What should we avoid eating during periods?

Periods can be uncomfortable for many women. Along with physical symptoms like cramps, bloating, and fatigue, what you eat during your period can either worsen or help alleviate symptoms. Being mindful of your diet while menstruating can make a big difference in how you feel.

What foods should you avoid on your period?

There are certain foods that may exacerbate common period symptoms and should generally be limited or avoided during menstruation:

  • Salt – Excess sodium causes bloating and fluid retention, which can worsen abdominal cramps and breast tenderness.
  • Caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase anxiety, insomnia, and breast tenderness. It may also worsen cramps.
  • Alcohol – Alcohol is a diuretic that can cause dehydration and disrupt your sleep. It may also exacerbate mood swings and cramps.
  • Sugar – Sugar spikes and crashes can worsen mood swings, fatigue, and cravings.
  • High-fat foods – High-fat foods like red meat, fried foods, and creamy sauces may trigger indigestion and bloating.
  • Dairy – Dairy contains prostaglandins that can increase inflammation and worsen cramps. Many women are lactose intolerant during their periods.

Foods that commonly trigger inflammation, bloating, cramps, and other symptoms are generally best limited while menstruating. However, every woman is different. Pay attention to which foods seem to make you feel worse during your period.

Why avoid salty foods?

Salt causes the body to retain extra fluid, which can lead to bloating, breast tenderness, and abdominal discomfort. Sodium also triggers thirst and leads to water retention, which exacerbates period bloating. Avoiding excess salt for a few days can provide relief from these symptoms.

Some examples of high-sodium foods to limit during your period include:

  • Chips, pretzels, and other salty snacks
  • Pickled foods
  • Canned soups and vegetables
  • Frozen meals
  • Fast food
  • Soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, and other condiments
  • Salted nuts
  • Pizza
  • Cured meats like ham, bacon, and deli meats

Opt for low-sodium versions of packaged foods, limit restaurant meals, and avoid adding extra salt to foods while menstruating. Steer clear of salty snacks and foods packed in brine. Season foods with fresh herbs and spices instead of salt.

Should you avoid caffeine during your period?

Caffeine is a stimulant that can exacerbate many common period symptoms, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Breast tenderness
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Cramps

Caffeine causes blood vessels to constrict while increasing adrenaline. For some women, this triggers or worsens pelvic cramping. The diuretic effect of caffeine can also leave you dehydrated, potentially intensifying cramps and headaches.

Avoiding excess caffeine from coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate for a few days before and during your period may provide relief. Limit caffeine to one or two servings daily or avoid it altogether if you experience worsened symptoms.

Why limit alcohol during periods?

Drinking alcohol can exacerbate period symptoms and side effects in several ways:

  • Alcohol is dehydrating due to its diuretic effect. Dehydration can cause headaches, dizziness, and worsen cramps.
  • Alcohol disrupts sleep cycles, potentially worsening fatigue and irritability.
  • Alcohol irritates the stomach lining and can trigger indigestion, nausea, and diarrhea.
  • Some studies show alcohol may heighten PMS symptoms like depression and mood swings.

Avoiding alcohol in the days leading up to and during your period can help minimize unpleasant symptoms. However, light drinking in moderation is likely fine for most women.

Why limit sugar during your period?

Eating high amounts of added sugar may exacerbate mood swings, inflammation, and cravings during your period. Here’s why you may want to cut back:

  • Blood sugar spikes and crashes can worsen menstrual fatigue and irritability.
  • Sugar stimulates the release of inflammatory molecules like serotonin. Too much may lead to aggravated menstrual cramps.
  • Sugar triggers cravings for more sweets, increasing risk of overeating.

Avoid sugary sweets, desserts, sodas, and juices for a few days before and during your period. Focus on complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to help regulate hormones and blood sugar.

Should you avoid fatty foods?

High-fat foods may trigger indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain when menstruating due to heightened prostaglandin levels. Try to limit intake of:

  • Fried foods
  • Burgers, sausages, bacon
  • Pizza
  • Heavy cream and butter
  • Fatty cuts of red meat
  • Whole-milk dairy

Lighten up on rich, greasy foods in favor of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Be cautious of spicy foods as these can also irritate the stomach.

Why avoid dairy when menstruating?

Many women experience difficulty digesting dairy during their periods due to heightened prostaglandin levels. Lactose intolerance is common premenstrually. Dairy may also worsen cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. Limit intake of:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Yogurt

Opt for plant-based dairy alternatives like almond milk, coconut yogurt, and cashew cheese. Go easy on dairy for a few days before and during your period to see if it provides relief.

What foods should you eat more of during your period?

While it’s important to limit certain foods, you also want to ensure you’re eating a balanced, nutritious diet during your period. Focus on eating more of these foods and nutrients:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and veggies provide antioxidants, minerals, and anti-inflammatory compounds.
  • Whole grains: Whole grains like brown rice, oats, and quinoa contain fiber to prevent constipation.
  • Lean protein: Lean protein aids muscle recovery and provides iron to replace what’s lost during bleeding.
  • Healthy fats: Omega-3s in foods like salmon, avocados, nuts and olive oil fight inflammation.
  • Legumes: Beans and lentils offer plant-based iron, protein and fiber.
  • Nuts and seeds: These offer essential fatty acids, magnesium, and vitamin E.
  • Iron-rich foods: Shellfish, spinach, and red meat provide iron to replace menstrual blood loss.

Eating a balanced diet based on whole, unprocessed foods can help alleviate period symptoms. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and herbal teas.

Foods that may help with cramps and pain

Certain anti-inflammatory foods may help provide natural relief for menstrual cramps and pain. Try incorporating more of these options:

  • Ginger: Has compounds that reduce muscle contractions and relax the uterus.
  • Turmeric: Contains curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Garlic: Contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.
  • Salmon: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids that fight inflammation.
  • Chamomile tea: Contains antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory agents.
  • Dark chocolate: Contains magnesium, which relaxes muscles.

Spices like ginger and turmeric or magnesium-rich foods like dark chocolate or pumpkin seeds may help alleviate cramping without medication. Lightly steam or stir-fry veggies to retain nutrients.

Foods to help combat fatigue and mood swings

Fluctuating hormones, cramps, and blood loss often lead to tiredness, irritability, and mood swings during periods. These foods can help:

  • Bananas: Contain magnesium and potassium which regulates emotions and energy levels.
  • Oatmeal: Complex carbs boost serotonin, improving mood.
  • Salmon: Vitamin D and omega-3s support mood and brain function.
  • Chia seeds: Provide essential fatty acids, fiber, and protein to stabilize blood sugar.
  • Avocados: Healthy fats boost energy and enhance nutrient absorption.
  • Beans: Packed with iron, magnesium, and fiber to combat fatigue.
  • Nuts: Rich in magnesium to improve low mood and weakness.

Complex carbs, healthy fats, antioxidants, magnesium, and iron can help counter the exhaustion, irritability, and crying spells many women experience premenstrually.

Meal ideas and recipes for period relief

Putting together balanced, nutritious meals during your period is easy with a little planning. Here are some ideas:

Meal Recipe Ideas
  • Oatmeal with banana, almonds, and cinnamon
  • Avocado toast with smoked salmon and dill
  • Scrambled eggs with spinach and tomatoes
  • Chia pudding with fresh berries
  • Turkey wrap with veggies and hummus
  • Veggie and brown rice soup
  • Tuna salad stuffed in a baked sweet potato
  • Quinoa salad with chickpeas, nuts, and lemon vinaigrette
  • Sheet pan salmon with broccoli and potatoes
  • Chicken curry with cauliflower rice
  • Stuffed peppers with ground turkey, quinoa, and marinara
  • Tofu vegetable stir fry with brown rice
  • Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • Carrots and hummus
  • Greek yogurt with berries and chia seeds
  • Cottage cheese with toasted pumpkin seeds

Focus on getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats at each meal. Stay hydrated by sipping herbal tea or water with lemon throughout the day.

Lifestyle and diet tips for period relief

Along with eating a nourishing, anti-inflammatory diet, making certain lifestyle changes can help alleviate period symptoms:

  • Reduce stress through yoga, meditation, or massage
  • Get regular exercise like walking, swimming, or cycling
  • Get adequate sleep each night
  • Cut back on strenuous workouts
  • Apply a heating pad to ease cramps
  • Take hot baths
  • Try over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Drink chamomile or green tea
  • Consider supplements like magnesium, vitamin B6, or omega-3s

Be gentle with yourself and listen to what your body needs while menstruating. Light exercise, relaxation techniques, and proper rest can complement dietary changes.

Sample meal plan for period relief

Here is a sample one-day meal plan with recipes and foods that can help alleviate period symptoms:


  • Overnight oats made with rolled oats, chia seeds, unsweetened almond milk, cinnamon, and fresh berries
  • Scrambled egg with spinach, tomatoes, and avocado
  • Chamomile tea


  • Mediterranean chickpea salad with cucumbers, bell peppers, olives, feta, and lemon vinaigrette
  • Side of hummus with carrot sticks
  • Sparkling water with lemon


  • Baked salmon with zucchini noodles and roasted asparagus
  • Brown rice
  • Dark chocolate avocado mousse for dessert
  • Chamomile tea


  • Small bowl of edamame sprinkled with sea salt
  • Handful of mixed nuts and dried apricots
  • Green smoothie with spinach, banana, avocado, and almond milk

This meal plan focuses on anti-inflammatory foods rich in healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, magnesium, and iron to ease period symptoms.


Your diet can have a big impact on how you feel during your period. Limiting salty, sugary, and fatty foods while increasing intake of anti-inflammatory foods high in nutrients like iron can help alleviate many symptoms. Drink plenty of fluids, reduce caffeine and alcohol, and get adequate rest. With a little dietary tweaking and self-care, you can improve how you feel every month.

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