Scientists have realised that inflammation plays a huge role in menstrual cycles and disorders. An anti-inflammatory diet may play a crucial role for women with heavy and/or painful periods, fibroids, endometriosis and recurrent miscarriages.
Menstrual cycles and inflammation
Each month, your womb prepares for pregnancy with changes triggered by the rise of the hormone progesterone, including the thickening of your womb lining (endometrium). If your egg isn’t fertilised that month, progesterone levels drop, and a number of inflammatory pathways are triggered to break up and shed the extra endometrium, and that’s when you have your period.
It has now been noted that inflammatory activity is excessively high in certain endometrial conditions, including endometriosis, fibroids, heavy and/or painful periods and recurrent miscarriage. For example, an inflammatory cytokine called TGF-β has been found to be 3 times higher in fibroid tissue than in the middle layer of the womb lining.1
These inflammatory pathways have been well studied, as they are the same ones used every day by your immune system. Fortunately scientists have also identified that certain foods moderate these pathways.
An anti-inflammatory diet for menstrual health
These foods include:
Turmeric: the curcuminoids and other substances in turmeric are very potent, but hard to absorb. You can massively boost its bioavailability by taking it with black pepper and a little oil, e.g. coconut oil
- Fish oil: the EPA fatty acid in fish oil is essential for anti-inflammatory processes, so eat regular fish from a good, clean source, or take a high quality supplement
- Spirulina: spirulan is one of many anti-inflammatory substances in this supergreen. Make sure you are getting a good quality powder.
- Seaweed: kelp or kombu in particular is a great source of anti-inflammatory fucoidan. Look for Icelandic kombu for a really clean source
- Pumpkin seeds and chickpeas: are a great source of zinc, an anti-inflammatory mineral that also has powerful antioxidant properties
There are also foods which may contribute to inflammation in some people, such as sugar, gluten-rich grains (especially wheat), milk and processed foods. Stress is also highly pro-inflammatory, so anything you can do to alleviate its effects, such as mindfulness meditation and breathing practices. will be helpful.
We’ll be sharing more on this and how you can bring more inflammatory foods into your diet at the Bloom Spring Equinox Retreat in March.
- Maybin, Jacqueline A., Hilary OD Critchley, and Henry N. Jabbour. “Inflammatory pathways in endometrial disorders.“Molecular and cellular endocrinology 1 (2011): 42-51.