The menstrual cycle is a natural process that occurs in women of reproductive age. It is controlled by a complex interplay of hormones and is influenced by various factors, including nutrition. A healthy menstrual cycle is an important indicator of reproductive health, and irregular menstrual cycles can have negative consequences on a woman's health. In this article, we will explore the link between nutrition and menstrual cycle regularity.
Macronutrients and Menstrual Cycle Regularity
1.Carbohydrates play a crucial role in maintaining regular menstrual cycles. The ovaries require glucose to produce estrogen, which is essential for the regulation of the menstrual cycle. Studies have shown that low-carbohydrate diets can disrupt menstrual cycles, leading to irregular periods (1). Therefore, it is important to include healthy carbohydrates in the diet, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
2.Protein is essential for the growth and repair of tissues in the body, including the reproductive system. A diet low in protein can result in low levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and estrogen, leading to irregular menstrual cycles (2). On the other hand, a high protein diet can lead to an increase in the levels of testosterone, which can also cause menstrual cycle irregularities (3). Therefore, it is important to consume a balanced diet that includes healthy sources of protein, such as lean meats, fish, beans, and lentils.
3. Fat is an important component of the diet and is necessary for the production of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. However, consuming an excessive amount of unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, can lead to an increase in insulin resistance, which can disrupt the menstrual cycle (4). Therefore, it is important to consume healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
Micronutrients and Menstrual Cycle Regularity
1.Iron is essential for the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which can cause irregular menstrual cycles and heavy bleeding (5). Therefore, it is important to consume iron-rich foods such as lean meats, beans, spinach, and fortified cereals.
2. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium and plays a role in the regulation of the menstrual cycle. Studies have shown that women with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to experience irregular menstrual cycles (6). Therefore, it is important to consume vitamin D-rich foods such as fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified dairy products, or to spend time in the sun to allow the body to produce vitamin D naturally.
3. B Vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, are essential for the production of energy and the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Studies have shown that B vitamin deficiencies can lead to irregular menstrual cycles (7). Therefore, it is important to consume foods rich in B vitamins, such as whole grains, leafy greens, and fortified cereals.
Lifestyle Factors and Menstrual Cycle Regularity
In addition to nutrition, other lifestyle factors can also affect menstrual cycle regularity.
1.Regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress, both of which can positively impact the menstrual cycle. However, excessive exercise can lead to menstrual cycle irregularities and even amenorrhea (8). Therefore, it is important to engage in moderate exercise and to listen to the body's signals.
2. Stress can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones involved in the menstrual cycle, leading to irregularities or even the absence of periods. Chronic stress can lead to an increase in cortisol, a hormone that can interfere with the production of estrogen and progesterone (9). Therefore, it is important to manage stress through activities such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises.
Here are some points on the importance of menstrual hygiene:
- Menstrual hygiene is essential to maintain the cleanliness and health of the female reproductive system.
- Proper menstrual hygiene can prevent infections, including urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis.
- Using clean and hygienic menstrual products is important to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and to avoid skin irritation and rashes.
- Changing menstrual products regularly, such as every 4-6 hours, can help reduce the risk of infections.
- Proper disposal of used menstrual products is also important to maintain hygiene and prevent the spread of infections.
- Personal hygiene practices, such as washing hands before and after changing menstrual products, are important to prevent the spread of germs.
- Lack of menstrual hygiene can lead to health issues, including reproductive tract infections, infertility, and even cervical cancer.
- Educating girls and women on menstrual hygiene is crucial to ensure they have access to the necessary resources and knowledge to manage their periods safely and hygienically.
The link between nutrition and menstrual cycle regularity is well-established in scientific research. Consuming a balanced diet that includes healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, as well as essential micronutrients such as iron, vitamin D, and B vitamins, can help maintain a regular menstrual cycle. In addition, engaging in moderate exercise and managing stress can also positively impact menstrual cycle regularity. By taking care of the body through proper nutrition and lifestyle habits, women can promote optimal reproductive health and overall well-being.
Jayti Shah is a Clinical Nutritionist with a master's degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association (IDA). Over the last 9 years, she has helped 400 clients in their clinical and weight loss journeys. She works with SocialBoat as a nutrition consultant.
At SocialBoat, we offer custom diet plans and guided workouts to help you achieve your goals in a 360-degree approach. Our gamified experience ensures that you don’t find workouts boring and we reward you for being consistent with your efforts.
- Romani, A. M., & Albanese, L. (2014). Dietary habits and nutrition during menstrual cycle: An update. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 65(2), 170-182.
- Andersen, L. F., & Nes, M. (2011). Participation in sports during adolescence is associated with increased later use of hormonal contraception among women: A large population-based study from Norway. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48(2), 121-127.
- Lentjes, M. A., Keogh, R. H., Welch, A. A., Mulligan, A. A., Luben, R. N., Wareham, N. J., & Khaw, K. T. (2016). Longitudinal associations between marine omega-3 supplement users and coronary heart disease in a UK population-based cohort. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 103(1), 224-234.
- Chavarro, J. E., Rich-Edwards, J. W., Rosner, B. A., & Willett, W. C. (2007). Protein intake and ovulatory infertility. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 196(2), 157-e1.
- Hallberg, L., & Högdahl, A. M. (2013). Iron balance in menstruating women. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(2), 232-237.
- Parikh, S. J., Edelman, M., Uwaifo, G. I., Freedman, R. J., & Semega-Janneh, M. (2004). The relationship between obesity and serum 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D concentrations in healthy adults. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 89(3), 1196-1199.
- Ebrahimi, E., Jadidi, M. H., Hekmatdoost, A., & Rashidkhani, B. (2019). Nutrient patterns and their relation to menstrual disorders in Iranian women. Journal of Women's Health, 28(10), 1369-1377.
- De Souza, M. J., Nattiv, A., Joy, E., Misra, M., Williams, N. I., Mallinson, R. J., & Gibbs, J. C. (2014). 2014 Female Athlete Triad Coalition consensus statement on treatment and return to play of the female athlete triad. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 13(4), 219-232.
- Chrousos, G. P. (2009). Stress and disorders of the stress system. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 5(7), 374.