Even though they often get overshadowed by trendy “superfoods,” bananas actually have a lot to offer when it comes to reducing menstrual cramps.
Bananas contain significant amounts of vitamin B6 (which supports healthy hormone levels), along with potassium (to ease muscular contractions) and magnesium (an anti-inflammatory). Furthermore, bananas support both gut and liver function, both of which are essential for hormone balance and menstrual health.
So, if you’ve been wondering “do bananas help with menstrual cramps” this post is going to give you the answers you’ve been looking for!
In addition, you’ll also get 3 simple and delicious ways in which you can add this tropical fruit to your menstrual cycle diet.
5 REASONS WHY BANANAS HELP TO REDUCE PERIOD CRAMPS
1. Contains Pain-Reducing Potassium
Research shows that having low levels of potassium can lead to sudden muscular contractions (source).
Now, the reason why potassium is so strongly tied to muscular contractions is because it has two important jobs:
- First, it transmits signals from the brain that start contractions.
- Second, it also helps to stop muscular contractions. It does this by moving out of muscle cells.
So, in the case of uterine muscles, a potassium deficiency might lead to those contractions going on for an extended period of time.
Thankfully, bananas are a reliable source of potassium that you can use to maintain optimum levels of this important mineral.
2. High In Vitamin B6
With one medium-sized banana providing 33% of the Recommended Daily Intake for vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), this is a must-have food for easing menstrual pain.
But you might be wondering why is B6 even necessary for your cycle?
Well, B6 is critical for the development of the corpus luteum, which is a temporary gland that develops each month after the egg is released (Basically, after the egg is released from the follicle, that “leftover” follicle collapses on itself to form the corpus luteum).
Once it’s formed, the corpus luteum secretes hormones.
In fact, the main hormone secreted by the corpus luteum is progesterone (source).
And without sufficient progesterone to balance estrogen, the body gets into a state of estrogen dominance that can trigger painful cramps (or, even a heavier flow).
So, eating foods that are rich in B6 – like bananas – gives your body the raw material it needs to maintain healthy progesterone levels.
3. Natural Source of Anti-Inflammatory Magnesium
There’s more and more agreement within the scientific community that excess levels of prostaglandins (hormones) are a major contributor to painful menstrual cycles (source).
Basically, as prostaglandins increase, inflammation increases to the point where we experience more contractions and pain.
Now, it turns out that magnesium can help to actually ease and prevent menstrual cramps.
So, go ahead and start using bananas for period cramps 🙂
4. Provides Gut-Friendly Prebiotics
Everything related to the menstrual cycle and cramps is connected to our hormones in one way or another.
And every aspect of hormone balance is linked to the gut.
Yep, the gut controls our hormones either directly (i.e. it produces the hormone) or indirectly (i.e. it regulates processes that affect the organs that produce hormones).
So, given this basic premise, a healthy gut supports your hormones and subsequently, your menstrual cycle.
And one simple way to improve gut health is by eating foods that are rich in prebiotics.
Now, if you’re not familiar with prebiotics, they are fibers that we can’t digest. So they, end up acting as food or fertilizer for good bacteria. In the case of banana, it’s the green type that is rich in prebiotics.
When you eat prebiotic foods, the fiber acts as nourishment for your gut bacteria.
That means your gut bacteria thrives and flourishes on those foods (in the same way that you thrive and flourish on healthy food!).
And you want your healthy gut bacteria to thrive and multiply because they’re essential for metabolizing excess estrogen (which affects your estrogen to progesterone ratio).
5. Supports Liver Detoxification
Whether we’re talking about toxic hormone disruptors or excess hormones, the liver’s job is to get all of it out of the body.
And when it comes to hormones in particular, the liver is responsible for metabolizing estrogen.
Once again, the vitamin B6 in bananas is helpful here because it supports your liver enzymes when it’s time to eliminate excess estrogen (source).
HOW TO USE BANANAS FOR MENSTRUAL PAIN
Even though there’s nothing wrong with simply eating a banana, you can also use it in smoothies, healthy homemade ice cream (aka nice cream) and in oatmeal.
The advantage of these three options is that you get to combine the bananas with other hormone-friendly, pain-fighting ingredients.
Let’s have a look at the 3 ways in which you can use bananas for menstrual discomfort.
1. Banana Smoothie Recipe For Painful Menstrual Cycle
One of my favorite recipes for soothing period pain uses:
- Spinach: contains magnesium and antioxidants to fight inflammation.
- Blueberries or any other berries: they contain antioxidants which fight off the effects of inflammation.
- Pineapple: contains bromelain, which is a set of enzymes that reduce pain.
- Beet root powder: great for flavor and lowering inflammation.
You can get the full recipe in this post on how to make the best smoothie for period cramps.
2. Banana and Cacao Ice Cream Recipe for Menstrual Cycle
With cacao powder (loaded with magnesium), peanut butter (healthy fats for hormone production) and cinnamon (anti-inflammatory), this one of the most delicious and soothing desserts to enjoy at any time of the month!
2 bananas, sliced (size of coins) and frozen
2 – 4 tablespoons peanut butter (depends on how much you like nut butters)
2 – 3 tablespoons cacao powder (again depends on how much you enjoy cacao)
2 tablespoons almond milk
Pinch of salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1. Place all the ingredients into a food processor or powerful blender.
2. Blend on high until smooth and creamy. If the mixture is too thick for your blender, add a little more milk to help it along.
3. You can eat it immediately if you like a soft consistency. Otherwise pour the mixture into a freezer safe container. Freeze for about 1.5 hours. Be careful not to free it too long or will become rock hard.
4. Scoop into a bowl and enjoy!
If you need a quick breakfast or evening snack during your cycle, reach for some oatmeal and use bananas as a topping.
Not only is the warmth of oatmeal soothing for pain, but it’s also rich in B-vitamins and minerals.
In fact, 100g (½ cup) of oatmeal contains (source):
- 51% RDI for vitamin B1
- 44% magnesium
- 12% potassium
- 26% zinc
- 14% folate
- 6% vitamin B6
- 26% iron
…and plenty more! So, when you combine bananas and oatmeal you have yourself a powerhouse, both nutritionally and in terms of just how filling it is.
NOTE: to get the most out of this, make sure to use old fashioned oats instead of fast cooking or instant oats.
Can I drink milk during my period?
Dairy products like milk are pro-inflammatory and can worsen how you feel before and during your period. So it’s best not to consume these.
For a healthier option, consider drinking plant-based milks made from almond, hemp, oat or rice.
What foods make your period heavier?
Pro-inflammatory foods that are low in terms of nutrient density can make your period heavier. This includes processed foods, soft drinks, dairy products and gluten-containing foods.
Bananas are an anti-inflammatory fruit that provides essential nutrients known to ease menstrual pain and inflammation.
Whether you use them in a smoothie, as an oatmeal topping or in a healthy dessert, this everyday food is just one of many natural remedies for menstrual cramps that you can rely on!