Many people have uncomfortable symptoms during menstruation. Some foods can lessen these symptoms, while other foods can make them worse. These symptoms include:

  • abdominal cramps
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • fatigue
  • bloating
  • mood swings
  • diarrhea

If you experience any of these symptoms, adding certain foods to your diet and removing others can help you feel better.

1. Water

Drinking a lot of water is always important, and this is especially true during your period. Staying hydrated can reduce your chances of getting dehydration headaches, a common symptom of menstruation.

Drinking plenty of water can also stop you from retaining water and bloating.

2. Fruit

Water-rich fruits, such as watermelon and cucumber, are great for staying hydrated. Sweet fruits can help you curb your sugar cravings without eating a lot of refined sugars, which can cause your glucose levels to spike and then crash.

3. Leafy green vegetables

It’s common to experience a dip in your iron levels during your period, particularly if your menstrual flow is heavy. This can lead to fatigue, bodily pain, and dizziness.

Leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach can boost your iron levels. Spinach is also rich in magnesium.

4. Ginger

A warm mug of ginger tea can improve certain symptoms of menstruation. Ginger has anti-inflammatory effects, which can soothe achy muscles.

Ginger may also reduce nausea. Few studies confirm this, but a 2018 study found that ginger effectively reduced nausea and vomiting during the first trimester of pregnancy. Since it’s safe and relatively cheap, it’s worth trying.

Don’t consume too much ginger, though: Consuming more than 4 grams in one day could cause heartburn and stomachaches.

5. Chicken

Chicken is another iron- and protein-rich food you can add to your diet. Eating protein is essential for your overall health, and it can help you stay full and sated during your period, curbing cravings.

6. Fish

Rich in iron, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, fish is a nutritious addition to your diet. Consuming iron will counteract the dip in iron levels that you might experience while menstruating.

Omega-3s can reduce the intensity of period pain, according to a 2012 study. Subjects who took omega-3 supplements found that their menstrual pain decreased so much that they could reduce the amount of ibuprofen they took.

A 2014 study showed that omega-3s can also reduce depression. For those who experience mood swings and depression around menstruation, omega-3s may be helpful.

7. Turmeric

Turmeric is known as an anti-inflammatory spice, and curcumin is its main active ingredient. A 2015 study looked at the effects of curcumin on PMS symptoms and found that people who took curcumin had less severe symptoms.

8. Dark chocolate

A tasty and beneficial snack, dark chocolate is rich in iron and magnesium. A 100-gram bar of 70 to 85 percent dark chocolate contains 67 percent of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for iron and 58 percent of the RDI for magnesium.

A 2010 study found that magnesium reduced the severity of PMS symptoms. According to a 2015 study, people with magnesium deficiencies were more likely to have severe PMS symptoms.

9. Nuts

Most nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and they’re a great source of protein. They also contain magnesium and various vitamins. If you don’t want to eat nuts on their own, try nut butters or nut-based milks or add these ingredients to smoothies.

10. Flaxseed oil

Every 15 milliliters of flaxseed oil contains 7,195 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids. For perspective, the Office of Dietary Supplements says you need only about 1,100 to 1,600 milligrams of omega-3s per day.

A small study found that consuming flaxseed oil soothed constipation, a common symptom of menstruation. However, more research is needed to show how flaxseed oil can improve digestive health.

11. Quinoa

Quinoa is rich in nutrients such as iron, protein, and magnesium. It’s also gluten-free, so it’s a great food for those with celiac disease. Plus, it has a low glycemic index, which means you’re likely to feel full and have energy for a long time after eating it.

12. Lentils and beans

Lentils and beans are rich in protein, so they’re good meat replacements for vegans and vegetarians. They’re also rich in iron, which makes them great additions to your diet if your iron levels are low.

13. Yogurt

Many people get yeast infections during or after their period. If you tend to get yeast infections, probiotic-rich foods like yogurt can nourish the “good” bacteria in your vagina and may help you fight the infections.

Yogurt is also rich in magnesium and other essential nutrients, like calcium.

14. Tofu

A popular source of protein for vegetarians and vegans, tofu is made from soybeans. It’s rich in iron, magnesium, and calcium.

15. Peppermint tea

A 2016 study suggests that peppermint tea can soothe the symptoms of PMS. Specifically, it can relieve menstrual cramps, nausea, and diarrhea.

16. Kombucha

Yogurt isn’t the only probiotic-rich food with yeast-fighting benefits. If you’re avoiding dairy, kombucha tea is a great fermented food that’s more widely available than ever before. Try to avoid kombucha drinks that contain too much sugar.

While all foods are OK in moderation, you might want to avoid certain foods that worsen the symptoms of your period.

1. Salt

Consuming lots of salt leads to water retention, which can result in bloating. To reduce bloating, don’t add salt to your foods and avoid highly processed foods that contain a lot of sodium.

2. Sugar

It’s OK to have sugar in moderation, but eating too much of it can cause a spike in energy followed by a crash. This can worsen your mood. If you tend to feel moody, depressed, or anxious during your period, watching your sugar intake can help regulate your mood.

3. Coffee

Caffeine can cause water retention and bloating. It can also exacerbate headaches. But caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches, too, so don’t cut out coffee completely if you’re used to having a few cups a day.

Coffee might also cause digestive issues. If you tend to get diarrhea during your period, reducing your coffee intake could stop this from happening.

4. Alcohol

Alcohol can have a number of negative effects on your body, which can exacerbate the symptoms of your period.

For example, alcohol can dehydrate you, which can worsen headaches and cause bloating. It can also lead to digestive issues, such as diarrhea and nausea.

Plus, a hangover can bring on some of the same symptoms that occur during your period, including:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue

5. Spicy foods

Many people find that spicy foods upset their stomachs, giving them diarrhea, stomach pain, and even nausea. If your stomach struggles to tolerate spicy foods or if you’re not used to eating them, it might be best to avoid them during your period.

6. Red meat

During your period, your body produces prostaglandins. These compounds help your uterus contract and get rid of the uterine lining, resulting in your menstrual flow. However, high levels of prostaglandins cause cramps.

Red meat may be high in iron, but it is also high in prostaglandins and should be avoided during menstruation.

7. Foods you don’t tolerate well

This might seem obvious, but it’s worth emphasizing: If you have food sensitivities, avoid those foods, especially during your period.

If you’re lactose intolerant, you might occasionally treat yourself to a milkshake, regardless. But during your period, it’s especially important to avoid the foods that can trigger issues in your body.

Eating these foods can cause nausea, constipation, or diarrhea, which will only add to your discomfort when you’re having a painful period.

Eating and avoiding certain foods isn’t the only action you can take to ease the symptoms of your period. Try these, too:

  • Exercise. Some evidence suggests that exercise, such as light cardio and yoga, can reduce menstrual cramps.
  • Hot compresses. Hot water bottles or microwaveable hot compresses can soothe pain in your abdomen and back.
  • Over-the-counter medication. Ibuprofen and other OTC meds can reduce your cramps.
  • Massages. Massaging your stomach or your back can reduce menstrual pain. In a small 2010 study, massages soothed pain in 23 subjects with endometriosis.

It’s common to have cravings during or after your period. Progesterone, a hormone that is at its peak just before your period, is associated with a bigger appetite, according to a 2011 study. As such, you might feel hungrier at that time.

Plus, if your mood is low, you might feel the need for comfort food. Eat the foods you enjoy, but remember that moderation is key.

Certain foods are great to eat during your period, while others can worsen your symptoms. The foods you choose to eat or avoid will largely depend on your specific symptoms and food sensitivities.

If your periods are particularly painful, to a point that you have difficulty functioning, see a doctor. This could be a symptom of a deeper health issue.