5 foods to avoid during your period

What should you not be eating if you suffer from PMS?

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Emma Thornton
Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
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19 February 2019

PMS - foods not to eat?

When talking about PMS and period symptoms, diet is vital. However, eating healthily while on your period and struggling with tricky symptoms can often be a bit of a challenge. Many of our cravings are erratic, extreme and unhealthy, and the foods we eat can have a huge impact on our bodies.

During menstruation and pre-menstruation, our hormones are all over the place and our bodies already feel like they’re falling apart, so it’s really important to make sure that what you eat isn’t making things worse.

To help you out, I've compiled a list of the 5 foods you should avoid if you experience PMS.

The 5 foods to avoid if you have PMS

To make sure you are well looked after during you period and to help reduce the PMS symptoms, here are some of the foods you should consider avoiding:

1. Caffeine 

With fluctuating hormones leaving your mental state a little out of sorts anyway, the last thing you want to do is introduce a stimulant such as caffeine which will only risk throwing your body into overdrive and potentially cause more erratic mood swings. Coffee is the obvious one, but excess too and even fizzy drinks or energy drinks are often also loaded with caffeine.

2. Dairy 

Much of the fat found in dairy products including milk, yoghurt, cream, cheese and ice-cream is saturated, which in excess, could give rise to inflammation and irritation, which could make period pain a whole lot worse. Dairy is also thought to cause an increase in the production of chemicals called prostaglandins, which are responsible for cramping.

3. Fatty meat 

Any meat with visible fat on it will also contain a high dose of saturated fats. Red meat, in particular, could create an increase in prostaglandins, so like dairy, both of these things can worsen period pain. When it comes to fatty meats, we also have the double whammy of some of them being processed. This means they will have added preservatives and in some cases salt, which increase the inflammatory load on the body.

4. Processed foods  

When we think of processed foods, tinned food and ready meals spring to mind. But actually, our supermarkets are lined with processed foods nowadays and they can become increasingly hard to avoid – so many packets! A rule of thumb is if a product has more than 5 ingredients in its ingredients list then it’s most likely pretty processed.

Processed and packaged foods are often especially high in salt, excess fat, refined carbohydrates and chemical additives; all of which will leave you feeling even more bloated, sluggish and uncomfortable. Refined carbohydrates, common in everyday ingredients such as bread and pasta, could also play havoc with your blood sugar levels and ultimately your mood – hello cravings and mood swings!

5. Sugary foods

Sugary foods (remember this includes sources of refined carbs and not just those that taste sweet) will cause a sudden spike in energy levels, which will feel good at first, but your energy levels will crash just as suddenly, leaving you even more grumpy and lethargic than you started. Sugar is also pro-inflammatory in the body and can exacerbate a whole host of symptoms including cystitis.

Sugars are also hidden in flavoured drinks, caffeinated beverages and alcohol, so it isn’t just foods we need to carefully consider.

The chocolate argument

I can’t talk about periods, PMS and diet without mentioning chocolate!

The benefits of eating chocolate during your period has long been contested. On the one hand, it is sugary, fatty and unhealthy and will only lead to an energy crash later on. On the other hand, our bodies are good at craving the things we need, like water when we’re dehydrated, so could it be that there is something in chocolate that our body needs during menstruation?

Read my article on eating chocolate for period pain to find out more.

Still suffering from PMS?

Sorting out your diet is a great way to reduce PMS symptoms, but sometimes it just isn’t enough – remember we are all individuals so it’s quite likely different components of our diet will affect us differently. Keeping a food diary is a top tip if you’re really struggling to pin point which foods work for you, or don’t for that matter.

If you’re struggling to know what to eat, head over to my PMS diet guide now.

If you still feel you need a helping hand to manage your symptoms after addressing diet, why not try A.Vogel’s Agnus castus. This herbal remedy has been licensed for use in relieving PMS symptoms, including cramps, breast tenderness, bloating, irritability, and mood swings.

Please note, Agnus castus is generally not suitable for ladies on hormonal medication, such as the contraceptive pill or HRT.


Originally written on 14/03/2017, updated on 19/02/2019.

Agnus castus


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