When you wake up one fine morning to the distinct sensation that your midsection is being wrung through one of those homemade pasta rollers, let’s be clear—the last thing you’re probably thinking about is which foods you should eliminate from your diet over the next few days of PMS-induced torture. (If you’re anything like us, the first thing on your mind is probably, Chocolate for breakfast? Cool.)
And yet, like it or not, everything we consume during this time can actually significantly impact our PMS symptoms. “Although the causes of PMS aren’t well understood, fluctuating levels of hormones and brain chemicals are thought to play a role,” says Dr. Christopher Calapai, a family physician in New York City. “What a woman eats and drinks can also have an effect.” Spoiler alert: Your morning coffee is sending your cramps into overdrive.
But it’s not all bad. Calapai notes that there are also foods that can help alleviate moodiness, bloating, and all the other favors this monthly party provides us. Keep reading to see which foods to eat and avoid to keep PMS symptoms at bay.
It’s true: At least one stereotypical PMS food is A-OK. Calapai advises reaching for unprocessed dark chocolate when your sweet tooth strikes. “The bonus is that it’ll boost your mood,” he says.
Sorry, friends: Your morning joe aggravates a few different PMS symptoms. In addition to potentially worsening any anxiety, “your blood vessels contract when caffeine is present in your body, which worsens menstrual cramps,” says Calapai. Try to stick with as little as you need to function.
“Although it sounds counterintuitive, water can actually alleviate PMS-related fluid retention,” says Calapai. Stay as hydrated as possible to flush out toxins and keep bloating at bay before and during your period.
On the other hand, too much sodium will only worsen your body’s tendency to bloat. Try to avoid sneaky salt bombs by avoiding processed and canned foods whenever possible.
Chiefly, calcium and magnesium, which have both been shown to alleviate PMS symptoms. Calapai suggests ideally sourcing these nutrients through your diet, with foods like leafy greens and citrus, but a supplement can help you meet your levels as well.
A glass of wine might seem like a great way to unwind, but in this case, it could do exactly the opposite. Research shows that for women who are prone to cramping, alcohol can actually prolong the pain.
But, hey—there’s always chocolate.
And because PMS is just the beginning (sigh), see which foods to eat and avoid during your period.