Does Chocolate Help Cramps? We Checked with an OBGYN

While the breakouts, bloating and sore boobs certainly aren’t fun, cramps might take the cake as our least favorite period symptom. We’re constantly on the lookout for ways to alleviate the feeling that our uterus is playing a violent game of Twister, whether that means popping an Advil or two or trying out a sequence of yoga poses designed to relieve cramps. But could we be missing one of the most enjoyable remedies? Does chocolate help cramps? Good news: It can. Here’s what you need to know about munching on one of our favorite sweet treats to quell period pains, according to OBGYN and Midol partner Dr. Alyssa Dweck.

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Does eating chocolate while on your period help alleviate cramps?

Of course, in my mind, chocolate alleviates any and all misery!” Dr. Dweck jokes. But seriously, it can. Dr. Dweck explains that chocolate has several minerals and elements that may help with menstrual cramps. “The first is magnesium, which plays a role in muscle relaxation,” she explains. “Menstrual cramps are caused by the muscle contracting effect of prostaglandins on the uterine muscle,” so eating something with an ingredient that can relax those contracting muscles is a no-brainer. Chocolate also contains copper, which Dr. Dweck tells us is associated with the production of endorphin, or the feel-good chemicals in the brain.

“Dark chocolate in particular is a known antioxidant, a substance that is generally beneficial in combatting free radicals and cell damage,” she goes on to explain. “The flavanol compounds found in dark chocolate are rich in antioxidants and can increase NO (nitric oxide) production in blood vessels, leading to vasodilation [according to this German study]. Dilation of blood vessels may help with cramps.”

Finally, she notes that the cocoa in chocolate contains a small amount of caffeine, a stimulant, which studies have shown can help with general menstrual fatigue and discomfort.

4 more ways to make your period less painful

1. Know when to expect it

Getting caught off guard by your period just adds insult to injury. Dr. Dweck tells us, “My go to recommendations for cramps include anticipating the pain with a calendar or menstrual app to prepare for discomfort before it occurs and using a mix of treatments when the pain finally arrives.” Download a period tracking app (we like Clue) for a super-accurate estimation of when you can expect to give your white jeans a rest for a few days. We also love the idea of a tampon subscription service like Athena Club, that ensures you’ll never be without supplies.

2. Pay special attention to your skin

Unless you’ve been blessed with a flawless complexion, your skin probably gets wacky around your period due to all the shifting hormone levels. Be extra vigilant with your skincare routine to get ahead of any breakouts. The last thing you need when you’re already feeling crappy is a massive (preventable) pimple on your forehead.

3. Stock up on heating pads

“Heating pads go a long way in reducing and alleviating cramps since when applied, heat encourages blood flow to relax the uterine muscles,” Dr Dweck tells us, adding that she recommends Midol Heat Vibes, a new, portable and discrete wearable patch that uses heat therapy to relieve the back pain and cramps associated with menstruation. A hot water bottle can also do the trick.

4. Know your limits

You know your body better than anyone, and your period’s as good a time as any to actually listen to it. Even if the whole world is saying that a workout will make your cramps feel better, if you really don’t feel like hitting the gym, don’t. By this point you’ve probably had your fair share of periods—trust that what your gut is telling you is accurate.

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...