6 Ways Your Diet Can Help You Deal with PMS

Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on November 07, 2020

Small changes to your diet may help reduce or control the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) -- those monthly mood swings, cramps, and bloating.

Here are six ways changing your food choices and eating habits can improve the way you feel every month.

1. Eat More Complex Carbs

Big swings in your insulin level are a common cause of intense cravings and bad moods. Complex carbohydrates are important nutrients that enter your bloodstream slowly over time, helping to curb those cravings and level off your mood.

Whole grains, beans, and barley are all examples of foods rich in complex carbs. Fruits and vegetables are also good sources.

2. Load Up on Calcium and Vitamin D

Some research suggests that a high intake of calcium and vitamin D may help reduce PMS. Try adding foods like reduced-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese to your diet. If you can’t eat dairy, consider taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement.

Bonus: Calcium and vitamin D may also lower your chances of getting osteoporosis and some cancers.

3. Cut Back on Salt

Sodium can cause your body to retain fluid. If bloating, swollen hands and feet, or tender breasts are part of your monthly period problems, reduce the amount of salt in your diet.

Salt is hidden in a lot of unexpected places, so try to cook your own meals as often as you can and avoid eating processed, packaged foods.

4. Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

Relying on coffee to help you wake up and a glass of wine to help you wind down can actually make your PMS worse. Both caffeine and alcohol can disrupt your sleep. Caffeine can actually aggravate PMS symptoms.

5. Get a Healthy Dose of Iron

You lose a fair amount of iron when you’re menstruating, so getting enough of the nutrient from food is important before and during your period. Eating enough iron-rich foods can help lower your risk of getting anemia.

Lean meats like beef filets, lamb steaks are good sources, as are seafoods like greenshell mussels. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, your doctor might suggest alternatives, including iron supplements you can take.

6. Eat Less, But More Often

In addition to these changes to your diet, you might also want to consider when and how you eat. Instead of three big meals a day, try six small meals instead. This will keep your blood sugar stable through the course of the day, which can help improve your symptoms.

WebMD Medical Reference



American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists -- “Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).”

Mayo Clinic: “Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).”

Cleveland Clinic: “11 Diet Changes That Help You Fight PMS.”

JAMA Internal Medicine: “Calcium and vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome.”

Nutrition Foundation: “Iron.”

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