Alcohol and period cramps

From holiday cocktails to hoppy beers, the world of alcohol can be fun and recreational. It’s a way to unwind, socialize, and relax. But when you’re a health-conscious woman, it can be tricky to deal with—especially true for situations specific to the female body. We’re looking at you, Aunt Flo.

Our cycle is something special, but it can also be confusing. After all, so much happens each month, from PMS to ovulation. And when regular lifestyle choices—like drinking a glass of wine or indulging in Moscow mules—set the tone for your health, it only makes sense to consider your cycle.

Dr. Kari Formsma, MD, an OB/GYN in Grand Rapids, Michigan, explains the impact of alcohol on your menstrual cycle and why it matters to begin with.

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Q. How does my body change throughout my cycle?

As with many areas of health, your cycle is all about a hormonal dance. When your period begins, estrogen levels are low. “This marks the first half of your cycle, which is the start of your period to 14 days later,” explains Dr. Formsma. “Your body builds up estrogen, thinking it’s going to get pregnant.”

Ovulation occurs around day 14 for the average cycle. During this second half of the cycle, progesterone and estrogen rise. Your body prepares to receive a fertilized egg. “But assuming that you don’t get pregnant, your hormones drop again–and then you get your period.”

Q. How can drinking alcohol impact my cycle?

Menstrual irregularities usually have to do with the conditions that develop from drinking, not the drinking itself. In other words, such problems aren’t directly related to the alcohol use, but may be indirectly influenced. Dr. Formsma notes that this is especially likely when liver damage develops.

Think of it on a big picture scale, too. Alcohol can impact habits that can influence menstruation. For example, long-term drinking can result in poor diet and increased stress–two things that can mess with your period. Further testament to how interconnected our bodies truly are.

Q. So when is the worst time to drink alcohol during my cycle?

The answer depends on your lifestyle. “If you are sexually active and not taking birth control, it’s best to completely avoid drinking from the mid-point of your cycle,” explains Dr. Formsma. Since this is the point of ovulation, you’re most likely to get pregnant during this time.

But wait—does it matter this early? Dr. Formsma says yes. “Minor drinking is significant. It can still result in a disorder on the fetal alcohol spectrum,” she cautions. “Many women come to me and say, ‘I stopped drinking when I found out I was pregnant.’ But even if it’s just six weeks from the last menstrual cycle, it can still be bad news. It’s an important issue.”

Even if you aren’t sexually active, it’s still crucial to think about choosing water over wine. According to Dr. Formsma, having more than one drink per day around your period can intensify PMS symptoms. This may include headache, drowsiness, and fatigue. Alcohol may aggravate cramps and soreness for some women. But since we’re all different, listen to your body. If alcohol worsens your PMS, do yourself a favor and skip it.

Q. Are there any other potential effects of alcohol on my overall feminine health?

Beyond Aunt Flo, consuming more than seven drinks a week can significantly increase risk for breast cancer, says Dr. Formsma. A greater risk for liver damage, stomach cancer, dementia, and pancreatic problems also make the list. Clearly, keeping tabs on your alcohol intake is vital at all times.

Q. What can I do to be more mindful of how much and when I drink?

For starters, familiarizing yourself with the recommended intake for women is key. Dr. Formsma reminds us that women metabolize alcohol a lot differently than men. It’s good to know how much is “too much.”

“For men, two drinks a day is considered acceptable,” says Dr. Formsma. “But for women, that recommendation is only one. More than three drinks in a single setting is considered as heavy drinking.”

So, what equals a single drink? “This works out to one shot, five ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer. If you get a pint of beer at the bar, this is actually 1 ½ drinks.”

As for water? Continue drinking enough H2O as usual. Staying hydrated can keep your focus and concentration in line. It can also help when Aunt Flo has you feeling tired and groggy.

Photo Credit: Alexa Fernando

Does Drinking Affect Your Period? Experts Have The Answers You’re Looking For

Listen, if you get periods, you don’t need me to tell you how not-fun they can be to deal with. But there are certain things you might be putting in your body during that time of the month that will actually only make your symptoms even worse.

And, unfortunately, one of those things is alcohol. Yep, drinking affects your period, and for some people, it can actually cause your menstrual cycle to spiral a bit out of control. Elite Daily spoke with a couple of experts on the matter, who can give you a basic rundown on what a little liquid courage is really doing to your hormones.

Of course, while there’s a general list of ways alcohol can impact people during menstruation, the effects still vary from person to person.

Nutritionist Stephanie Dunne tells Elite Daily,

I have clients who are very clear about how their hormones affect them, and it is different. Some will tell me that one glass of wine the week before their period leaves them tipsy, while others will say that’s the one time of the month they can have a couple of glasses and not feel the effects.

She went on to say that, though each person’s experience varies, she still recommends that individuals stick to the recommended alcohol intake limit. According to the USDA, women are recommended to have up to one drink per day, while men are recommended to have up to two drinks per day.

Here are a few other ways drinking alcohol can affect your period.

1. It Can Make Your Period Irregular

Which, of course, is totally annoying. This can happen because alcohol may temporarily increase your estrogen and testosterone levels, which can alter when you menstruate, thus causing missed or unexpected periods.

2. It Can Make The Pain Last Longer

I wouldn’t wish prolonged cramps on even my worst enemy, so I probably wouldn’t drink a lot during a night out if I knew it would cause me to wake up with extra-sh*tty cramps the next day.

Elite Daily spoke with sexologist Dr. Marie Stubbs, who says these terrible cramps after drinking alcohol are due to dehydration:

Alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, which can leave people more susceptible to cramps. Of course, many people suffer from menstrual cramps, so the consumption of alcohol can intensify this symptom.

3. It Makes PMS A Living Hell

Other than the awful cramps, other symptoms that might get worse after a night of drinking include breast tenderness, headaches, and mood fluctuations, according to alcohol education website Vinepair.

4. It Lowers Magnesium Levels

Magnesium levels normally fluctuate during a menstrual cycle, but alcohol only worsens the fluctuations, causing a depletion of the mineral. The lower the magnesium, the lower the blood sugar, which can lead to dizziness and sugar cravings, meaning overall, you’re not going to feel great.

5. Your Emotions Can Get Pretty Heavy

This is because alcohol can increase estrogen levels, making you more emotional about things that might otherwise not be as big of a deal.

So, do your body a favor, and lay off the liquid courage, at least during that time of the month. Your body just might thank you for it.

Does Alcohol Affect Your Period? This Is What The Research Says

Alcohol consumption, in news that will surprise nobody, tends to spike over holiday periods, and that has left some scientists questioning whether or not there may be a relationship between drinking and menstrual cycles in women, and how they may effect one another. Bustle spoke with the data scientists at Clue, the period-tracking app that uses user data to do research on reproductive health, to get the lowdown on precisely how alcohol can affect your period, and what you might want to do about it.

“In moderation, alcohol probably won’t affect your menstrual cycle,” Clue tells Bustle, “but there is a lot of conflicting research.” There are three main areas in which scientists have investigated links between menstrual cycles and alcohol: how much alcohol you drink, what happens to the cycle itself, and the consequences of alcohol on hormones.

If you think you may reach for the wine more when you’re premenstrual, or that it affects you differently at different parts of the month, you could be right. The luteal phase, which happens just before menstruation, seems to involve different reactions to alcohol compared to other stages of your cycle. “There is some evidence suggesting alcohol consumed in your luteal phase may have more of an effect on your mood than during the follicular phase,” Clue tells Bustle. “By both increasing feelings of depression and anxiety, while at the same time increasing feelings of enjoyment from the effects of alcohol.” This idea comes from research done in 2011, which also indicates that women with a family history of substance use disorder might feel these effects more. “Researchers suspect,” Clue adds, “that people who experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome may tend to drink more alcohol premenstrually. However, other studies note no change at all.”

When it comes to the cycle itself and how alcohol affects it, the research doesn’t give a clear picture. “Some studies note relationships between alcohol consumption and cycle irregularities, but generally only when alcohol is consumed chronically at high doses,” Clue tells Bustle. If somebody has a substance use disorder, it’s probable that menstrual changes will ensue, from an absence of a period entirely to cycles that are all over the place and a lack of ovulation. Women with substance use disorders may have a hormonal disadvantage when it comes to beating their disorder, too, in the form of estrogen. “New preliminary research on mice suggests that when higher levels of estrogen are present, there is more activity in the reward centre of the brain, which may make alcohol feel more rewarding,” Clue tells Bustle. That could have big implications for treating substance use disorder in women in particular.

For women who drink alcohol in moderation, however, the evidence doesn’t suggest any serious effects of alcohol on your menstrual cycle. “When looking at moderate drinking, there may be no measurable change in menstrual cycle function,” Clue says. “In fact, in one study, people who abstained from alcohol had more cycle irregularities.” That study, which was held in 2014 in Denmark, involved over 82,000 women who became pregnant after being surveyed, and those who didn’t drink alcohol had more irregular periods — but the researchers noted that this “may reflect other health problems in these women rather than an actual effect of alcohol on the menstrual cycle,” so more research needs to be done to sus out the actual cause and effect.

When it comes to alcohol and hormonal levels, it’s possible to draw a few firm conclusions. “After drinking, multiple studies have measured increases in estrogen levels, and sometimes increases in testosterone and luteinzing hormone,” says Clue. Luteinizing hormone is responsible for stimulating ovary follicles and help you ovulate. And the influence of alcohol over the cycle is an interesting one. “One particularly rigorous study,” Clue tells Bustle, “examined how drinking affects hormone levels during different phases of the menstrual cycle. Multiple hormonal differences were measured, such as increases in androgen levels during the follicular phase, and increases in oestrogen levels around ovulation, which persisted throughout the second half of the cycle. This effect has been shown to be stronger after binge drinking.” But in case you’re worried, don’t be. “The hormonal effects of moderate drinking did not to lead to changes in menstrual cycle function,” Clue says. Having a few drinks may shift your hormone levels, but the cycle itself seems to proceed normally.

When it comes to fertility, the research is a mixed bag. “One reason for how alcohol could impact fertility is through increased levels of estrogen, which could inhibit follicular development and ovulation —  but this is still only a theory,” Clue says. However, science hasn’t given a clear answer on whether this happens or not. While a study published in 2017 links low to moderate alcohol consumption and drinking with struggles to conceive, Clue tells Bustle that it’s a “weak association”, and that “other researchers have linked higher alcohol consumption to infertility, and some found no connection between alcohol and fertility at all.” And they also urge caution about reading too much into studies. “There is some evidence to suggest that drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol may be associated with delayed menopause, but more research is needed here too,” Clue says.

Overall, you don’t need to be too concerned about your menstrual cycle when it comes to alcohol consumption. However, we’re still not entirely sure what abusing alcohol may do to the body and menstrual functioning in the long run. People who feel they may be struggling with substance use issues can call the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for assistance.

The Best PMS-Fighting Foods & Drinks

We at Bustle love giving you tips for how to tap into your sexual potential and troubleshoot when things aren’t going your way in the bedroom. But what about finding solutions to those stressful women’s health situations that inevitably crop up? Emma Kaywin, a Brooklyn-based sexual health writer and activist, is here to calm your nerves and answer your questions. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your questions to [email protected] This week’s topic: the best foods and drinks for PMS symptoms.

Q: I get pretty bad PMS symptoms, and I want to find a way to ease my crankiness, bloating, and cramps but I don’t like taking lots of pills. Are there certain foods that can help with PMS symptoms? Sometimes I’ve found that a glass of red wine helps, but maybe that’s just placebo, and an ex said he read something about dark chocolate helping and used to bring me bars of chocolate when I wasn’t feeling great — but that could have just been a cute thing he did, I never saw the research.

A: In many regards, we truly are what we eat. This means that what we put in our bodies can have a real impact on how we’re feeling — and this is particularly true for premenstrual symptoms. In fact, one nutritionist argues that 80 percent of dealing with PMS can be done through eating the right foods. That’s pretty impressive! So which foods can we eat to help us feel better in the days before our period? I’ve broken the foods down into three groups based around the three main symptoms of PMS — mood swings, cramps, and bloating. However, some of these foods help in more than one category.

The Top Foods To Help With Mood Swings

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While our moods may seem to come from somewhere deep and untouchable, we can actually affect how we’re feeling by what we eat. Here are the main foods that can help balance your mood.

Complex Carbohydrates

I know we all have been told that carbs are the nutritional devil, but they actually are important for our health (in moderation, as with most things). When it comes to mood swings, a serotonin boost can go a long way — and the fastest way to get more serotonin flowing in your body is to eat carbs! That’s right, carbs help your body make serotonin. Just make sure that your carbs don’t have fat or protein in them — sweet potatoes are a great source of pure carb (and a great option for those gluten-free folks out there), and other good ones to try include whole-grain bread and steel-cut oats.

However, if you also experience bloating as a PMS symptom, be careful with carbs. Because carbs retain water, eating them can also contribute to bloating.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are loaded with Vitamin B6, which helps your body lower stress and is part of creating dopamine and serotonin, your body’s two “happy hormones.” Now you know why hummus makes you happy.

Peanuts

Peanuts are great for your mood, because they are filled with magnesium, which helps your body regulate serotonin. Magnesium also helps prevent water retention, which means less bloating. Peanuts are also helpful in combating cramping, because they are full of Vitamin E, which helps lower inflammation.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of magnesium, which we now know can improve your mood and also combat bloating. They also have a ton of manganese, which research has found is great at lowering PMS irritability and stress.

Broccoli

Broccoli is filled with calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium, making it a pretty great food to eat when you’re PMSing. Broccoli also has tons of fiber in it, which is a good thing to keep in your diet when you’re PMSing, because constipation can make cramps a whole lot worse.

The Top Foods To Help With Cramps

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Most people with menstrual cycles experience cramps at some point in their lives (up to 70 percent according to the research). Sometimes, severe cramps are an indication that something medical is going on, but for a lot of us, cramps are just part of our cycle.

So, if you don’t want to take painkillers (or painkillers don’t work for you), what can you do to mitigate menstrual cramps? Here are the main ones to incorporate into your diet. (And if you want to learn even more, fellow Bustle writer Meghan Bassett has also done this research for you.)

Dark Chocolate

Lots of people crave chocolate when they’re PMSing (guilty as charged), but the research actually shows that this is your body telling you what it needs to feel better! That’s right, chocolate is a natural muscle relaxant. Chocolate has lots of tryptophan, which you probably know is the reason you always want to nap after Thanksgiving — but what you might not have known is that chocolate also has an amino acid that helps your body make serotonin. Serotonin makes you feel happy and also relaxes your body. It also stimulates endorphins, which is our body’s home-grown painkiller. So eating chocolate will not only make you happy (which can be critical if you’re dealing with a low in your mood swings) but it can also relax those cramps.

Just make sure you get chocolate that is as dark as possible — if you choose milk chocolate, you’ll have to deal with a sugar crash later. And that’s not good for your mood!

Leafy Greens

Dairy can actually give you cramps. So how to get calcium with just the benefits and none of the negatives? Try some leafy greens! They are a great source of calcium. For instance, kale is a very calcium-rich plant, and dill has a lot of calcium in it as well. Spinach is a particularly good choice because it also has magnesium, which can lower your stress so your mood is less likely to go all over the place.

Bananas

You might have been told that eating a banana after you workout will help you with muscle cramps, because if you don’t have enough potassium, your muscles will cramp. Well, your uterus is a muscle, so it may not surprise you to learn that eating a banana when you’re dealing with menstrual cramps will help you calm those cramps down. Bananas are also helpful in dealing with bloating because their potassium and Vitamin B6 both help lower your water retention.

A Glass Of Red Wine

Yes it’s true, red wine can alleviate cramps! It does this by being a muscle relaxant. Red wine contains an antioxidant called resveratrol, which combines with the alcohol to relax your smooth muscles. However, a note of caution — drinking lots of alcohol can actually make your PMS symptoms worse. It lowers your blood sugar and can make your mood swings more intense. So just drink one glass.

Tea

Lots of herbal teas have been found to calm down cramps. Green tea has been found to soothe cramps, and chamomile has similarly good success in minimizing muscle spasms and also helping with mood swings. As much as possible, try to drink tea without caffeine, because caffeine can trigger anxiety and also helps your body retain water, which contributes to bloating.

Pineapple

Pineapple is a natural muscle relaxant and pain reliever. This is due to bromelain, an enzyme that is an anti-inflammatory, and can diminish pain associated with the inflammation that happens when your uterus is freaking the f**k out. Bromelain also helps your body digest proteins, which can help with bloating. Also, pineapple is chock-full of potassium, which is key in combating bloat.

Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are packed with zinc, which has been found to help painful period cramps. Sunflower seeds are also helpful in combatting cramping, due to their Vitamin E. Sesame seeds are full of calcium, and therefore can help cramps. Flaxseed contains omega-3s, which can help prevent cramps, and sacha inchi seeds, which are found in the Amazon, are also full of omega-3s.

The Top Foods To Help With Bloating

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I’ve actually written a whole piece on how to deal with period-related bloating (and why it happens in the first place), but here are the big ones.

Water

This is counterintuitive but so so important. Drink water! If you don’t have enough water in your system, your body panics and holds onto the water in your system, instead of letting flow through like normal. If you are someone who gets bloated, try drinking two to three litres of water a day when you’re getting close to your period. Drinking water can also help minimize cramps.

Tomatoes

We’ve already gone over bananas, but did you know that tomatoes also have high potassium? They also have a lot of water in them, which makes them a great source of two critical tools against bloat.

Celery

Celery is basically water in vegetable shape. If drinking water is annoying or you just don’t like it, or you are feeling munchy, munch on some celery! You’ll be getting your body hydrated (as opposed to retaining fluid like the apocalypse is coming), while also having a snack.

Avocado

Avocado is another fruit (yep it’s a fruit, it has a seed, look it up) with very high potassium, making it a great thing to eat when you feel bloated. Avocado also contains healthy fat, which can actually help lower the hormones that cause bloating. Finally, there are some claims that eating avocados can help you with cramps.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes aren’t just a great source of carbs, they also have a ton of potassium! So they will not only help your mood, they will also combat your bloating.

Try some of these foods out next time you’re PMSing, and remember: sometimes, food really is the best medicine. Eat these, and you’ll be well on your way to managing PMS without pills.

6 drinks to help period cramps

What should you drink to help period cramps?

Your diet plays an important role in reducing period cramps; not only what you eat, but what you drink too. As a nutritionist, as well as A.Vogel’s Women’s Health advisor, there are 6 drinks I always recommend which can help to ease period cramps:

  • Water
  • Healthy caffeine substitutes
  • Green smoothies
  • Ginger tea
  • Chamomile tea
  • Peppermint tea.

There are also a few drinks which can make period cramps worse and which I recommend steering clear of, including sugary drinks, coffee, milk and alcohol.

Now, let’s go into a little more detail about how the 6 great drinks above can help your period cramps.

1. Water

Keeping yourself hydrated is always essential but it becomes even more important during your period. That’s because water helps to avoid bloating, which is not only uncomfortable, but can often be accompanied by pain as well. One way to help uncomfortable period cramps and bloating is to up your water intake.

During your period, warm water is better than refrigerated water because your body can use it immediately without having to heat it up. This means you get the benefits of it straight away rather than having to wait a while.

However, if you want to drink something a little more exciting during your period then you could try our recipe for detox water. With a mixture of fruit and vegetables, this drink is both refreshing and tasty!

Extra advice: Cravings, which can be problematic during your period, can also be a sign of thirst so this problem may be reduced if you keep yourself hydrated. You should try to drink at least 1.5-2 litres of water every day.

My Top Tip:

Balance Mineral Drink contains a sensible dose of magnesium, which can reduce period cramps, as well as other important nutrients like vitamin D and calcium. Just mix it with a glass of water for a refreshing, strawberry flavoured drink!

“Tastes lovely. Fantastic at night when you fancy a coffee.”

Read what other people are saying about Balance Mineral Drink.

2. Healthy coffee substitutes

Caffeine can make your period cramps even worse so it’s best to avoid as much as possible during your period. However, if you’d still like to enjoy a hot drink with your breakfast or as an afternoon pick-me-up, you could turn to a herbal tea or try a coffee substitute such as Bambu.

This is made from a mix of organic chicory, Turkish figs, malted barley, wheat and Greek acorns which makes it completely natural. Chicory is known to have a positive impact on the digestive processes so, if you are feeling a little queasy as a result of your period, this coffee substitute can have a doubly useful effect.

It’s important to bear in mind that decaf coffee also contains caffeine, so you’re not completely safe even if you opt for your favourite beverage in a decaf form!

Extra advice: Balance Mineral Drink is another great alternative to coffee – its impressive vitamin and mineral content is great natural way to boost your energy!

3. Green smoothies

A good, fresh smoothie can also help to ease period pain, especially if it’s full of leafy green veggies! This kiwi and ginger green smoothie, for example, provides vitamins and minerals that your body may be lacking at this time of the month. Amongst the list of ingredients are almond milk and spinach which are good sources of magnesium and iron.

Many women struggle with fatigue and low energy during their period, and these can be made worse by low iron levels so, at this time, it can prove helpful to up your intake of this valuable mineral. Magnesium, on the other hand, has a relaxing effect on muscles which helps to ease cramps. Plus, it can also impact upon mood, working to reduce anxiety and encourage better sleep!

Or, why not try our super fruit and veg green smoothie? You can choose a range of flavours to add to your smoothie – why not include some flaxseeds for some bloat-busting fibre and anti-inflammatory omega-3? Or, throw in some pineapple for a healthy dose of bromelain, another anti-inflammatory that can help with your period pains. Celery also makes a great addition to any smoothie, as its impressive potassium content can help to manage bloating.

Extra advice: If these don’t take your fancy, you can find a whole variety of smoothie recipes on our food hub!

4. Ginger tea

Ginger is a great ingredient that can do wonders during your period! It has anti-inflammatory properties so it can help with painful cramps. In fact, research has found that ginger was just as effective as ibuprofen when it came to relieving menstrual pain.1 Also, if your period is accompanied by nausea, sickness and stomach upset, ginger can help to relieve you of these issues.

You can increase your intake of ginger by putting it in soups or smoothies, though ginger tea is another tasty option. You can buy good quality ginger tea from most health food stores. So, why not swap your usual brew for one flavoured with ginger and see if that helps your cramps?

Extra advice: Make your own ginger tea by steeping some fresh ginger in hot water, adding in a drizzle of honey or a slice of lemon for some extra flavour.

5. Chamomile tea

Research has found that compounds within chamomile tea may prove beneficial for menstrual cramps.2 This is because these compounds (hippurate and glycine) can help to relieve muscle spasms, as well as working to relax the uterus. Like ginger, chamomile also has anti-inflammatory properties which may help to reduce cramp further.

I think it’s also important to note that these caffeine-free drinks are very calming so, if you find that your mood is unpredictable during your period, these could be some great options for you.

Extra advice: Our friends over at Jan de Vries have a wide range of refreshing herbal teas including this Organic Chamomile Tea from Heath and Heather.

6. Peppermint tea

This is yet another tea which is thought to ease period cramps as well as settle digestive issues. One particular study found that peppermint oil relaxes the stomach muscles and reduced both the duration and severity of menstrual cramps for many of the young women who participated. Researchers concluded that this was due to the anti-spasmodic properties of its menthol content.3

Tea can be made from the peppermint leaves, which is where oils like menthol can be found and which give this tea its refreshing, minty flavour. So, this makes it a good option to try if you are suffering from nasty period cramps.

Extra advice: Green tea and raspberry leaf tea can be great for reducing period cramps too, thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties!

What drinks should you avoid on your period?

As I’ve discussed in previous blogs, there are a number of foods you should attempt to avoid during your period but, equally, there a few drinks you should steer clear of too.

Sugary drinks

High sugar content in the likes of fizzy juice and energy drinks can cause energy levels to rise rapidly and then crash, which leaves you even more lethargic than when you started. As fatigue is often an issue during your period, it’s advisable to steer clear of sugary drinks in case the problem is worsened.

Another reason to forego the fizzy juice is the unnecessary bloating that can come along as a result of the carbonation. This is not something you’ll want to deal with if on top of difficult period cramps.

Plus, although good quality dark chocolate contains antioxidants and could potentially help with your period symptoms, hot chocolate drinks should also be avoided. These are often made using a cheaper quality of chocolate and they’re usually packed with sugar!

Extra advice: even fruit juices from concentrate can contain lots of sugar so, instead, opt for squash or fresh fruit juice not from concentrate.

Caffeine

This is a big no-no during your period, hence my recommendation for herbal teas and coffee substitutes at this time. As I discussed in my blog, ‘5 reasons to avoid caffeine during your period’, caffeine can make you feel jittery and anxious, plus it activates the sympathetic nervous system which can leave you feeling anxious and stressed. It also acts as a stimulant which means it can cause hormones to fluctuate, which isn’t exactly ideal if your period means your mood is all over the place anyway.

What’s more, caffeine can interrupt blood glucose levels which can contribute to food cravings which, again, are common during your period.

Extra advice: energy drinks, fizzy juice and tea all contain caffeine.

Milk

Milk contains saturated fats which have the potential to increase inflammation and irritation which is, in turn, likely to worsen period pain. Plus, dairy also contains a chemical called prostaglandin which can contribute to cramping. Therefore, unfortunately, this is another drink that shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts whilst you are on your period.

Other drinks containing milk, such as hot chocolate and teas, should also be avoided for these reasons.

Extra advice: yogurts, milkshakes, cheese, ice cream and butter all have the potential to cause problems too.

Alcohol

Some women find it helpful to cut back on their alcohol consumption during their period as it can dehydrate you. This, in turn, can make period symptoms like cravings and fatigue more severe.

Extra advice: you can find more information on alcohol and periods in my blog ‘Boozy periods: what are the effects?’.

What else can help your period cramps?

So, in this blog we’ve covered 6 great drinks for period cramps as well as some foods which are not so great when it comes to your period. But, what else can you do to help with period cramps?

  • Exercise! Although it might not be top of mind during your period when you’re not feeling your best, gentle exercise can help to release endorphins and ease the muscles. Check out my blog for some simple exercises to do on your period.
  • Up your nutrient intake. Vitamin D can help to reduce your period pain as it reduces your levels of prostaglandins, an inflammatory chemical involved in shedding the uterine lining and contributing to period cramps. Omega-3 can also help here as it is a natural anti-inflammatory. Read my blog for more information on vitamins and minerals to help your period.
  • Take a hot bath or use a heat pad. This can help to soothe painful period cramps plus it can help if you suffer from back pain during your period.
  • Have an aromatherapy massage. A large review of studies on the use of essential oils found that inhalation, oral use and massage with essential oils reduced period pain more than placebo.4 Massage can also help to increase blood flow!
  • Try acupuncture. It is believed that placing pressure on specific trigger points on the body can relieve pain. One review concluded that acupuncture was more effective than painkillers at reducing period pain.5
  • Try cinnamon. Studies have found that cinnamon could be beneficial for soothing painful period cramps. You can try adding it to some morning oats for breakfast or make a tasty curry for dinner. Find out more in my blog here.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Did you know that, if you’re sleep-deprived, you are more likely to be sensitive to pain? What’s more, if you suffer from painful period cramps, you can find it difficult to sleep well at night. I advise how to sleep well during your period in this blog.
  • Visit your doctor. If period cramps and other symptoms trouble you every month, you should talk to your doctor to find out if there is anything they can offer you for your pain. Painkillers or certain methods of contraception, such as the pill, can be prescribed to manage more serious issues that may be contributing to your period cramps.

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30545531

2 https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf0403282

3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4979258/

4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30423839

5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30497312

Top things to know:

  • Having a few drinks over the holidays (or in moderation any other time) probably won’t affect your cycle
  • People may drink more before their period
  • People who chronically consume excessive amounts of alcohol can develop cycle irregularities or amenorrhea

Any person at the office holiday party can attest: alcohol can definitely affect your body, both in the moment, and potentially the next morning. From reduced inhibitions, to distortions of reality, to a hangover that makes you regret every choice you’ve made in the last 24 hours—alcohol can have an impact on your mind and body, including your menstrual cycle. In moderation, alcohol probably won’t affect your menstrual cycle, but there is a lot of conflicting research. Let’s dive into it:

Will having a few drinks throw off my cycle?

Research (as usual) is conflicting here and there is no clear answer. Some studies note relationships between alcohol consumption and cycle irregularities, but generally only when alcohol is consumed chronically at high doses (1–3). When looking at moderate drinking, there may be no measurable change in menstrual cycle function (4). In fact, in one study, people who abstained from alcohol had more cycle irregularities (5).

So, if you drink alcohol in moderation over this holiday season it probably won’t throw your menstrual cycle out of order.

Women who consume chronic amounts of alcohol, however, may experience many different types of menstrual disorders, including amenorrhea (not getting a period for 3 months or more), irregular cycle lengths, and anovulation (ovulation does not happen within the menstrual cycle)(1–3,5).

Your cycle may influence how much alcohol you drink

There is some evidence suggesting alcohol consumed in your luteal phase (the second half of your menstrual cycle) may have more of an effect on your mood, than during the follicular phase, by both increasing feelings of depression and anxiety, while at the same time increasing feelings of enjoyment from the effects of alcohol (6). Researchers suspect that people who experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome may tend to drink more alcohol premenstrually (6,7). However, other studies note no change at all (7,8). More research is needed.

Alcohol and hormones

Drinking alcohol affects the body’s hormone levels. After drinking, multiple studies have measured increases in estrogen levels, and sometimes increases in testosterone and luteinizing hormone (LH) (4,5,9,10). One particularly rigorous study examined how drinking affects hormone levels during different phases of the menstrual cycle (10). Multiple hormonal differences were measured, such as increases in androgen levels during the follicular phase, and increases in estrogen levels around ovulation, which persisted throughout the second half of the cycle (10). This effect has been shown to be stronger after binge drinking (4). However, the hormonal effects of moderate drinking did not to lead to changes in menstrual cycle function (4,10).

Alcoholic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis are associated with binge drinking, chronic heavy alcohol consumption, and female biology—could this be due to our hormones (11,12)? New preliminary research on mice suggests that when higher levels of estrogen are present, there is more activity in the reward centre of the brain, which may make alcohol feel more rewarding (13).

There is also some evidence to suggest that drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol may be associated with delayed menopause, but more research is needed here too (9,14,15).

Can alcohol affect your fertility?

A recent study suggests that there could be a weak association between low to moderate alcohol drinking and decreases in fertility (16). Other researchers have linked higher alcohol consumption to infertility, and some found no connection between alcohol and fertility at all (3,5). One reason for how alcohol could impact fertility is through increased levels of estrogen, which could inhibit follicular development and ovulation—but this is still only a theory (17).

Although there are many different studies researching the effects of alcohol, it’s difficult to draw hard conclusions on how or if alcohol affects your cycle. A couple of drinks this holiday season likely won’t cause any menstrual irregularities. But, be conscious if you’re in your luteal phase, as you may drink more than usual.

Download Clue to track when you drink alcohol and how it relates to your cycle.

11 Foods & Drinks To Avoid When You’re On Your Period In Order To Feel Your Best

Let’s be real; having your period can be the worst. It can make wearing white pants scary, or like you want to cry at everything in sight. While you’re probably aware there are certain foods to avoid during your period, you might not be listening to that advice because, well, sometimes the foods with the least nutrients just taste good — especially during your period. (And that’s OK!)

But if you want those awful cramps and uncomfortable bloating to go away, eating foods that are nutrient-dense is your best option. “Our bodies are losing a lot of blood . Depending on flow and duration, this could be 30 to 80 mL of blood loss. Your body must replenish this blood to attempt to keep you in balance,” director of Clinical Health Psychology and founder of Health Psychology & Wellness Center at Behavioral Associates, Dr. Michele Barton, PhD, says in an interview with Bustle over email. “That is achieved through increased requirements of certain nutrients, and energy normally used in other ways. In addition, we are dealing with hormones going up and down, which is off-putting to us psychologically and physically.”

Yes, those cupcakes and pizza pies do sound amazing, but during this time, your body needs the right nutrients so you don’t feel even worse. Need more proof about what I’m talking about? Here are 11 things you shouldn’t have during your period.

1. Processed Foods That Contain Unknown Ingredients

As much as it pains me to say this, those cookies or frozen pizzas you love so much might only make your period feel worse. “Our bodies are already sensitive during this time. Introducing unknown substances into your digestive system is rarely a good idea, but certainly more discouraged during menstruation. Our bodies are already working overtime, it’s best not to add to this work when avoidable,” says Barton.

2. Foods That Cause Bloating

“You have hormones acting to provide that service already. Mainly avoid sodas or other carbonated beverages, and foods with high salt content. Some of the hormones responsible for menstruation cause water retention, and therefore bloating. Eating foods that usually cause a bloated or gassy feelings will amplify these effects on your body and further increase bloating and discomfort,” Barton says. These foods include frozen dinners, fast food, canned soups, and bacon.

3. Large Meals

“The signals that tell your brain your stomach is full are known to run on a slight delay,” Barton says. “This means for most people, that they continue to eat after they are actually full. Under ‘normal’ circumstances this causes added stomach and abdominal expansion putting pressure on surrounding organs. This can create discomfort, amongst other issues. While you have your period, this can contribute to increased cramping, in addition to other unpleasant digestive issues,” Barton says. Before you get that second course, try to wait about 20 minutes to see if you’re still hungry. Remember to try to eat slower than you might typically, in order to eat as much as you’re hungry for.

4. Foods High In Fat

While red meat is a good source of iron, consuming fatty meats can actually make you feel worse during your period because it can lead to cramping, bloating, and acne. According to Livestrong, foods with high fat can influence your hormones. Avoid foods made with with fatty cuts of beef, whole-milk dairy products, and burgers.

5. Fried Foods

Even though you may be craving fried food during your period, these foods can lead to bloating and stomach cramps as your body tries to process them.

6. Dairy Products

According to HuffPost, eating dairy can actually trigger menstrual cramps because they usually contain arachidonic acids, which are cramp-inducing. Try swapping for oat, almond, or soy milk instead.

7. Refined Grains

According to Healthline, refined grains can contribute to bloating, while whole grains will keep your digestive track regular. While white rice, white flour, and white bread taste delicious, these types of foods don’t have that much nutrients left after the grain has been processed.

8. Avoid High Carbohydrate Meals

Meals that are high in carbohydrates — which include fruits and vegetables, by the way — are important because of the fiber they contain and energy produced when carbohydrates break down into sugars, but they may not be as filling as a meal with a higher ratio of protein, which will provide longer-lasting energy. That can leave you feeling even more tired during your period. Add more vegetables and fruit like oranges to your diet to help lessen your PMS symptoms.

9. Avoid Waiting Until You’re Starving To Eat

If you wait till your starving to eat, you’re going to feel fuller faster, which can lead you feeling even more uncomfortable. Plus, you’re depriving your body from only getting nutrients to certain parts of the day. “If you eat smaller meals more frequently and of high nutritional quality during menstruation, you will stay satiated and reduce the intensity of cramping, while satisfying these feelings of hunger by giving your body what it is so desperately seeking,” Barton says.

10. Caffeinated Drinks

Tristan Fewings/Getty Images News/Getty Images

According to period tracking app Clue, caffeinated beverages that are consumed are linked to more intense PMS. While you may feel tired and irritable during this time, drinking caffeinated drinks can increase blood pressure and heart rate and it can lead to anxiety and tension which can make you feel more uncomfortable.

11. Alcohol

While alcohol can tastes good in moderation, the only thing worse than having cramps on your period is having cramps and a hangover. Plus, alcohol dehydrates you, which can lead to stomach troubles. Try to drink non-alcoholic or low-alcohol beverages instead.

It can be hard enough dealing with getting a period once a month. Instead of allowing your menstrual cycle dictate how your day is going to go, make sure you’re trying to have a well-balanced diet during that week so you can manage your bloating and cramps that much better.

This post was originally published on May 5, 2016. It was updated on August 8, 2019.

How women’s menstrual cycles are linked to alcohol, according to recovering alcoholic

Every woman knows that their bodies and minds behave differently when they’re menstruating.

However, one aspect that is seldom touched on is how our menstrual cycles affect our alcohol consumption – and it’s something we should all be aware of, claims one recovering alcoholic.

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Speaking to Refinery29, author Jenny Valentish explains how realising the way her body responded to alcohol was linked to her menstrual cycle helped her on her path to recovery.

The Slough-born writer shares her story in her book, Woman of Substances, which explains how she drank up until her early 40s and subsequently uncovered a series of harrowing truths about the way alcohol can affect women.

During her research for the book, she found that the bulk of research concerning alcoholism ws conducted exclusively on males and ignored possible effects that female hormones might have on women drinkers.

“Drinking and taking drugs during your menstrual cycle can have a bigger effect on you than you might have been aware,“ she said.

“The party mode, horny week is ovulation week, not period week. And you are more sensitised to the effects of drugs and alcohol.”

She explains this is why alcohol can affect women more potently at that time of the month and that recognising this is crucial for those who may be trying to cut down their intake.

Valentish’s research also revealed that female recovering alcoholics are more likely to relapse due to the sporadic ways in which our hormones can affect the way our bodies crave and absorb alcohol.

She believes that the paucity in research into how drinking affects women must be addressed if we’re ever to truly help those who might be battling addiction.

“Research tends to be a really patriarchal field, and the people at the top are usually men. They see drinking as a male issue, but it’s not at all,“ she added.

Her book also references the gendered marketing of alcopops, which she claims are targeted towards teenage girls who will get drunker faster than their male peers due to certain enzymes in their stomachs enabling them to absorb alcohol quicker.

According to Drinkaware.co.uk, a woman’s blood alcohol level will almost always be higher than a man’s even if they drink the same amount.

This is because women are typically smaller in build and have a higher proportion of body fat than men, meaning the alcohol is more concentrated in their bodies as there is less body water to hold it.

Woman of Substances is available in the UK now.

If you’re lucky enough to not spend 3-5 days a month in your finest bathleisure, riding out your mood swings and bloating on the couch with JVN and friends—well, I want your life. But even if your period is light on symptoms and your social life remains business as usual, you may have noticed one curious side effect of menstrual-phase mingling: getting sloshed after way fewer cocktails than usual.

After several members of team Well+Good casually mentioned that they feel like this happens to them, I reached out to “Period Girl” Nicole Jardim to find out if it’s a common thing. While it hasn’t been rigorously researched, the holistic health coach says that several of her clients have, in fact, noticed that their alcohol tolerance shifts along with their hormones. “I’ve heard from a number of women that they get drunker in the late luteal phase and on their periods than at other times of the month when consuming the same amount of alcohol,” she tells me. “On the flip side, I also have heard from women—less of them, however—that they handle alcohol better around period time. So it’s conflicting, but I’d say more women are affected adversely by alcohol during their periods.”

“In the second half of our cycle, we may feel drunker faster because our blood sugar is more unstable,” —Nicole Jardim, The Period Girl

So why do so many of us become cheaper dates during that time of the month? Jardim’s quick to point out that there isn’t much scientific data around the phenomenon, and the studies that have been done are inconclusive or poorly designed. Yet she does have a theory of her own. “Evidence suggests that insulin sensitivity decreases in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle,” she says. “This means that our bodies are more prone to blood sugar and insulin imbalances in the second half of our cycle, and the symptoms that accompany those issues. These include PMS cravings, mood swings, brain fog, and bouts of fatigue.”

Obviously, most women can identify with at least one of these premenstrual buzzkills—and alcohol intolerance may be wrapped up in the same not-so-welcome package. “In the second half of our cycle, we may feel drunker faster because our blood sugar is more unstable,” Jardim explains. “Alcohol consumption raises our blood sugar faster, and we may have that lightheaded, drunk, sugar-high feeling quicker than we would in the follicular phase.”

Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill to boost your endurance at the bar. So if you find yourself getting uncomfortably tipsy after a few sips of turmeric-pineapple mezcal, Jardim says there’s really only one thing to do. “I’d strongly suggest not drinking during this time of your cycle. Ultimately, you’re going to exacerbate blood sugar imbalances that will then further disrupt hormones,” she says. “However, if you do drink, stay away from fruity cocktails that are going to spike your blood sugar more than, say, a tequila on the rocks or a glass of organic red wine. Consider kombucha or go non-alcoholic with a Spindrift or La Croix.” Just think of it this way—your period-related headaches will be less of a drag if booze isn’t involved, right?

Yes, you can say “no way” to rosé and still be social—here’s how one Well+Good writer navigates the sober life (and has a blast while doing it). Your flirting game doesn’t have to suffer, either.

7 foods and drinks that can make your period worse

  • Oftentimes periods come with a lot of symptoms including fatigue, bloating, and cramps.
  • Consuming certain foods and drinks can make period symptoms worse.
  • Though salty snacks, chocolate, and plenty of caffeine might be all you’re craving, they could be causing you to feel more bloated and experience more cramps.
  • Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.

Consuming certain foods and drinks just before or during your period could actually be making your symptoms, like cramps and bloating, more difficult to deal with.

Although reducing your consumption of certain foods and drinks might help your period to be more manageable, if your symptoms are extremely painful or difficult to handle, you may want to talk to your doctor.

From salty snacks to caffeinated drinks, here are some foods and beverages that could potentially be making your period worse.

Caffeinated beverages might make your cramps worse

“Cut back on . If you drink three cups of coffee a day, just have one,” Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen, an endocrinologist and founder of NY Endocrinology in New York City, told INSIDER.

She said you want to try to avoid consuming a lot of caffeine just before and during your period because it can increase how many cramps you experience and cause vasoconstriction (the narrowing of blood vessels), which “can further worsen cramps during your period.”

Refined carbohydrates and refined sugars can impact your mood and cause bloating

“When insulin production and responses are not well regulated, it is harder for your body to produce and balance other hormones as well,” Cathy Posey, a registered dietitian, told INSIDER. “Refined sugars also cause your body to retain sodium and water, which increases bloating.”

In addition, loading up on refined carbohydrates and sugar can cause you to experience mood swings.

“It’s going to raise your sugar and then it’s going to drop immediately, so there’s going to be those spikes and drops worsen mood during your period,” Dr. Salas-Whalen explained.

Dairy, sweetened yogurts, and premade smoothies may not be doing you any favors

Sugary yogurts might cause you to experience cramps. Caroline Praderio/INSIDER

Dr. Salas-Whalen noted that consuming a lot of dairy during your period isn’t the best idea because, according to Healthfully, dairy can cause cramping.

Additionally, Posey said that many premade, dairy-based yogurts and smoothies can be artificially sweetened, meaning you could also experience the side effects that come with consuming sugar during your period, such as mood swings and bloating.

Read More: 11 foods to eat when you have period cramps

Eating fatty foods may cause you to experience more cramps

” increase the amount of prostaglandins and prostaglandins is what makes uterus contract, so the higher levels you have, the more constriction of your uterus you’re going to have,” Dr. Salas-Whalen said.

Some types of chocolate can potentially make your symptoms worse

Though chocolate cravings are pretty common, the sweet snack not be the best thing when it comes to managing period symptoms.

“Chocolate, also, can elevate your prostaglandins,” Dr. Salas-Whalen said, explaining that it means you may experience more period-related cramping when you eat it.

She said dark varieties of chocolate have “less of that effect,” so it might be the better choice when it comes to satisfying your cravings for sweets.

Food additives might cause your cramps to be more intense

“Foods that cause inflammation in the body also increase cramping and abdominal pain during your period,” Posey told INSIDER. “Foods known to increase inflammation include refined sugars and grains, heat-refined oils, and food additives.”

Sticking closer to whole foods, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables might help you to avoid potentially worsening some of your period-related symptoms.

Salty foods can make bloating worse

Salty foods can cause you to retain water. iStock

Dr. Salas-Whalen said salty foods should be avoided during your period because they can make the bloating and water retention in your body even worse. She said if you want to avoid worsening your symptoms, you may want to cut back on foods that are high in sodium about a week or two before your period is supposed to start.

  • Traveling can affect your period. Here’s how.
  • 8 myths about having sex while on your period that you need to stop believing
  • 12 reasons your period could be late that have nothing to do with being pregnant
  • 5 signs your period might not be ‘normal’

Period pain and alcohol may be linked

The unpleasant symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may be linked to alcohol consumption, according to a new analysis.

The authors of the review, from Spain’s University of Santiago de Compostela, say the evidence gathered cannot unambiguously determine whether PMS is made worse by alcohol, or whether some women who experience the syndrome use alcohol to manage the symptoms.

However, they note that a higher prevalence of reported PMS symptoms among women who drink heavily, “which favours a causal explanation of the relation between alcohol intake and PMS”.

If further study supports the contention, they add, then encouraging women to lay off the booze might make the secondary effects of the menstrual cycle more bearable. Recommended

To conduct their analysis, the researchers, led by María del Mar Fernández, combed medical databases looking for research that recorded PMS incidence, duration and symptom strength as well as lifestyle behaviours, including alcohol intake. They identified 19 suitable studies involving 47,000 participants.

Running the numbers, they discovered that, over all, 11% cases of PMS were linked to alcohol drinking.

In general, drinking was associated with a 45% increased risk of PMS, but the chances of experiencing it rose to 79% for women classified as heavy drinkers.

The nature and structure of the studies included in the analysis meant that a definite causal relationship between PMS and drinking could not be established.

However, the researchers suggest that the consistency of the results points in that direction.

This, they say, is significant, in light of the fact that “the worldwide prevalence of alcohol drinking among women is not negligible.”

Indeed, del Mar Fernández and her colleagues report that around the world about 30% of women drink alcohol, with about 6% drinking heavily. In the US and Europe about 60% of women drink, with the heavy-usage cohort rising to 12.5%.

“Based on the figures above and on our results, we estimate that 11% of the PMS cases may be associated to alcohol intake worldwide and 21% in Europe,” write the researchers.

“Furthermore, heavy drinking may be associated with 4% of the PMS cases in the world and over 9% in Europe.”

They suggest a “plausible” pathway in which alcohol may influence PMS symptoms is by altering levels of sex steroid hormones.

The research is published in the journal BMJ Open.

In the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), each food has medicinal qualities and energetics. This simply means that there are reasons it would help some people and harm others. Makes sense, right? One of my goals as an acupuncturist and practitioner of TCM is to help people begin to think of their food medicinally. For example, if you have a headache or an upset stomach you don’t necessarily need to go into your medicine cabinet. There are foods and herbal teas which can solve the problem just as well. One example that not everyone would think of is red wine! This discussion of red wine will hopefully help you decide when it might be a good idea to have a glass or two, and when you might want to pass.

Just to be clear up front, all the benefits I’m describing only happen with a glass or two of red wine, and only when needed! More frequent consumption will definitely create more problems than you started with.

Alcohol increases circulation, warms the body and dries fluids in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Red wine is thought to be more warming than white. None of this is really surprising- we know it’s a bit dehydrating, it makes you feel warmer and more lively, right? But how can we apply this knowledge to our health? Start to think about conditions in which there is too much cold and stagnant blood or energy in your body. The first thing that comes to mind is arthritis pain- especially for people who have increased pain in cold weather or damp weather. Traumatic injuries can also benefit from red wine- the wine helps increase circulation and prevents scar tissue formation, but circulation is not so strongly increased as to increase bleeding. One example of pain which generally does NOT benefit from red wine is headaches. This is because in TCM alcohol causes the qi to rush upwards, which can make your headache worse.

Another reason you might drink red wine is for menstrual cramps. Since the goal is for a woman to fully shed the uterine lining with minimal cramping and clotting (both are signs of blood stagnation), one glass of red wine daily while cramps persist can be beneficial. The same goes for the postpartum period. While there is bleeding and the body is healing, the goal is to gently facilitate circulation but not so much that it increases the bleeding. Small (less than a glass) servings of red wine can aid in the postpartum recovery process. Be sure to consult with your pediatrician or lactation consultant for tips on how to safely combine alcohol and breastfeeding- it IS possible!

In TCM, excessive consumption of alcohol is quite damaging- no surprise there. It increases dampness (weight gain and fluid retention) and increases heat (inflammation). Both dampness and heat accumulate and as a result damage the digestion, sleep, mood and can exacerbate skin issues such as acne and rosacea. It therefore makes sense that if you are a person who already has excess heat in your body (always feel hot, eat lots of spicy foods, red skin or eyes, sweat easily), you should probably avoid red wine. If you must have a glass of wine, choose a more cooling white wine instead.

Drinking alcohol during period may raise PMS risk. Here’s how to ease pain

If you’re a female, there are certain things you might be putting in your body during that time of the month that will cause your menstruation to spiral a bit out of control and even make symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) worse. And, unfortunately, one of those things is alcohol.

Women who are heavy drinkers are at increased risk of PMS, new research shows. “Together with other researchers, we believe that alcohol increases PMS risk by altering the level of hormones, such as gonadotropin, during the menstrual cycle,” Dr Bahi Takkouche, the study’s senior author, told Reuters Health by email.

The study, published in the journal BMJ Open, examined data from 19 studies and found that alcohol intake was associated with a ‘moderate’ increase in the risk of PMS. Up to 40% of women in the US have at least moderate PMS, while rates in global studies have ranged from 10-98%, Takkouche and colleagues noted.

Drinkers were 45% more likely to suffer symptoms than non-drinkers. This rose to 79% for heavy drinkers.

In the US, PMS affects between 20% and 40% of women, causing a range of physical and emotional symptoms including: mood swings, tender breasts, food craving, fatigue, irritability and depression, during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (it occurs after ovulation, when the ovaries release an egg and before the period starts).

Menstrual pain has often been compared to a heart attack and may be a sign of endometriosis. ()

A number of studies have shown an increased burden of PMS among drinkers, but it was not known whether this is due to alcohol itself or whether women were reaching for the bottle to mitigate symptoms.

Researchers from Spain, the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, conducted their analysis on all available research covering the topic of alcohol and PMS reported Mirror UK.

“These findings are important given that the worldwide prevalence of alcohol drinking among women is not negligible,’ the authors wrote. In Europe six in 10 women are drinkers, with 12.6% being classed as ‘heavy’ drinkers.

The authors estimated that in Europe, 21% of PMS cases may be associated to alcohol intake. Furthermore, heavy drinking may be associated with 4% of the PMS cases in the world and over 9% in Europe, they added.

“If this association is of causal nature, eliminating heavy drinking in women would then prevent one in every 12 cases of PMS in Europe,” the authors wrote.

Takkouche’s team is now investigating the role of tobacco smoking and psychological factors, including stress, in PMS.

Menstrual pain has often been compared to a heart attack and may be a sign of endometriosis. But there is not much that is known to offer relief from it, but some measures can help alleviate the pain to an extent. Here they are:

1. Drink tea (with low levels of caffeine).

2. Have lots of water.

3. Make ginger your BFF.

4. Heat relieves pain.

5. Say no to coffee.

6. Avoid fatty food, have bananas.

7. Have an orgasm.

8. Try these simple cinnamon-infused recipes.

Follow @htlifeandstyle for more.

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