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Women > Reproduction >  Food and PMS

Every month, many women experience the physical and emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This may include abdominal cramps, anxiety, depression, bloating, breast tenderness, craving, and mood swings.

While PMS is a fact of many women’s lives, no medication can entirely relieve the suffering of PMS.  But knowing which foods to eat and which foods to avoid can help to make menstruation easier and prevent PMS.

Positive foods

Certain foods when eaten can help to relieve the severity of symptoms associated with PMS and some foods when unrestricted have a negative outcome.

A healthy diet which includes complex carbohydrates - whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, potatoes, beans, rice, and whole grains helps to regulate blood sugars eliminate sugar cravings.

Fresh vegetables such as kale, collards, mustard greens, carrots, turnips, parsnips, broccoli, Brussels sprouts are high in nutrients that reduce PMS-related blood sugar and mood swings, and Fruits such as apples and pears contain fibre and less sugar all help ease heavy menstrual bleeding and premenstrual symptoms.


Abdominal cramping and muscular contractions which can occur as PMS can be relieved by eating high calcium foods such as Broccoli, Black Beans, Navy Beans, whole grain cereals, soybeans, spinach, bok choy, kale, corn, fish, tofu, almonds and oysters. Note that milk is not a good source of calcium, if will undermine your health.


Magnesium enables the body to absorb the Calcium. Mood swings and food cravings are also known to be alleviated by magnesium which facilitates the absorption of calcium. Green vegetables such as spinach are good sources of magnesium as are legumes (beans and peas), nuts and seeds, and whole unrefined grains. Try eating spinach, avocados, barley, oysters, pumpkin seeds, tofu, halibut, broccoli, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, citrus fruits, cranberry juice and cantaloup, mackerel, spinach, rice bran, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, buckwheat and almonds.

Vitamin B6:

Vitamin B6 helps relieve premenstrual cravings. Its often taken as a supplement to reduce depression, relieve cravings, fatigue, mood swings, fluid retention and bloating during periods. Foods rich in vitamin B6, include fish, tuna, chicken, turkey, pork, brown rice, barley, soy foods, broccoli, sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados, mangoes, cantaloupe, sunflower seeds, and spinach. , fatigue, mood swings, fluid retention and bloating, are found in fish, eggs, nuts, bananas, potatoes, and the white meat of turkey and chicken.


Low zinc levels in women prone to PMS suggest that a diet rich in this important mineral may prevent PMS symptoms. Leading food source of zinc include barley, wheat, crab, oysters, beef, lamb, chicken and turkey.

Vitamin C

Premenstrual stress can be alleviated by eating foods rich in Vitamin C and taking vitamin C as a supplement. Vitamin C is in most fresh fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin E.

Vitamin E can alleviate the premenstrual symptoms of anxiety and depression, It's often taken as a supplement to reduce breast tenderness, nervousness, depression, headache, fatigue, and insomnia. Vitamin E can be taken as a supplement and is found in broccoli, almonds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, peanuts, safflower oil, corn oil, olive oil, mangoes, avocadoes, apples, and blackberries.

A healthy diet with a normal eating routine helps overall good health. Besides diet, regular exercise and relaxation decreases premenstrual symptoms. Vitamin supplements or herbal preparations offer relief for many women experiencing menstrual difficulties.

Foods to restrict are:

There are certain foods to avoid because they exacerbate the symptoms of PMS. These include:

Sodium (salt - sodium chloride)

Salt is essential for the maintenance of human life, it controls the amount of water within our bodies, maintains the relationship between cells and body fluids and aids in the contraction of muscle tissue and is a vital ingredient of blood plasma and digestive secretions.

At the same time, it is important to remember that excessive salt can be fatal and it is commonly used as a preservative. Medical research has shown that a healthy adult requires an intake of about ten grams of salt per day. However much of the salt sold today is pure sodium chloride, fresh sea salt may be a better option as it contains many other minerals that are also needed by our bodies.

Excess salt can:

  • Alter levels of estrogen during a woman’s period
  • Cause water retention leading to PMS-related bloating
  • Cause breast tenderness and headaches.
  • Affect heart and circulation
  • Processed foods, fast foods and snack foods contain high levels of sodium


Sugar is in many of our foods which affects our health in many ways. Sweets, candy and sugar can cause:

  • mood swings
  • hypoglycaemia - imbalanced blood sugar levels
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • weight gain - excess sugar is stored in the body as fat.

While we need sugar, sugar is naturally in our diet when it includes complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, pasta, rice, cereals and beans.  So to counter cravings for sweet sugary foods, eat complex carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, beans, cereals, and whole grains.

Rich and Fatty foods

These are more difficult for the body to process especially when the body is stressed, and they contribute to weight gain and depression especially when combined with sugar. In effect they congest the inner body and limit the ability of the body and reproductive system to function normally.


A stimulating social drug which unfortunately for women elevates the risk of PMS, breast and ovarian cancer and fibroid tumors.

Excess caffeine can:

  • Elevate oestrogen levels
  • Cause or aggravate breast tenderness
  • Cause tension, headaches and irritability
  • Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, colas, chocolate and some medications

Cutting down or eliminating caffeine, which is found in tea, coffee, colas and chocolate, relieves breast tenderness during many a woman’s period.


Alcohol is well known for causing premenstrual depression and headaches, it also thins blood and should be avoided as during menstruation, it can cause excessive bleeding.

Most women at some time experience PMS and for many it can a persistent health problem which can last many years. Nutritional supplements will often restore normality to a woman's cycle and recovery is helped by restricting specific foods and exercising.

Functional Whole foods
Certain foods when eaten can help to relieve the severity of symptoms associated with PMS and some foods when restricted have a positive outcome.

Further reading
Breast care
Menstrual Cycle
Menstrual Cramps
Menstruation and Culture
Menstruation Books
Woman's Moon
Girl with a One-track Mind: Confessions of the Seductress Next Door



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