Does chocolate help with period cramps?
This is a common question from women looking to find a solution for painful period cramps.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than half of menstruating women experience pain for one or two days every month.
We all know how excruciating period cramps can be.
The good news is there are foods you can eat to help reduce period cramp pain.
The key is to eat the right foods to ensure you reap the benefits.
So does chocolate help with period cramps? And what other foods can help with period cramps?
In this guide we’ll look at:
- What is a period cramp?
- Does chocolate help with period cramps?
- What are the benefits of chocolate for period cramps?
- What other foods help with period cramps?
- Period cramp Q&A
- How to treat period cramp pain
- The best exercises to help with period cramps
Let’s get started!
What is a period cramp?
You probably don’t need to be reminded what a period cramp is, or how it feels.
When you get your period, your uterus sheds its lining.
In order to trigger this process, hormone-like lipids called prostaglandins are released which cause the uterus to contract.
These contractions are what cause painful period cramps.
The medical name for period pain is dysmenorrhea.
Many women experience cramps when they have their period. A cramp can be anything from a dull, achy cramp to intense pain.
They are usually felt in the abdomen, pelvis, lower back and upper legs.
The pain is usually at its worst on the day before your period begins and on the first day of your period.
However, if you suffer with conditions like endometriosis or adenomyosis, the pain may be much more severe and last for several days.
Related: Should you work out on your period? 6 best exercises
Does chocolate help with period cramps?
Various studies have been conducted over the years to provide an answer to: “Does chocolate help with period cramps?”
Research tells us that dark chocolate does play a role to alleviate premenstrual and menstrual pain.
One 2019 study found that pre-menstrual pain and menstrual pain was significantly reduced after eating dark chocolate.
Other studies (one in 2018 and one in 2017) concluded that dark chocolate is influential in decreasing menstrual pain.
The bottom line? Dark chocolate does have benefits when it comes to reducing menstrual pain.
However, there is limited evidence that shows the link between dark chocolate and period cramps.
More research is needed to understand if dark chocolate can help to reduce period cramps.
Related: Do you burn more calories on your period? Your common questions answered
What are the benefits of chocolate for period cramps?
Dark chocolate contains the minerals copper and magnesium which have been shown to help reduce pain.
According to research, copper is used by the body to synthesise collagen and neurotransmitters called endorphins.
Endorphins are a natural sedative which help to reduce the intensity of menstrual pain.
Magnesium on the other hand is known to help relax muscles, including the ease of uterine contractions, and inhibit the release of prostaglandins.
According to one study, the beneficial effects of magnesium treatment have been demonstrated in patients suffering with dysmenorrhea, headaches and acute migraine attacks.
Related: What is an endometriosis flare up? Tips for exercising with endo
What other foods help with period cramps?
The good news is there are plenty of foods that can help with period cramps.
If you suffer from period cramps, it’s best to stick with foods that are not too heavy on your stomach.
These could include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds as these can all help to decrease inflammation in the body and can help menstrual cramps.
Some good foods and drinks to consume on your period include:
- Camomile tea
- Ginger tea
- Raspberry leaf tea
Aim to avoid fried foods, refined foods, sweets/candy, beans and canned foods on your period as these can cause an upset stomach and bloating which can make cramping worse.
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Period cramp Q&A
Q: Is dark chocolate better than milk chocolate for pain relief?
Yes! Dark chocolate contains more cocoa than milk chocolate, making it the best choice for health benefits.
Dark chocolate is also higher in copper and magnesium than milk chocolate, which may explain why it is more effective for menstrual pain relief.
Q: What type of dark chocolate is best for pain relief?
A: Aim to eat dark chocolate that is higher in cocoa solids – between 60% and 90%.
If you don’t like bitter tasting chocolate, opt for dark chocolate that is lower than 70% – but note it won’t contain as many cocoa solids.
Q: Should I see a doctor if my periods are painful?
A: It’s recommended you visit your doctor no matter if your period pain is mild or severe.
Period pain can disrupt your everyday life, so it’s important you get help if the pain is making your life hard every month.
In addition, painful periods could be a symptom of conditions like endometriosis and adenomyosis, so it’s best you get your symptoms checked out.
Related: How to get thicker thighs: 5 game-changing leg workouts
How to treat period cramp pain
If you suffer with painful periods and period cramps, here are some ways to treat them.
#1 Use painkillers
Over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used to treat the pain.
Ibuprofen in particular has anti-inflammatory effects.
Start taking regular doses of painkillers (every 4 to 6 hours) starting the day before you expect your period to help control the pain of cramps.
#2 Use a heating pad
Putting a heat pad or hot water bottle (wrapped in a tea towel) on your tummy or back may help to reduce period pain.
Heat helps to relax the muscles that contribute to period cramping.
#3 Take a warm shower or bath
Taking a warm bath or shower can help to relieve pain and help you relax.
Adding aromatherapy essential oils to your bath like lavender may also help to reduce the pain and discomfort associated with menstrual cramps.
Light abdominal massage around your lower abdomen may help to relieve pain.
#5 Use CBD oil
CBD (cannabidiol) oil has documented anti-inflammatory effects and can therefore be used to treat many types of pain, including period pain.
Research of the effectiveness of CBD is still limited, but some studies show that CBD may help to reduce inflammation.
#6 Use a TENS machine
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is treatment that administers mild electrical currents to the skin to relieve period pain.
TENS devices like Myoovi, Ovira and Beurer have popped up over the last few years.
A TENS machine won’t cure the pain, but it may be helpful to use if you’re dealing with moderate to severe period pain.
You can also use a TENS machine for aches, pains and sports injuries
Related: How to fix a saggy butt: 5 exercises to lift your butt
The best exercises to help with period cramps
Now you know the answer to: “Does chocolate help with period cramps?”
You may have less energy during your period, especially on days 1 and 2 of your cycle.
High intensity exercise like running is not recommended during this time, but it’s completely down to your own personal preference if you do or not as everyone is different.
Here are the best exercises to help with period cramps:
Light to moderate exercise like walking can help to reduce bloating and the pain associated with menstrual cramps.
Aerobic exercise like jogging helps with blood circulation and the release of ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins, which help to alleviate period cramping.
Gentle exercise like yoga can be a good way to help reduce period cramp pain.
Yoga poses like the cat cow pose, the cobra pose and fish pose are recommended.
#4 Breathing exercises
As with yoga, breathing exercises are recommended to provide a natural form of pain relief.
Breathe slowly and mindfully and relax your abdomen until you feel relief.