Is chocolate good for period cramps?

Period cramps can be an uncomfortable and painful experience for many women. It's no wonder that people often search for ways to ease the discomfort. And it’s not exactly a secret that chocolate is often touted as a solution to PMS related issues, the question is, are there any scientific reasons to explain this trend, or is it just an excuse to eat chocolate?

Well the answer is actually yes, there does seem to be some validity to dark chocolate helping period cramps. These day's there's even dark chocolate that contains extra ingredients designed to help with periods and PMS like Kittie.

The Role of Chocolate in Relieving Period Cramps

Cocoa and inflammation 

There have been quite a few studies that have shown cacao contains compounds known as flavanoids that can be good the for symptoms of periods that weren’t run specifically on period cramps, for example, cacao has polyphenols that are anti inflammatory, which can have an effect in reducing stomach cramps for example. And due to the way it works it’s not so surprising that this has been shown to improve period pain too. [1]

Thes cocoa extracts have shown promising results in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in both in vitro and in vivo studies although there isn’t many trials on the extracts in humans at the moment.

Dark Chocolate and The Brain’s Pain Receptors

There is also an effect that these compounds have on serotonin which can help regulate mood, which whilst it’s not related to cramps is worth noting for people struggling with periods. But, on top of regulating mood  there are some studies that have been conducted on rats that showed cocoa caused a significant amount of pain blocking. It worked by activating proteins involved in blocking nociception (a pain trigger). [2]

Nutrients in Chocolate and Period Cramps

Lastly there’s the nutritional content of dark chocolate itself. Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium, a mineral known to relax muscles and inhibit the production of prostaglandins. Magnesium deficiency has been associated with more painful periods, making the presence of this mineral in dark chocolate a potential factor in its pain-relieving properties.

On top of magnesium, dark chocolate also contains copper, which may play a role in reducing period pain. Copper is involved in the production of pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins, and its presence in dark chocolate suggests another mechanism by which it may help ease menstrual cramps.

Moreover, dark chocolate is a good source of other micronutrients that have been shown to alleviate period pain. Studies have indicated that vitamins B1, D, E, and K, calcium, zinc, and boron exhibit anti-inflammatory properties and can help ease painful periods. And lastly it’s rich in iron, which is beneficial for obvious reasons.

Menstrual Chocolate Studies: The Dark Chocolate Difference

Several small studies have suggested that dark chocolate, in particular, may have the ability to reduce menstrual pain and cramps.

One example, a study conducted among menstruating teenagers in Indonesia found that those who consumed 40 grams of dark chocolate daily experienced significantly less menstrual pain compared to those who consumed chocolate milk. [3]

Another study among university students in Indonesia showed similar results, with dark chocolate significantly reducing menstrual pain. [4]

It’s worth noting that there has also been a trial where cocoa was tested against ibuprofen, and though dark chocolate did show some improvements, ibuprofen did appear to work better for menstrual cramps. [5]

So, Does Dark Chocolate Help Periods?

Well, there’s definitely some evidence to suggest there’s something to the chocolate helps period cramps stories. At least the small amount of studies seem to back up what is conventional wisdom. Whilst, we’re far from a scientific consensus, the animal studies and in vitro ones do show a couple of ways in which it could be helpful. Although it seems that actual medication does work better.


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