Although period pain is in no way new, there still aren't any revolutionary new medicines that help alleviate the worst to tackle menstrual symptoms. Most commonly, people with painful period cramps rely on Ibuprofen, heating pads, and lying in bed watching reality TV. But what if there were a completely natural way to help treat or alleviate menstrual cramps?

New research suggests that simply by switching to a vegan diet of mostly plant-based foods could help reduce the pain of menstrual cramps. The reason is that by avoiding red meat and dairy, which are inflammatory, as well as cutting out processed foods with added sugar, and cutting back on salt, oil, and coffee may work wonders to make cramps less painful or go away completely.

The research team of this new review, led by Serah Sannoh of Rutgers University, examined data from 20 studies to evaluate how diet related to menstrual pain. The study analysis aimed to identify foods that contribute to menstrual-related inflammation.

The study found that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids increased inflammation and exacerbated menstrual pain, whereas diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, found in plant-based foods including legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and Brussels sprouts, reduced inflammation. and help reduce the pain of menstrual symptoms.

Inflammatory foods, including red meat, processed meat, junk food and added sugar drove up the amount of prostaglandins circulating in the body, which contributed to constricting blood vessels in the uterus and more severe cramping, they found.

“Since menstrual pain is a leading cause of school absenteeism, it’s important to explore options that can minimize the pain,” Stephanie Faubion, MD, North American Menopause Society medical director, said in a statement. “Something like diet modification could be a relatively simple solution that could provide substantial relief.”

The research team used several forms of studies including randomized trials, nested control studies, and questionnaires to determine diet's impact on menstrual pain. The findings were presented at the annual North American Menopause Society meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

“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,” Sannoh said.

Read More: Can a Plant-Based Diet Ease Period Cramps? An Expert's Take

Vegan Diet Can Help with Period Pain

Sannoh and her research team intended to identify a simple solution to help mediate severe menstrual pains, which can often interfere with daily life. The analysis noted one study published in Nutrition Research that found vegans, vegetarians, and pescetarians showed significantly lower levels of inflammation than those eating meat.

As lead researcher, Sannoh revealed she felt motivated by her own period pain, noting that she experience intensely painful cramps during high school and college. The study meant to find scientific proof that remedies such as diet could provide significant relief.

“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, Sannoh said in a statement. “Learning about different foods that increase and decrease inflammation, which subsequently increase or reduce menstrual pain, revealed that diet is one of the many contributors to health outcomes that are often overlooked."

Reducing Inflammation on a Vegan Diet

This study analysis joins a growing body of research connecting diet to inflammation. Several studies show that avoiding red and processed meat helps lower inflammation and that increased levels of chronic diseases including Cardiovascular disease can be attributed to the Western Diet's high saturated fat content.

In a recent study published in Science Direct, a brief vegan diet reduced inflammation. Eating foods including fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables can help curb dangerous and painful levels of inflammation.

Eating vegan has also been associated with reducing pain in several other areas, including athlete recovery time and arthritis-induced pain. One study conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that a plant-based diet could help minimize symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

For the latest plant-based studies and updates, check out The Beet's News articles. 

How to Get Enough Iron When You’re Following a Plant-Based Diet

You may think iron is synonymous with meat, and while animal protein certainly has it, that doesn’t mean you can’t get enough iron if you eat a mainly plant-based diet. In fact, you can, if you know the right foods to choose and how to pair them. The daily recommendation from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for iron intake is 18 milligrams (mg), but not all iron sources are created equal. Here’s what plant-based eaters need to know about iron and which iron-rich foods are best to help reap the benefits.

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