Between the cramps and bloating and general blah feeling, periods, to put it lightly, suck. But besides using a heating pad, staying hydrated and taking over-the-counter medicines, are there other steps we can take to alleviate period symptoms? Yes. Case in point: Avoiding certain foods that could worsen menstrual symptoms. That’s why we checked in with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, MD and Midol partner, for the foods (and drinks) she advises against eating during your period.
1. Sugary Snacks
Dr. Dweck tells us that sweet treats like chocolate, cookies and ice cream—you know, the foods you want to eat while you’re PMSing—cause a “sugar high” which is short lived until the fatigue of the sugar crash takes over. “Many women already suffer with PMS or menstrual fatigue, so high sugar foods can aggravate this,” she adds. To satisfy those sugar cravings, opt for a naturally sweet food like a piece of fruit or an extra drizzle of honey in your tea.
2. Salty Snacks
Yep, our beloved fries, chips or pickles can lead to water retention and swelling, especially in the ankles, feet and hands. Dr. Dweck recommends avoiding excess salt if this water retention and bloat are bothersome. She adds, “This is always a tough one, since cravings are common. If you can’t resist, consider an over-the counter medication like Midol Complete that provides relief of period symptoms like bloating and water-weight gain.” She also gave us a sneak peek at a new Midol product, Bloat Relief, that’s launching in June and is formulated to relieve bloat symptoms including swelling and water weight gain. (Yes please.)
Hate to break it to you, but you might want to cut back on margs and wine during that time of the month. Why? Dr. Dweck explains that alcohol can aggravate the fatigue and low energy that may accompany menstruation. If you don’t want to give up alcohol altogether during your period, moderation is key.
4. Super High Fiber Foods
Dr. Dweck notes that some women experience altered intestinal motility during the menstrual week. (Translation: constipation or looser stools.) “Although plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables are recommended, super high fiber or gaseous foods aggravate these symptoms for some and improve them for others,” she notes, adding that this is an issue that can be managed based on individual habits.
4 Ways to Make Your Period Less Painful
1. Know When to Expect It
Getting caught off guard by your period just adds insult to injury. Instead, use a period tracking app (we like Clue) for a super-accurate estimation of when you can expect to give your white jeans a rest for a few days. We also love the idea of a tampon subscription service (like one of these eight). You’ll never be without supplies—including chocolate.
2. Eat the *Right* Foods
Maria Marlowe, an integrative nutrition health coach and author of The Real Food Grocery Guide, tells us that while she used to get terrible cramps, certain changes to her diet have rendered them almost obsolete. “Cramps are not a necessary part of getting your period and can actually be a sign of a magnesium deficiency,” she said. “In general, the best sources of magnesium are legumes, nuts and seeds. A few recipes I’d recommend are this chocolate, almond butter and avocado smoothie, Double Dark Chocolate No Bake Brownies or a high-quality piece of dark chocolate with a handful of raw almonds or nuts.”
If you get cramps regularly, she suggests adding more dark, leafy greens, beans and legumes to your diet, recommending her recipes for Superfood Chili, Avocado Kale Salad with Chickpea Croutons and Crispy Curry Sweet Potato Skins with Kale and Chickpeas.
3. Pay Special Attention to Your Skin
Unless you’ve been blessed with a flawless complexion, your skin probably gets wacky around your period due to all the shifting hormone levels. Be extra vigilant with your skin-care routine to get ahead of any breakouts. The last thing you need when you’re already feeling crappy is a massive (preventable) pimple on your forehead.
4. Know Your Limits
You know your body better than anyone, and your period’s as good a time as any to actually listen to it. Even if the whole world is saying that a workout will make your cramps feel better, if you really don’t feel like hitting the gym, don’t. By this point you’ve probably had your fair share of periods—trust that what your gut is telling you is accurate.