woman crying and eating a donut: foods to eat and avoid during pms and your period

Typical PMS symptoms include headaches, bloating, cramping and low energy. Are there any particular foods that can make PMS symptoms worse – or more manageable? We asked dietitian Mbali Mapholi.

There are no foods that should be considered completely off limits from your diet, even when suffering from PMS or during your period – instead, try to practice moderation. However, there are some foods that when consumed in excess, can make PMS symptoms worse.

Foods to avoid for PMS and during your period

Coffee

Moderate consumption of caffeine isn’t a problem but it can cause digestive problems like diarrhoea, especially when consumed on an empty stomach, and this may make PMS-related tummy troubles worse. Caffeine can also dehydrate you and exacerbate headaches, which are common at that time of the month.

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Salt

High salt intake may cause fluid retention, resulting in bloating. While it’s tempting to sit down with a bag of chips when the craving hits, your choice of snack is likely to make you feel more bloated and lethargic than before. High salt foods also lead to dehydration, which can make a PMS-related headache worse.

Sugar

High sugar consumption – and eating highly-refined sugary foods in particular – can cause a temporary increase in energy levels, followed by quick dips. This may cause further irritability and mood swings, making PMS symptoms a lot worse.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a known diuretic that leads to dehydration. Over and above the known negative effects of alcohol, the dehydration will again make PMS symptoms worse.

Why do I crave chocolate before my period or when I have PMS? 

Studies suggest that changes in levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone can cause cravings for simple carbohydrates and sweet foods before your period, which explains the famous chocolate craving during PMS.

The best thing to do when you are craving chocolate is… to eat chocolate. Trying to resist the chocolate craving may be more harmful with regards to having a healthy relationship with food when compared to just giving in and having a little of what you’re craving.

woman lying down with hot water bottle on abdomen: foods to eat and avoid during pms and your period

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What foods should I eat to help with PMS?

Nutrient-packed foods may help to relieve PMS symptoms – here are some foods that may be beneficial to eat when you have PMS or your period:

  • Include sources of vitamin B6, which can be found in nuts, turkey, chickpeas bananas, potatoes and fortified cereals.
  • Choose foods that provide calcium, such as low-fat milk or yoghurt, almonds, kale, beans or fortified foods, such as soy milk and tofu.
  • Skip the salt to help decrease bloating and fluid build-up.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol, which may affect your mood and ability to sleep.
Mbali Mapholi is a qualified clinical dietitian with a special interest in heart and heart-related diseases, gastrointestinal-related diseases, weight management and African diet nutrition. She is the owner of MiNutrition ZA and Mbali Mapholi. Mbali believes in the type of eating that is nourishing, enjoyable, accessible, culturally suitable and affordable, and her recommendations are based on science delivered by trusted sources. Through nutrition education, she aims to help people make informed decisions for themselves and those around them.