After ovulation (mid-cycle), you may notice a shift in how you feel both physically and mentally. You may feel a little more irritable, moody, bloated, fatigued. Welcome to your luteal phase a.k.a. the week before your period when the dreaded premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms commonly arrive. Everyone experiences PMS differently and you can read more about PMS in more depth on our blog here. But in this blog, we’ll talk about how food plays an impactful role when it comes to treating and relieving your PMS symptoms naturally. Food provides your body with the nutrients required to make and metabolise hormones, so the quality of your daily diet is either working for or against your hormonal health and contributing to the severity of symptoms.
So let’s look at some foods that help PMS…
Organic fruit & vegetables for PMS
A diet higher in vegetables and fruits have been linked with a lower risk of PMS (Hashim et al., 2019). Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed full of essential nutrients, fibre and antioxidants that are essential for a healthy reproductive system.
We recommend focusing on cruciferous vegetables like brussel sprouts, cauliflower and bok choy as these contain ‘glucosinolates’ which support the body’s natural detoxification system and prevent estrogen dominance (Kikuchi, 2015). You can roast up a tray of brussel sprouts and broccoli with some good quality extra virgin olive oil to have as a side with meals, steam some bok choy into an Asian inspired soup or pulse cauliflower into lower-carb ‘rice’.
Good quality protein
Protein is broken down into amino acids which act as building blocks for our neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Serotonin is our ‘happy’ hormone, and it naturally drops before our period resulting in a low mood (Bancos, 2018). Protein also helps to keep us satiated and fights off food cravings and fatigue which are both common PMS symptoms. Make sure to include a palm-sized serving of lean red meat, poultry, eggs and/or legumes with every meal.
Healthy fats for healthy hormones
There’s strong research showing us that ‘good fats’ such as anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent and treat physical and mental symptoms of PMS (including moodiness, brain fog, breast tenderness and painful cramps). Coldwater fish such as salmon, mackerel and anchovies are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, whilst vegans and vegetarians can also obtain their omega-3 fatty acids through algae, nuts and seeds. Earth Seeds are an easy and convenient way to ensure you’re adding a hormone-healthy boost of fats & fibre to any meal. Omega-3 supplementation has shown to be even more effective than painkillers for treating painful periods via its ability to reduce prostaglandins (pain-producing chemicals) (Behmanesh, Zafari & Mohammadi, 2012). How’s that for food as medicine?
Magnesium-rich foods to support reduction in PMS
Magnesium is a nutrient that’s been well documented in the scientific literature for improving both the physical and psychological symptoms of PMS. Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body including lowering anxiety, fluid retention and menstrual migraines (De Souza, Walker, Robinson & Bolland, 2000). Foods that are rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, legumes, bananas, and dark chocolate. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get the adequate amount of daily magnesium needed for optimal hormonal health & PMS reduction purely from our diet. This is due to a few factors such as nutrient depleted soil in which our food grows, along with daily stressors, sugar, alcohol & caffeine consumption interfering with the body’s ability to absorb and utilise magnesium. That’s why we recommend actively replenishing your magnesium levels every day with Moon Boost Magnesium Chloride oil or other supplementation.
Consume Zinc-rich foods for helping PMS
Zinc plays an important role in the brain and can have positive impacts on our cognition and mood. In a 2017 study, women who were supplemented with zinc for 3 months noticed significant improvements in their PMS symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and irritability. Zinc is also highly beneficial for those suffering from hormonal acne, which is a common symptom of PCOS. Add extra zinc into your diet by adding more pumpkin seeds, oysters, red meat, and legumes to your diet.
Increase your intake of anti-inflammatory spices to relieve PMS
Spices have been used traditionally for their culinary and health-promoting purposes including treating PMS! Our top 3 spices for treating PMS are cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger.
Cinnamon has blood glucose-lowering effects which help to improve insulin resistance and protects the liver, our main detoxification organ (Jiang, 2019). Studies have shown that sprinkling a teaspoon on top of smoothies, oatmeal and on fruit can help PMS symptoms such as sugar cravings, fatigue and heavy period bleeding.
Turmeric is one of the most well-known spices and rightly so! It has strong anti-inflammatory effects which help to lower prostaglandins and reduce painful periods. It also helps to improve unpleasant gut symptoms such as premenstrual stomach cramps and bloating. Make sure to consume certified organic turmeric that has a high percentage of the active compound curcumin which gives it its anti-inflammatory health benefits (like the one we use in Luna’s Gold Latte)
Finally, ginger is another anti-inflammatory, pain-fighting herb and it’s been even shown to be just as effective to reduce PMS symptoms as pharmaceutical pain killers! We love these spices so much that we’ve included them all in our Luna’s Gold Adaptogenic Latte which you can check out here.
Foods that can make PMS and period cramps worse
Whilst we’re all for taking an 80/20 approach to eating a healthy diet, we also know it’s incredibly tempting to fall face-first into a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts Homer Simpson style during our periods. But being conscious of eating a mostly whole food diet during this phase of your menstrual cycle can help significantly reduce PMS symptoms such as menstrual cramps, mood swings and fatigue. We recommend reducing your intake of packaged foods, refined sugars, caffeine, saturated and trans fats as these have been shown to worsen inflammation and PMS.
Sugar cravings are one of the most common PMS symptoms and in our luteal phase we’ll easily convince ourselves having a tub of ice cream for dinner is completely reasonable (we’ve all been there). However, consuming excess sugar can worsen our acne, mood swings and even contribute to vaginal thrush. If you’re a big dessert person after dinner, try our Luna’s Lover adaptogenic elixir which tastes like a heavenly hot chocolate drink.
Saturated and trans fats
Limit foods high in saturated fats such as pastries, processed meats, and fried foods. Saturated fats are highly inflammatory which worsens PMS symptoms and provide little to no nutrients for our body (Gold, Wells & Rasor, 2016). Read labels of packaged foods and avoid as best as you can anything that contains inflammatory oils such as canola, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed, safflower and rapeseed oil! Inflammation is the root cause of period pain and PMS so the more you can reduce it, the better.
Coffee can worsen anxiety in susceptible individuals, deplete our nutrient stores and make our periods more painful. If the thought of cutting out coffee makes you run a mile, we recommend cutting it out after 12 pm and instead of replacing it with other non-caffeinated beverages such as our Luna’s beets adaptogenic elixir or Luna’s gold adaptogenic elixir. Or at least try to limit your intake in the week before and during your period to help prevent exacerbating PMS symptoms.
Alcohol makes PMS worse. Period. Alcohol depletes essential nutrients for hormonal health (such as B vitamins), causes inflammation and burdens the liver. A healthy liver is essential for balancing healthy hormones and happy periods. Just a few weeks off alcohol can improve our cognition, moods, sleep, body composition, skin, and weight management.
Our period and PMS symptoms reflect our overall health and are directly influenced by our lifestyle and how we eat, sleep, and move. Shifting the way we eat can have profound impacts on how painful, regular, short, or heavy our periods are. Try incorporating these dietary tips and you’ll be shocked at how much of an effect food can have on our hormonal health!
We’ve also created a Moonbox specifically for PMS to help you combat monthly period symptoms once and for all! This box is intended to help you feel energised, pain-free, and vibrant every day of the month (regardless of if it’s coming into that dreaded PMS phase!). You can find the box and what’s included inside it here.
Finally, we’ve provided you with an example day of how to eat on your period, it incorporates all our dietary tips! Note, this is just one day so please use it as a guide only. For a more indepth hormone healing protocol with weekly meal plans, shopping lists, recipes and supplement guides to eliminate symptoms check out our Healthy Hormones Ebook Bundle here.
Sample Meal Plan
Oat porridge cooked with calcium fortified oat milk, topped with a tbsp of Earth seeds, a handful of organic blueberries and a dash of cinnamon
Matcha latte using Luna’s matcha adaptogenic elixir & a small handful of pumpkin seeds
Tofu, vegetable, and cashew stir fry with brown rice
Mediterranean quinoa salad with a fillet of Atlantic salmon
A slice of chocolate brownie loaf
Moonbox Nutritionist Judy
email: [email protected]
Bancos, I. (2018). Serotonin. Retrieved 22 July 2021, from https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/serotonin#:~:text=Serotonin%20is%20in%20the%20brain,the%20hormone%20may%20decrease%20arousal.
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De Souza, M., Walker, A., Robinson, P., & Bolland, K. (2000). A Synergistic Effect of a Daily Supplement for 1 Month of 200 mg Magnesium plus 50 mg Vitamin B6 for the Relief of Anxiety-Related Premenstrual Symptoms: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Crossover Study. Journal Of Women’s Health & Gender-Based Medicine, 9(2), 131-139. doi: 10.1089/152460900318623
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Hashim, M., Obaideen, A., Jahrami, H., Radwan, H., Hamad, H., & Owais, A. et al. (2019). Premenstrual Syndrome Is Associated with Dietary and Lifestyle Behaviors among University Students: A Cross-Sectional Study from Sharjah, UAE. Nutrients, 11(8), 1939. doi: 10.3390/nu11081939
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Kikuchi, M. (2015). Sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extract improves hepatic abnormalities in male subjects. World Journal Of Gastroenterology, 21(43), 12457–12467. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i43.12457
Mohib, A., Zafar, A., Najam, A., Tanveer, H., & Rehman, R. (2018). Premenstrual Syndrome: Existence, Knowledge, and Attitude Among Female University Students in Karachi. Cureus, 9(3), 158-162. doi: 10.7759/cureus.2290
Ozgoli, G., Goli, M., & Moattar, F. (2009). Comparison of Effects of Ginger, Mefenamic Acid, and Ibuprofen on Pain in Women with Primary Dysmenorrhea. The Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine, 15(2), 129-132. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0311
Siahbazi, S., Behboudi-Gandevani, S., Moghaddam-Banaem, L., & Montazeri, A. (2017). Effect of zinc sulfate supplementation on premenstrual syndrome and health-related quality of life: Clinical randomized controlled trial. Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynaecology Research, 43(5), 887-894. doi: 10.1111/jog.13299