5 Foods To Watch Out For During Your Period

5 Foods to Watch Out for During Your Period

For some of us, feeling moody or bloated is a telltale sign that our period is approaching. More than 90% of women say they have premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, which includes symptoms such as bloating, headaches, and cramps that appear about a week or two before their period.1

But there are ways you can lessen PMS symptoms, by paying attention to what foods you put in your body. There’s some evidence to suggest that avoiding certain foods may help normalize estrogen levels which tend to go haywire around the time of your period.2 Just make sure to adjust your diet about 2 weeks before your period.

Here are some foods you should steer clear from –or look for–to help you manage those nagging symptoms.

  1. Cut down on fried and fatty foods—Feeling lousy on your period can cause you to seek out comfort food – like a greasy cheeseburger with fries—but they’re loaded with saturated fats which can increase estrogen levels in the blood and cause periods to become irregular, subsequently increasing PMS symptoms. Consider eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet which has been shown to significantly reduce estrogen levels.3


  1. Avoid processed foods—Highly processed foods like pizza, soda, and chips are packed with salt and other ingredients that can make you feel even more bloated and lethargic during your period. Look for complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat bread, pasta, and cereals, which may reduce mood symptoms and food cravings.4 Other complex carbs include barley, brown rice, beans, and lentils.


  1. Say no to sweets, except dark chocolate—If you’re scarfing down cakes, cookies and candy bars during your period, you’re not alone. About 50% of American women crave chocolate days before they get their period.5 The intense cravings tend to happen when our hormone levels fluctuate, which may affect levels of serotonin—the feel-good chemicals in the brain— causing us to feel moody, depressed, as yes, ravenous for sweet or salty foods. 6 Although it’s never a good idea to binge on candy, having a small amount of dark chocolate could help. Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, an essential nutrient our body runs low on when we’re premenstrual. Some small studies have even shown magnesium helped lessen PMS symptoms.7


  1. Eat calcium and vitamin D-rich foods, not just from dairy—Upping calcium and vitamin D intake has been linked with reduced headaches, mood swings and irritability.8 But sources of calcium don’t only have to come from dairy, which could be hard to digest and metabolize for some.  A better option is to increase your consumption of leafy greens like kale, broccoli, and collard greens, legumes and fruit like figs and oranges. You can also find vitamin D in foods like sardines, oysters and salmon. If you’d rather take supplements, talk with your doctor about which supplements may be right for you.


  1. Lay off the booze—While having some wine may sound like the perfect remedy for your period, alcohol can actually make you feel worse.  According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking may cause irregular periods.9 Alcohol may temporarily increase levels of estrogen and testosterone which could disrupt normal hormonal levels that play a role in ovulation. It’s not clear how much alcohol can disrupt your cycle, so that’s just one more reason to avoid drinking in excess.


If you think you may be suffering from irregular or abnormal bleeding, talk with your doctor about symptoms and available treatments.


  1. Office on Women’s Health in the Department of Health and Human Services. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome  Accessed January 22, 2018.
  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). https://www.acog.org/-/media/For-Patients/faq057.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20180126T0053257483  Accessed January 23, 2018.
  3.  Bagga D, Ashley JM, Geffrey SP, et al. Effects of a very low fat, high fiber diet on serum hormones and menstrual function. Cancer. 1995;76:2491-2496.
  4. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Complex carbs: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Premenstrual-Syndrome-PMS Accessed January 22, 2018.
  5. Hormes JM, Niemiec MA. Does culture create carving? Evidence from the case of menstrual chocolate craving. PLOS. 2017;12: e0181445. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181445
  6. PubMed Health. Premenstrual syndrome: overview. Informed Health Online [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-.
  1. Facchinetti F, Borella P, Sances G, Fioroni L, Nappi RE, Genazzani AR. Oral magnesium successfully relieves premenstrual mood changes. 1991. Obstet Gynecol. 78:177-181.
  1. Bertone-Johnson ER, Hankinson SE, Bendich A, Johnson SR, Willett WC, Manson JE. Calcium and vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165:1246-1252.
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol’s effects on female reproductive function. Emanuele MA, Wezeman F, Emanuele NV. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-4/274-281.htm   Accessed January 25, 2018.


In-text References:

  1. Office on Women’s Health in the Department of Health and Human Services. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome Accessed January 22, 2018.