5 Nutrients That Support Your Menstrual Phase

5 Nutrients That Support Your Menstrual Phase

Let me be clear. All nutrients are beneficial and serve their purpose at different times. I am also a big proponent of individualized nutrition based on what a person’s specific needs are. With that said, these 5 nutrients are my personal findings and round up of what can help most women with various symptoms during their menstrual phase.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that has been shown to reduce symptoms for both PMS and menopause. During your luteal and menstrual phases, a magnesium supplement, foods rich in magnesium, and even magnesium oil or lotion can help relax the smooth muscles of your uterus, decrease inflammatory prostaglandins (the hormone-like lipids that cause contractions and cramps), reduce headaches and breast tenderness, and even help curb sugar cravings.

In terms of hormonal balance, magnesium is needed for the production of TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone, which is responsible for your body’s metabolism. In addition, it aids in blood sugar balance and estrogen detoxification. Women with PCOS are 19 times more likely to be magnesium-deficient, and those with diabetes or an autoimmune disease are also at high risk for deficiency.

Women want to aim for 400mg of magnesium per day.

Here are some food sources rich in magnesium: 

  • pumpkin seeds
  • almonds
  • spinach
  • cashews
  • soymilk
  • black beans
  • edamame
  • dark chocolate

As for supplements, magnesium in the forms of aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride are more bioavailable and readily absorbed than magnesium oxide and sulfate. I was just recommended magnesium oil from Ancient Minerals and will report back after a few months of using it.

Omega 3s

Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with bloating, uterine inflammation, migraines, and even mood swings. In a study of women with polycystic ovary syndrome and irregular periods, an omega 3 supplement was given at 3g/day for 8 weeks. This resulted in decreased elevated testosterone and androgen levels with a regulation of menses in the omega 3 group.

In another study, women took 1,000mg of fish oil/day. The experimental group reported less menstrual pain than the comparative group who took the pain reliever, ibuprofen.

Here are some food sources rich in omega-3s: 

  • fish (salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, and mackerel)
  • nuts and seeds
  • fortified foods (I have been using this Silk oat, almond, and pea milk blend infused with DHA omega-3s!)

Zinc

Supplementing with 30mg of zinc 1-3x daily during your luteal and menstrual phases can significantly reduce (if not manage or eradicate dysmenorrhea- period pain!). Zinc can also block androgen production, such as testosterone, which helps in treating acne and reducing excess facial hair.

Here are some food sources rich in zinc: 

  • oysters
  • shellfish (crab and lobster)
  • red meat (I recommend organic, grass fed and pasture-raised)
  • legumes
  • nuts and seeds- especially pumpkin seeds!
  • eggs
  • whole grains

B vitamins, specifically B6 and B12

It’s a toss up between which B vitamin is more important to focus on. Both B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin) can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, which as we know can be rampant during our luteal and menstrual phases. Here are the main contributors of each.

B6 can help regulate periods, so if your cycle is irregular, I would recommend incorporating foods that contain more of this B vitamin. B6 also helps minimize bloating and has the ability to produce amino acids, which is needed more during your bleed for replenishment and to avoid muscle catabolism.

Here are some food sources rich in B6: 

  • pork.
  • poultry, such as¬†chicken¬†or turkey
  • some fish (cod, salmon, halibut, trout, tuna and snapper)
  • peanuts
  • soy¬†beans
  • wheatgerm
  • oats
  • bananas

B12 largely contributes to red blood cell formation, which is also crucial during this time.Since we are losing blood and iron, new red blood cells are needed to help carry oxygen throughout the body and keep energy levels high.

Here are some food sources rich in B12: 

  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • eggs milk

Iron

Last but not least is iron. About 70% of our body’s iron is found in red blood cells. When we bleed during menses, we lose blood and, therefore, red blood cells and iron. It is important to replenish this mineral, as to avoid iron depletion or anemia. Women need approximately 1.8 mg of iron/day. If you donate blood, you lose about 200 mg of iron, and those breastfeeding and postpartum can lose up to 700 mg. Breastfeeding mamas need to increase their iron intake by 0.5-1mg/day.

P.S. Iron is better absorbed in the company of vitamin C, so add peppers, citrus juice, broccoli or tomatoes to your meals with iron-containing foods. Using iron pots can also increase iron levels! We only absorbed 10-30% of iron, so keep that in mind when measuring and accounting for your food. 

Here are some food sources rich in iron: 

  • lean beef
  • veal
  • poultry
  • pork
  • lamb
  • liver
  • fish and shellfish
  • greens
  • tofu
  • lima beans
  • legumes and lentils

Summary

Upping your nutrient consumption game is a great strategy in preventing or treating PMS and menstrual symptoms. From the abundance of research I’ve been doing lately on women’s health (specifically nutrition and phases of the cycle), I found magnesium, omega 3s, zinc, B vitamins (B6 + B12), and iron to be some of the most crucial in alleviating unwanted cramps, headaches, lethargy, acne and more while also replenishing the body with the fuel it needs to process and recover best.

If you have basic nutrition questions, I can answer those for you, but hang on tight for when I become licensed in February to better serve your personal needs. Xo Danielle

Disclaimer: The medical/health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical/health advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATION IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

 

COVID-19 & Vitamin D

COVID-19 & Vitamin D

The abundance of misinformation out there regarding COVID-19 and nutrition is alarming. While these pieces mainly revolve around “boosting” one’s immunity, some go as far as claiming that certain nutrients prevent or treat this virus. I have been wanting to write a science-based article that compiles truths and telephone-game rewrites of how nutrition impacts this virus and its hosts. **SPOILER ALERT** Some of it is true!!

The top nutrients in relation to COVID-19 will be discussed post by post over the next week, as one post would have been way too¬†lengthy to cover everything I wanted to. Today’s topic is vitamin D.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning, it is dissolvable in lipids (fat) and stored in the liver and fatty tissues. We can obtain vitamin D from the sun (of which our skin converts and transfer it to our liver then kidneys to be activated), or from dietary sources.

Dietary sources of vitamin D include:

  • Fish (such as salmon, tuna, herring, cod and sardines)
  • Egg yolks
  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified foods and beverages (such as cow’s milk, yogurt, soy milk, plant-based milk, orange juice, and cereals)

The functions of this vitamin include:

  • Calcium homeostasis
  • Bone health (aids in calcium absorption)
  • Cell differentiation
  • Cell growth, maturation, and reproduction
  • Modulation of innate and adaptive immune responses¬Ļ

Let’s start with those who are vitamin D deficient. According to the Journal of Investigative Medicine, “Individuals with lower vitamin D levels (<30 nmol/L) were more likely to self-report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels, even after adjusting for variables including season, age, gender, body mass and race”. This is because both the risk and development of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, is associated with lower serum vitamin D levels.¬†The risk is attributed to vitamin D increasing¬†“cathelicidins and defensins that can lower viral replication rates and [reduce] concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines that produce the inflammation that injures the lining of the lungs”.¬Ļ

From 2005-2006, the Nutrition Examination Survey found that 41.6% of Americans were vitamin D deficient.² This is a significant number, especially with the current risk of contracting the highly transmissible COVID-19 strain. Since many of us are still under a stay-at-home order and may not be getting enough sun, I highly recommend trying to either consume more foods that contain vitamin D (listed above) or to invest in a vitamin D3 supplement.

The National Institute of Health recommends daily doses of 600-800 IUs. Many supplements are higher than this, but due to the risk of hypercalcemia, calcification of soft tissues, and other side effects, it is not recommended to exceed 4,000 IUs/day.³ Although studies are currently looking at higher dosing for prevention and treatment, individuals should not attempt this at home.

It may take 2-4 weeks for vitamin D to accumulate to sufficient amounts in your system, so you may lower your dosage once you get back in the sun more often or ensure your levels are where they should be. A multivitamin with vitamin D can do the trick too.

The first bullet is where you want your numbers to be.

* Vitamin D sufficiency: Serum 25OHD 50-125 nmol/L (20-50 ng/mL)

* Vitamin D inadequacy: Serum 25OHD 30-49 nmol/L (12-19 ng/mL)

* Vitamin D deficiency: Serum 25OHD less than 30 nmol/L (12 ng/mL)³

You can get your levels checked in a routine biochemical lab panel from a blood draw. Contact your primary care physician to make an appointment.

But what about vitamin D treating those infected with COVID-19? 

While vitamin D reduces the risk of developing an infection, it does not guarantee protection or immunity from this virus. Nor has it been proven to treat or cure COVID-19.   I will leave you with this- vitamin D and vitamin C are strongly linked to improved immune responses. You can ensure your levels are where they need to be through consuming dietary sources or by supplementation, followed by getting bloodwork done.

However, “boosting your immune system” shouldn’t be a coined health phrase because we should always want to enforce our immune strength. This can be done by eating a well-balanced diet, scheduling regular wellness checkups with bloodwork and labs, and by taking supplements and/or a multivitamin.

Did I answer our questions about vitamin D in relation to COVID? Drop me a comment on what you thought!

The medical/health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical/health advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATION IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Photo by Michele Blackwell on Unsplash

References

1. Aranow C. Vitamin D and the Immune System. Journal of Investigative Medicine. 2011;59(6):881-886. doi:10.2310/jim.0b013e31821b8755
2. Parva NR, Tadepalli S, Singh P, et al. Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency and Associated Risk Factors in the US Population (2011-2012). Cureus. May 2018. doi:10.7759/cureus.2741
3. Office of Dietary Supplements РVitamin D. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/. Accessed May 18, 2020.