How to Adjust Your Diet According to Your Female Cycles
As a woman, you need different things from your diet as your body goes through certain changes. Changes like menstruation, pregnancy, breast feeding and menopause – basically anything to do with your reproductive wellness – can have an impact on other areas of your wellbeing, and so, during these times, you need to take special measures to ensure you’re getting the right vitamins and minerals in your diet.
1. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
As you’re probably all too aware, the hormone fluctuations that go on during your cycle affect your body and state of mind. As your period approaches, you generally have higher energy intakes and food cravings, but you can temper or stop these cravings by eating high-protein foods every few hours. During this time, it’s also common to experience fluid retention, as the hormones encourage your body to hold salt, so reducing your intake of salty foods can help you to bloat less. To combat the moodiness, tiredness and constipation that often accompanies PMS, it may help to take B vitamins, especially vitamin B6.
2. Iron and anaemia
Iron is a mineral your body needs to create haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your blood. Although blokes only need 8mg of iron a day, and they metabolise the mineral at the same rate as women, you need up to 18mg or 27mg if you’re pregnant. This is because you lose a lot of iron when you’re on your period, amounting to a loss of 1mg for every day of bleeding. Without iron, you can become anaemic, so you need to consume more red meat, chicken, fish, fortified cereals, legumes, nuts and leafy green vegetables. Also, you may want to avoid alcohol, tea, high-fibre foods and calcium supplements when on your period, as this can mess with your body’s absorption of iron.
The concept of “eating for two” can be confusing; it’s not about how much you eat, but the quality of what you’re eating that’s more important than ever now you’re pregnant. You need to meet your baby’s nutritional needs as well as your own, which involves eating a variety of foods from each of the key food groups. You should pay special attention to calcium, folic acid (folate), iron, zinc, iodine and vitamin C. Extra folic acid, for example, is vital for the development and growth of new cells, as it can reduce your baby’s risk of neural tube defects. Iodine is needed for normal mental development of the baby, while vitamin C is important for normal gum, tooth, bone and tissue formation.
You need a healthy diet during this time as you need to provide adequate nutrition to produce breast milk, with particular regard to protein, calcium, iron, vitamins and fluids. The best thing to do is to eat a variety of foods from each of the key food groups each day, but if you were anaemic during pregnancy, you should pay special attention to iron-rich foods so that you can replace your iron stores.
As you start to go through menopause, you’re at an increased risk of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, which can lead to fractures. This is because bone strength largely depends on oestrogen, which dramatically reduces during menopause. However, even though it happens later in life, you need to start consuming the right amount of calcium now, as bone strength in later life depends on the development of bones earlier in life. In order to boost your calcium consumption, you may need to limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine you consume, get regular exercise and ensure you get enough vitamin D.