Should women be entitled to period leave?

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period_painWhen Bristol-based Coexist, introduced a policy under which female workers, will be allowed to call in sick when they are menstruating, Journalist Arlene Harris asked me to contribute to an article she was writing for the Irish Examiner on how to beat cramps, PMS etc.  Here is my contribution and a link to the full piece.

Nutritionist Fiona Montague says it is refreshing to see periods in the spotlight.

“For too long, the severity of what women have to endure every month has been ignored so I’m delighted to see that it is finally being acknowledged and the days of ‘just get on with it’ are hopefully coming to an end,” she says.

“While it is estimated that 50%-70% of women suffer with dysmenorrhea [painful periods], personality changes can also be quite severe.

“And while the majority of women recognise their moods are swinging most feel they have absolutely no control over it. For some bursting into tears every month becomes the norm, while some feel the only way through the days leading up to and during our monthly visitor, is to dose up with painkillers.”

Ms Montague, the owner of, says there are natural ways to deal with the discomfort of periods.

“There are changes we can make to our diet that can ease the pain and discomfort during the menstrual cycle and 150 symptoms of PMS,” she says. “If you suffer with cravings, mood swings, energy dips, dizziness, or weight gain, there’s a good chance your blood sugars are off-balance. This can be rectified very simply by eating every three hours, avoiding foods that a cause sudden and rapid increase in your mood or energy and choosing good quality carbohydrates, protein, and fats over processed refined foods.

“Studies show insufficient Omega 3 in your diet can worsen period pains. These essential fatty acids are necessary for optimal functioning of the body and must be consumed because our bodies are unable to produce them. Increase linseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and oily fish into your diet throughout the month.”

Ms Montague says water and exercise can also be beneficial.

“If you suffer with water retention, increase your water consumption while reducing your intake of caffeinated drinks, as these not only dehydrate you but interfere with your blood sugar balance,” she says. “Limit your salt intake too — not just the salt you add yourself, but salt already added to foods.

“Although exercise is often the last thing you feel like doing as you are bent over in pain, surprisingly, it can be just want you need to feel full of energy again. Exercise increases happy hormones — endorphins — and increases circulation to our pelvic area.”

There are a number of foods and supplements shown to be beneficial for menstrual pain and PMS.

Vitamin B Complex significantly reduces the intensity and duration of period pain. Good food sources include eggs, beans, nuts and seeds, yeast, red meat, dairy products, soybeans, chicken, fish, lentils, brown rice, wholegrains, green vegetables, and avocados. There is also the option to supplement.

Magnesium is excellent for pain relief and coping with stress. Food sources include dark leafy veg such as kale and spinach, nuts and seeds, fish, avocado, and dark chocolate. If choosing a supplement, choose a spray or magnesium ascorbate.

Vitamin C and bioflavonoids, found in all kinds of berries, can help with cramping, relaxing the muscles and reducing inflammation.

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, helps relax the muscles to relieve discomfort as well as being a natural anti-inflammatory.


The full article can be found here