Menstruation or periods as often called is a monthly event every female has to go through till she reaches menopause. It is nothing but the sloughing off of the endometrial lining of the thickened uterus and other tissues that become useless when an egg remains unfertilized and chances of pregnancy are nil. With the shedding of the lining, blood vessels get ruptured, causing blood loss. Only a fraction of the mammals like humans, some monkeys, bats, and mice menstruate, which comprises just 2% of the mammalian population.
Can A Gluten-Free Diet Help In Relieving Period Pains?
Menstruation is a common subject
It is a normal phenomenon where, for some, it is a three or four-day affair, with little or no uneasiness felt. However, for some, it can be a lifetime issue with stubborn abdominal pains and other medical conditions. Though it reduces with age and many people say that the side effects do subside after childbirth to a large extent, it is not the case for everyone.
Research suggests that more than 80 % of women suffer from lower abdominal pains, and 20 % feel it badly enough to impact their daily lives. But as Dr. Polly Cohen, a specialist in women’s health, says, menstrual issues are considered normal and are mostly underrated. Women experiencing any form of pain just take it for granted and depend on some painkillers to relieve their pain. It is considered taboo and people really don’t feel there is much to talk about.
Periods can be painful
An embryo gets all the nutrients from the mother through the placenta. During the menstrual cycle, this process is inhibited causing damage to the uterine wall. As the uterine lining sheds, certain inflammatory responses can cause excruciating pain in the lower parts of the body. Earlier, females would experience around 100 periods in a lifetime as they were busy getting pregnant. But now, an average woman faces around 400 menstrual cycles, and the pain can have serious impacts on their lives.
As Dr. Polly Cohen says, firstly, it needs to be clarified as to what the pain is all about. Is it some primary pain without any clinical cause or some secondary pain that needs attention such as endometriosis or fibroids? For primary pain, one would suggest painkillers like paracetamol (acetaminophen) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen. Too many NSAIDs can cause ulcers so many suggest control pills or coil. And what if nothing eases the pain? That’s where the diet comes in.
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A gluten-free diet a day keeps the pain away
Many anecdotal pieces of evidence imply that reduction in gluten-containing food can actually have a positive side during menstruating days. Some said that minimizing wheat intake and other gluten-containing food showed a marked difference in how they felt. Changing to alternatives like rice, quinoa, and rye instead of pasta and bread, actually reduced the pain and also the days of suffering.
Although these happy endings have little scientific evidence, it is a well-known fact how an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce pains and blood loss. Including too much junk food, caffeine, alcohol, and meat can aggravate the symptoms, as they are high-inflammatory diets. Researches link gluten, wheat, and inflammation, so Dr. Cohen agrees that a low-fat, vegan diet can relieve period pains. However, she also added that such diet studies are difficult to interpret as many variables are there.
But the bad news is that not everyone should benefit from a gluten-free diet. She said that without any scientific basis, she cannot subject anyone to such a diet as it can have other health effects. However, since wheat products cause inflammation, which in turn causes pain, excluding gluten from diets could be worth a try.