Some early studies suggest that dietary changes may help manage period symptoms. For example, eating more fruit and vegetables and drinking plenty of water may reduce menstrual cramps.

In some cases, over-the-counter (OTC) medications can help control period symptoms such as bloating and pain. But a person may wish to take other steps to relieve symptoms and support their overall health during menstruation.

This article looks at foods people should eat during their period to help ease symptoms.

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Some evidence suggests that specific foods may help alleviate certain period symptoms. According to the Office on Women’s Health, about 90% of individuals experience premenstrual symptoms, such as:

The following are some foods that evidence suggests may ease period-related symptoms.

Fruit and vegetables

While fruit and vegetables are a vital source of nutrients and fiber in anyone’s diet, they may be especially helpful during menstruation.

A 2018 study of university students in Spain found that vegetarian diets and eating more fruits and vegetables corresponded to fewer cramps and reduced menstrual pain.

This was true in several studies the authors discussed, but it did not appear to improve symptoms in people with endometriosis.


Drinking enough water is essential for health, and during menstruation, it can reduce the likelihood of dehydration headaches. It can also stop you from retaining water and bloating.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 do not recommend a set daily water intake. However, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends drinking 6–8 glasses daily.

Fish and seafood

Salmon, tuna, sardines, and oysters are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients can reduce inflammation in the body and may help tackle period pain.

A study from 2012 looked at the effect of omega-3 supplementation on the intensity of menstrual pain in women aged 18–22 years old.

One group took omega-3 supplements, while the other group received a placebo. The participants in the omega-3 group experienced a significant reduction in pain intensity. They also took fewer doses of ibuprofen to manage pain.

A 2014 study noted that omega-3s may also reduce depression. This may benefit those who experience mood swings and low mood around their period.

Other foods that contain omega-3s include:

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is both tasty and a good source of iron and magnesium.

Eating enough iron can help prevent iron deficiencies. Menstruation causes iron levels to dip as a person loses blood and can cause anemia in people with very heavy periods. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), people with heavy periods or menorrhagia lose significantly more iron per menstrual cycle than those with “normal menstrual bleeding.”

A 1 ounce serving of dark chocolate contains 3.4 milligrams (mg) of iron. This makes up about 19% of the recommended intake of 18 mg per day for adult females.

Additionally, dark chocolate provides a magnesium boost. According to a 2015 study, individuals with magnesium deficiencies were more likely to experience severe PMS symptoms.

Lentils and beans

Lentils and beans are another source of iron and are high in protein. Eating enough protein is essential for health, and during menstruation, it may help curb cravings for less healthy options.

Legumes also contain the essential mineral zinc. A study from 2007 found that zinc could ease painful period cramps.

Just as some foods may ease period symptoms, others may make them worse. These are usually foods that cause inflammation or bloating.

Foods to avoid include:

Additionally, lowering sodium intake can help reduce period-related bloating and weight gain. A 2019 study noted that increasing sodium intake may make a person more likely to experience bloating. However, it is important to note that this study looked at bloating in general, not period-related bloating.

The American Heart Association indicates that, in general, most people should eat no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day. Keeping sodium levels below this level can help reduce bloating.

Although there is a lack of research in this area, it seems as if foods containing specific nutrients may shorten the length of a period.

One example is vitamin B6. A 1983 study found that this vitamin lowers estrogen and increases progesterone, balancing menstrual hormones. This could potentially reduce the duration of a period and ease PMS symptoms.

Vitamin B6 exists in various foods. The richest sources include fish, organ meats, potatoes, and starchy vegetables.

Although uncommon, myrtle fruit syrup may also help. A 2014 study on 30 participants found that daily doses of syrup decreased the number of bleeding days in study participants while also easing pain. The small sample size means more research is needed to confirm whether or not myrtle fruit syrup can reduce bleeding and pain.

While many menstrual symptoms are common, people should contact a doctor about their menstrual cycle if they experience:

Some dietary changes may ease menstrual symptoms in some people or help them stay healthy during their period.

For example, eating iron-rich foods can help replenish iron stores when a person is losing blood. Other minerals such as magnesium and zinc may help ease symptoms.

People should speak with a doctor about severe or irregular periods, as they may have an underlying condition that could benefit from medical treatment.