Recent research indicates that diets high in meat, oil, sugar, salt, and coffee contribute to menstrual pain.
Few girls seek treatment even though menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea) is the most common reason why teenage girls miss school. An analysis of relevant studies indicates that diet may be a key contributor, particularly diets high in meat, oil, sugar, salt, and coffee, which have all been linked to inflammation. The findings were recently presented at the 2022 Annual Meeting of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Ninety percent of adolescent girls report having menstruation pain. Most people manage their pain with over-the-counter medicines, but with limited positive results. Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in processed foods, oil, and sugar have been shown to lower inflammation, a key contributor to menstrual pain.
This study sought to investigate the influence of diet on menstrual pain and discover which foods contribute to it and which might alleviate it.
In general terms, these studies found that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids reduce it. The muscles in the uterus contract because of prostaglandins, which are active in inflammatory responses. When measuring the Dietary Inflammatory Index, it was found that those on a vegan diet (that excluded animal fat) had the lowest rates of inflammation.
“Researching the effects of diet on menstrual pain started as a search to remedy the pain I personally experienced; I wanted to understand the science behind the association. Learning about different foods that increase and decrease inflammation, which subsequently increases or reduces menstrual pain, revealed that diet is one of the many contributors to health outcomes that is often overlooked. I am hopeful that this research can help those who menstruate reduce the pain they experience and shed light on the importance of holistic treatment options,” says Serah Sannoh, lead author of the poster presentation from Rutgers University.
“Since menstrual pain is a leading cause of school absenteeism for adolescent girls, it’s important to explore options that can minimize the pain. Something like diet modification could be a relatively simple solution that could provide substantial relief for them,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.