A regular menstrual cycle indicates good health. Your cycle is controlled by hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone. Any changes in these hormones will affect your menstrual cycle, causing your periods to become longer, shorter, heavier, absent, or painful.
Several lifestyle and medical factors can contribute to the situation. However, a poor diet is a potential culprit for changes in your period cycle.
In this article, we’ll look at how a poor diet can affect your menstrual cycle.
1. Role of Dietary Fat
Eating a low-fat diet, particularly less of omega-3 fats that are found in fatty fish and some nuts and seeds, can disrupt your menstrual cycle. According to one study, daily consuming omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the psychiatric symptoms of PMS, such as depression, nervousness, anxiety, and lack of concentration, as well as physical symptoms, such as bloating, headache, and breast tenderness.
Additionally, a diet low in total fat may increase your risk of developing ovulation disorders like secondary amenorrhea, which is characterised by missing at least three periods in a row.
Therefore, eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids and other fats, such as:
- Fish and other seafood (Cold-water fatty fish, especially salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines)
- Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
- Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil)
- Fruits (mangoes, muskmelon, berries, and avocado)
2. A low-carb diet
Many young girls are concerned about what they eat during and after their periods, and they often avoid or consume little carbohydrates to avoid weight gain. Switching to a low-carb (keto) diet for a long duration can disrupt your menstrual cycle.
Carbohydrates provide energy to your body to support bodily functions and physical activity. A low-carb diet can result in low energy consumption, which can cause hormonal imbalances and menstrual irregularities.
Carbohydrate-rich foods like quinoa, barley, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, oats, and beans can help you feel more energetic and balance your hormones. However, avoid sugary drinks and foods because they can disrupt your body’s blood sugar levels and aggravate your symptoms.
3. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as vitamin B, vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium, can alter your menstrual cycle and worsen premenstrual symptoms.
PMS can be reduced by eating a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals.
- Include vitamin D-rich foods such as oranges, kale, spinach, soybeans, and certain fish in your diet as lack of vitamin D can cause severe premenstrual cramps, headaches, acne, and pain.
- Deficiency of B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin can disrupt your period and cause severe PMS symptoms. Thus, consume vitamin B-rich foods like leafy green vegetables, broccoli, peas, chickpeas, and kidney beans.
- Supplement your diet with vitamin E-rich foods like peanuts, almonds, spinach, pumpkin, sunflower oil and seeds, and red bell pepper, as it will likely reduce period pain and blood loss.
- Eat magnesium-rich foods like pumpkin seeds, spinach, salmon, kale, and brown rice to relax your stomach muscles and reduce symptoms like cramps and mood swings.
- Consume iron-rich foods such as nuts, dried fruits, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, and oats to reduce fatigue, dizziness, and headaches related to menstruation.
- Calcium-rich foods such as dairy, almonds, and leafy greens can help reduce PMS symptoms and other negative effects such as water retention, period cravings, and pain.
4. Imbalanced Energy Intake
Eating too much or too little can alter your hormones and cause changes in your menstrual cycle.
Excessive calorie intake or being overweight can cause menstrual irregularities or amenorrhea. Too many fat cells in your body can cause an increase in the hormone oestrogen, which can disrupt your menstrual cycle and cause heavy, irregular, or missed periods. Losing body fat may help you get your monthly cycle back on track.
On the other hand, a very low-calorie intake, often due to weight-loss diets or eating disorders such as anorexia, can also cause irregular menstrual cycles and amenorrhea. If your body fat percentage is too low, your body will stop producing oestrogen and thus stop menstruating. Regaining weight safely with the guidance of health professionals and consuming a well-balanced diet rich in healthy fats can help you restore your oestrogen levels and resume periods.
5. Too Much Alcohol
Excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt or cause irregular menstrual cycles by raising hormone levels such as oestrogen, testosterone, and, in some cases, luteinizing hormone. This results in a hormonal imbalance, which leads to heavy, irregular, or even missed periods. It can also aggravate other menstrual symptoms like cramps, dehydration, and headache.
Can a poor diet affect your menstrual cycle? The answer is yes! A poor diet, including low carbs, dietary fat, vitamins and minerals, high or low-calorie intake, and excessive alcohol consumption, can aggravate PMS symptoms and disrupt your flow.
You can avoid this by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. However, consult with your healthcare provider, as they can help you choose the best diet.
Also, keeping a record of your periods, including the start and end dates and other associated symptoms, can be beneficial. You can even get a smartphone period calculator to help you monitor your monthly cycle.