Fact Check: Is it bad to eat citrus foods during periods?

Quick Take

An old health myth in rural India is also being shared by a number of social media users. The posts claim that eating citrus fruits like lemon, orange etc. during periods is bad for health. We fact-checked and found that the claim is false.

The Claim

“Do not eat salty or sour foods like lemon, oranges during periods. They can increase your stomach ache,” writes one of the social media users. One such post can be seen here. A screenshot is given below.

Fact Check

Why period pains happen?

The Physician’s Committee of Responsible Medicine(PCRM) explains period pain as a part of the menstruation process. The website of PCRM explains, “Before a period begins, the cells that form the lining of the uterus, also called endometrial cells, begin to break down during menstruation and release large amounts of inflammatory prostaglandins. These chemicals constrict the blood vessels in the uterus and make the muscle layer contract, causing painful cramps.”

However, there can be multiple other health conditions that can contribute to the intensity of the pain and it varies in every individual. The various reasons that contribute to a higher intensity of pain include Premenstrual Syndrome(PMS), Endometriosis, Fibroids in the Uterus, etc.

Does period pain depend on diet?

Yes. Diet plays a role in controlling the change of hormones during periods. For example, one research study published in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology in February 2008 shows that women on a low-fat vegan diet experienced a lesser intensity of pain and reduced PMS.

Can citrus fruits like lemons and oranges increase period pains?

No. There is no scientific evidence to prove that lemons or any citrus foods have any kind of effect on menstruation in human females.

Also, the sodium content in citrus fruits is not among the highest as claimed by many posts that advise against eating them during periods. Rather citrus fruits are low in fats, can act as a good snack, and help limit intake of saturated fats.

Dr. Esha Chainani, MS(OBGYN) says, “There is no scientific basis to this claim that lemons and other citrus fruits cause cramps during periods. Citrus fruits contain high levels of vitamin C which is an antioxidant. Vitamin C also helps in iron absorption in your body. Also, any type of fruit contains fiber which is good for digestive problems that occur during periods.”

Clinical Nutritionist Megha Khattar shares a similar view, “Periods are just a natural (biological) state of a woman’s body and make no difference in what you can and can’t eat. Citrus fruits do not affect periods. However, if you have low hemoglobin levels you should increase citrus food intake during periods for better absorption of iron to compensate for the blood loss.”

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