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8 Diet Dos and Don'ts to Ease PMS

These strategies may help curb PMS symptoms.
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2. Don't skip breakfast or other meals.

"The hormone storm from PMS can lead to a domino effect on appetite," says Elizabeth Somer, an Oregon-based dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness.

To avoid becoming overly hungry, eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day. If you're feeling blue from PMS, then skipping a meal will only make you more irritable as blood sugar levels plummet.

3. Do include whole grains, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables.

Eating well all month long is a better approach to PMS than tweaking your diet when you have symptoms. So enjoy plenty of colorful, fiber-packed fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, and rye bread.

Fortified breads and cereals also supply B-vitamins. Recent research  found that women with higher intakes of thiamine (vitamin B-1) and riboflavin (vitamin B-2) had a significantly lower risk of PMS. This was true for women who got B-vitamins from food, but not from supplements.

4. Don't overload on sugar.

"If you're craving sugar, you're craving it for a reason," Somer says. That reason is shifting levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can also decrease levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain. These changes may affect a woman's mood and trigger PMS symptoms.

In fact, studies have shown that some women with PMS may take in 200 to 500 more calories a day. Those additional calories typically come from fats, carbohydrates, or sweet foods.

Rather than turning to sugar to boost serotonin levels, Somer advises eating whole grains instead.

5. Do pay attention to what you're drinking.

Some, but not all, studies have revealed that alcohol use is more common in women who are experiencing PMS or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), perhaps as an attempt to self-treat symptoms. PMDD is a more severe form of PMS, in which emotional symptoms are more predominant. It affects fewer women than PMS.

Although women are often advised to cut back on alcohol and even caffeine, there's not a lot of evidence these steps are necessarily beneficial, Bertone-Johnson says. Her own research did not find that alcohol increased PMS risk. Still, she says, there's no downside to easing up on alcohol and caffeine, and doing so may ease breast tenderness and bloating.

Somer likes to remind women to drink plenty of water to reduce bloating. This may sound counterintuitive, but she says a bloated body is holding on to too much water, likely because of too much salt.

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