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Dhaka Tribune

Using food against menstrual pain

Functional foods that offer health benefits during menstruation

Update : 26 Nov 2020, 01:16 PM

Every day, women around Bangladesh tackle numerous stigmas and taboos regarding the menstruation cycle. There are nearly 54 million menstruating females across the nation; however, the matter is not openly discussed due to social norms and cultural beliefs. This led most women to have a lack of knowledge on proper hygiene of period and menstrual health.

Menstrual health and hygiene encompass broader systemic factors that link menstruation with health, well-being, gender equality, education, equity, empowerment, and rights. Regular periods are an indication that your body is usually working. It’s best if you have regular periods unless you are pregnant, breastfeeding, postmenopausal, or have a medical condition that causes your periods to stop. However, numerous women worldwide suffer from irregular, painful, or heavy periods, indicating a severe health issue. 

There are mainly two kinds of period problems -- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Dysmenorrhea. PMS is a combination of symptoms that several women get before the cycle. Over 90% of women have suffered from symptoms like bloating, headaches, and moodiness. 

Women might suffer through numerous physical and emotional problems during PMS like cramps, lower tolerance of light and sound, constipation or diarrhea, irritability or hostile behavior, depression, changes in appetite, tiredness, anxiety, and many more. Besides, PMS can cause other serious health issues like depression and anxiety disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and bladder pain syndrome. PMS also has the power to worsen health issues like asthma, allergies, and migraines. 

Another period problem is dysmenorrhea. It is associated with menstruation pain and is one of the most common menstrual disorder where more than half of the people with period suffers through it for one to two weeks each month. There are two types of dysmenorrhea -- primary and secondary. 

In primary dysmenorrhea, the pain is usually caused by the uterus’ contractions -- the uterus contracts during your period to help the uterine lining leave the body. Dysmenorrhea negatively impacts women's lives from work to education. In the USA alone, the annual economic loss of dysmenorrhea is 600 million working hours and $2 billion. Symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea are digestive disorder, including nausea and diarrhea, and intestine spasms. The secondary type of dysmenorrhea is usually caused by other health problems such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and ovarian cysts. 

Now, why do women suffer from the period, and how we can try to lessen the pain. Before any period began, the cells that form the lining of the uterus starts to breakdown during menstruation and release large amounts of inflammatory prostaglandins. These groups of physiologically active lipid compoundsnarrowdown the blood vessels in the uterus and make the muscle layer contract, causing painful cramps and other symptoms. Oral contraceptives or birth control pills can lower prostaglandins' production by slowing the growth of the uterus lining. However, all medicines have their own side-effects. Thus, consuming functional foods is a healthier option. 

Functional foods offer health benefits that extend beyond their nutritional value. In recent years, functional food has gained considerable popularity around the world within health and wellness circles. Functional foods are associated with several powerful health benefits. It protects people from diseases and promotes proper growth and development. 

The concept was originated in Japan in the 1980s, and when the government started approving foods with proven benefits to better the health of the general population.In 1994, the USA passed a Bill called the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which included a functional food section. Besides, the Functional Food Centerin the USA stated that any food /ingredients with the bioactive compound are functional food.

Functional foods may be fortified with additional ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, probiotics, or fiber, to increase a food’s health benefits. These foods reduce inflammation, enhance immune function, and improve heart health. Besides, it also helps women to experience less pain during the menstruation cycle. During the period, the estrogen levels change, and higher estrogen levels can cause more pain. Thus, nutrients filled ingredients like functional food can lower the estrogen level and eliminate fats from the body. 

Unfortunately, the concept and benefits of functional food has been nearly unknown across Bangladesh; however, numerous universities are trying to incorporate it into their curriculum in recent years. Moreover, a company named Organic Nutrition Limited Bangladesh has been trying to promote functional food's benefits across the nation. 

Functional food has powerful health benefits and will help Bangladesh's people live healthy and peaceful lives, especially women. Menstruation can be extremely painful, especially if it’s PMS or dysmenorrhea. But, functional food can aid women to live happy and peaceful lives. 

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