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No, you don’t need to avoid these foods and activities during menstruation, claims in viral post are ‘outrageous’

A viral social media post encourages people to stay away from certain foods and activities when menstruating. But experts have strong words for these claims.

This article is more than 1 year old

  • While it’s common to suffer from menstrual headaches, these aren't caused by using shampoo during menstruation. 

  • There is also no link between touching the abdomen and health risks related to menstruation. 

  • An expert described claims that cold water, cucumbers and ice cream should be avoided as “utter nonsense”.

“Here are the 5 things girls need to watch out for during their period!” begins a post circulating on social media, before going on to list them. 

The post has been viewed at least 56,000 times. Many grateful users thanked the poster, who claims to be a medical doctor. Similar claims have been made by other accounts in 2019 and 2020, attracting thousands of shares. 

Three of the claims in the most recent post are about food and drink. The post says not to drink cold or sparkling water, or eat cucumbers or ice cream during menstruation. According to it, cucumbers “block menstruation (bleeding) in the uterine wall and cause infertility” while “drinking” ice cream causes “uterine or tumor cancer”. 

The post also advises people not to allow hard objects to touch their abdomens, and not to use shampoo. 

But should people stay away from these foods and activities when menstruating? We looked into it. 

Touching the abdomen and shampooing hair aren’t risky during menstruation

According to the post, shampoo should be avoided because “the pores of the head are open during menstruation” and this causes “headaches”. 

Africa Check spoke with Dr Gail Ashford, physician at the Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. She described the claims as “outrageous”.  

Ashford said that pores did not open during menstruation, and shampoo would not generally cause headaches. “It is common during menstruation to have menstrual headaches” but these were related to changes in hormones, she said – not a result of using shampoo.

Ashford also said there was no link between touching the abdomen and health risks: “Any kind of blunt trauma, like a car accident, can cause trauma to the organs, including uterine trauma. But there is no increased vulnerability during menstruation.” 

Avoiding cucumbers, ice cream and sparkling water is ‘utter nonsense’

Ashford further told Africa Check that cucumbers do not stop menstrual bleeding, and cold or sparkling water are not risky during menstruation. She  said ice cream does not cause uterine cancer by blocking bleeding, calling the claims “utter nonsense”.

In some other versions of the post, it is claimed that consuming ice, rather than ice cream, could cause “uterine or tumour cancer”. There is no evidence for this either. 

Lesley Regan, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Imperial College London, told Africa Check that none of these claims were backed by science. 

“I can say categorically that they are not based on any evidence I have ever come across in 42 years as an obstetrician-gynaecologist,” she told us. 

Some foods might help symptoms of menstrual disorders

While there is no evidence to suggest these foods and activities should be avoided, some research suggests that particular food supplements could help with symptoms of dysmenorrhea, which involves severe pain and cramps during menstruation. These include fish oil, magnesium, calcium and some vitamins. 

But this research is among people with a menstrual disorder, not the general public. It is not clear whether people who do not have disorders would get the same pain-relieving results from these supplements.

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