Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Free menstrual products inside the Women’s Resource Center in Willard Straight Hall on Nov. 3, 2021.

October 16, 2022

Menstrual Munchies: How to Eat While on Your Period to Reduce Cramps

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Anyone who experiences periods, especially in college, knows the struggle of having cramps. Eating foods that decrease inflammation in the body reduces cramping, but it’s hard to know what to eat to help yourself, especially when you’re always on the go and subject to dining hall food. 

Obviously, I’m not here to tell you what you can and cannot eat. I am here, however, to recommend certain foods based on research and my own experiences. In a way, this piece is more for me to enforce healthy eating habits while on my period. Writing things down helps me. I’ve struggled with severe period cramps and periods that prevent me from doing daily activities, going to doctor after doctor. I don’t know what is wrong with me, and there isn’t anything that can fix it. However, your diet and how you treat your body impacts how your body handles pain and other obstacles. 

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “There is a connection between the food you eat and your body’s estrogen levels.” Certain foods like animal products and anything with added oils increase levels of estrogen in the body. When you consume more estrogen-based foods, your uterine lining can become abnormally thick. During the menstrual cycle, your uterine lining breaks down. Because of the thickness of the uterine lining, more prostaglandins are created, leading to severe pain. 

All in all, “Eating foods that decrease inflammation in the body will help to tame menstrual cramps.” These include fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, while avoiding animal products, refined grains, added vegetable oils, and fatty foods. The reason why a diet of fruits and veggies are effective relates to the high number of antioxidants found in plants.

Despite advice that seems simplistic, I’m aware that such is easier said than done, especially when it comes to college and dining hall food. Here’s my recommendations for places on campus where menstrual-cycle friendly food exists.

As much as I love Bear Necessities, I would not recommend it for food that soothes your body aches, as most of the food tends to be on the greasy side. Smoothies from Crossings Cafe in Toni Morrison Hall are some of the best. My favorite is the cocoa pinenna smoothie. All are made fresh to order, with an assortment of flavors. You can choose if you want the base to be yogurt or oat milk. Whipped cream on the top is free. It makes you feel special while filling your stomach. At any cafe, you can also get some nice, herbal hot teas. Those always help calm and soothe me.

Additionally, at any dining hall (North or West campus), you can make yourself a salad. My personal favorite is a Cobb salad, with hard-boiled egg as my protein. Blue cheese dressing is delicious, combined with some spinach, garbanzo beans, cheese, maybe some sunflower seeds, and you have a tasty and nutritious meal. If you’re more in the mood for a snack, you can always get some Cornell Dairy yogurt and top it with fruit and some sort of granola. If there’s no granola, feel free to use cereal or a crumbled oatmeal raisin cookie. Eating at Risley Dining could help; it’s an entirely gluten-free dining hall; such can help reduce inflammation.

If you’re near the agriculture quad, I would recommend the PB&J bagel sandwich with apple butter from Bus Stop Bagels. The flavors truly do melt on your tongue. Trillium has omelets in the morning that are absolutely scrumptious, just choose an option that doesn’t have meat. Mann Cafe has a lunch sandwich called Chickpea of the Sea. It’s a cold sandwich with chickpea and seasonings, and I was pleasantly surprised the first time I had it.

If you’re on central campus, I would definitely recommend the hearty sandwich with egg whites, feta and spinach for breakfast from Goldies. They also have a portabella mushroom melt that tastes like my mom’s portabella mushrooms — delectable and dreamy. Crossings in Toni Morrison also has one of these. Although Terrace is on the pricier side, they also have tasty smoothies that allow you to get all your essential nutrients in.

What I provided is not an exhaustive list of period-friendly foods, these are just some of my finds that I personally don’t think enough people know about. I’m not vegetarian or gluten-free, but sometimes eating a certain kind of diet can be beneficial. Experiencing menstrual cycles is an exhausting part of life for many individuals; little things like food can help. After all, you are what you eat; you are more than just a college student. You’re an individual who needs to be cared for and nourished.