tend to use methylcobalamin for B12 in my clinics as this is the active form of B12 and is often better absorbed. Some brands have a sublingual B12 or a B12 spray which can be good as these forms can be absorbed easily in the cheek or under the tongue.  If you follow a plant-based diet, it is important to supplement the diet with a good quality B12 vitamin supplement.  Some nutritional yeast products are also supplemented with vitamin B12.

Eat foods that are known to have inflammatory foods properties

Try to eat the most colourful plants you can find. Opt for red onion, purple sprouting broccoli, green kale, red apples or blueberries. Ginger, turmeric, garlic and pineapple are also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Oily fish such as mackerel, sardines or salmon contain omega 3 fatty acids that are known to inhibit an enzyme called COX that produces prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are made in the uterus lining and trigger the uterine muscles to contract, which may also lead to pain or cramping.”

  • Eating leaner proteins, lower in saturated fats can be beneficial during our periods as they help us to feel fuller for longer and can keep our hormones on a more even keel by regulating blood sugar more effectively. Opt for eggs, fish, chicken, beans, lentils, tofu, lean red meat, plain yogurt, some cheeses and seeds at this time at every meal and snack.
  • Even though your body is crying out for sugar………

We naturally crave more sugar and carbohydrates in the week before and during our period. Rather than give in to the ice cream and cakes, your body is probably asking for healthy whole food carbohydrates such as sweet potato, quinoa, wholegrain rice, parsnips, porridge oats or pumpernickel bread.

Don’t deprive yourself of healthier carbohydrate choices at this time as they are also rich in B vitamins and fibre.

  • Constipation? Lots of women find themselves more constipated than normal just before and sometimes during their period. If this sounds like you, try the following:
    • Add flaxseeds and chia seeds to your breakfast.
    • Try to eat 2 kiwi fruits a day.
    • Increase high fibre foods such as avocado, beans and lentils, tofu, oats, barley, dried figs, prunes, apricots, apples, pears, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, parsnips, broccoli, cabbage, turnips, carrots, psyllium husk, raspberries, nuts and seeds.
    • Eat some wholegrains with your meals
    • Drink at least 2 litres of water

One of my favourite tips is to grind chia and flaxseeds together in a blender and add 2 tablespoons to your yogurt or porridge. This adds an instant 10g fibre to your day!

Eating 2 kiwi fruits a day with their skin for constipation might be a good idea. Research has shown that eating 2 kiwi fruits daily for 4 weeks increased frequency and reduced transit time. Another study showed that the kiwi resulted in softer, bulkier stools.

Foods to reduce or avoid

  1. Sugar, while you may experience a quick energy spike, the mood and energy crash afterwards means it is only short lived.
  2. Processed foods are high in calories, saturated fats and simple sugars and are a poor source of nutrients and fibre.  Most processed foods make us feel more tired in the long run and do not nourish our body in the same way as fresh foods. Skip the pizza and takeaways.
  3. Simple carbs. Most carbohydrates get quickly processed into sugars which can lead to the same peaks and troughs as if we have eaten sugar. Try to avoid the ‘white’ refined carbs found in supermarket bread, pasta, rice, crisps, bakery goods and breakfast cereals. Switch to whole food carbs that have been minimally processed.

Try swapping your baked potato for a sweet potato or half a baked butternut squash instead. I almost guarantee it will make you feel better!

  • Alcohol can lead to dehydration and make symptoms worse. This is a time for slowing down a little and giving the liver a rest!

About the Author, Dominique Ludwig, Nutritionist MSc and Nutritional Therapist mBANT

Dominique Ludwig is an accomplished Nutritionist with over 30 years’ experience as a qualified nutritionist and almost 20 years as a nutritional therapist. The secret weapon of many high-profile clients and A-list celebrities, Dominique has been voted one of the top 15 nutritionists in the UK.

She is a triple award winning nutritionist (Most Innovative Nutritionist 2022, Most Outstanding Nutrition Programme 2023, UK and Most Pioneering Weight Loss & Nutrition Programme 2023 – UK ), and is the founder of the Nutrition and Lifestyle Programme Renew Reset Recharge®, a pioneering nutrition, weight management and lifestyle programme that has been carefully created to support gut health and hormone health. To find out more CLICK HERE for details.

Dominique works out of her own busy practice, Dominique Ludwig Nutrition, both virtually or in person in Hampshre as well as Meyer Clinic in Chichester. Dominique has helped over a thousand clients, globally, live healthier lives. She is a regular contributor to The Times, The Sunday Times and Times 2, Sheerluxe, Top Sante and many other magazines and podcasts.

To work with Dominique you can book a short discovery call to find out more. DISCOVERY CALLS


Features published by Dominique Ludwig are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

Dominique Ludwig

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