Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): what kind of food can help you?

Published Apr 10, 2023 • By Candice Salomé

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) manifests itself through several physical and/or emotional symptoms that generally occur between 2 and 10 days before menstruation starts.

Certain dietary habits can help you better manage the discomfort caused by PMS.  

So how and why does PMS occur? What kind of diet can help relieve premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

We explain it all in our article!

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): what kind of food can help you?

What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)? 

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) manifests itself as a series of psychological and physical symptoms that begin between 2 and 10 days before the onset of menstruation and often end shortly after it begins.

Although it is not a life-threatening condition, PMS greatly affects the quality of life of women who suffer from it.

The symptoms of PMS include:

  • Irritability, 
  • Anxiety,
  • Agitation,
  • Anger,
  • Insomnia,
  • Difficulty concentrating,
  • Depression or lethargy,
  • Intense fatigue,
  • Transient weight gain,
  • Breast pain,
  • Pelvic compression,
  • Low back pain,
  • Skin manifestations such as acne,
  • Digestive problems, etc.

Premenstrual syndrome affects between 20 and 40% of women of childbearing age. Its intensity varies from one woman to another. But no matter how intense the syndrome is, it disrupts social, professional and family life of almost a third of them. In 5% of cases, it is associated with symptoms very similar to those of major depression. This is known as PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

The cause of PMS remains unclear at present. Since it is linked to the menstrual cycle, it is suspected that hormonal factors may be involved: the decrease in sex hormones after ovulation may play a role in the development of PMS (estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycle).

In addition, genetic predisposition is also thought to be one of the causes of PMS, together with serotonin, magnesium and calcium deficiency.

How can you reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) naturally? 

There is no effective treatment that works for all women affected by premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It is therefore difficult to treat. 

However, there are several methods you can try to reduce the impact of the symptoms on your everyday life, such as:

  • Getting enough rest and sleep - at least 7 hours a night,
  • Having a regular physical activity (30 minutes a day). This helps reduce bloating but also irritability, anxiety and insomnia. Sports such as yoga or tai chi help some women,
  • Using relaxation and stress management techniques such as meditation,
  • Avoiding sources of stress as much as possible.

Diet is also an effective ally in the fight against premenstrual syndrome.

How can your diet help you reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)? 

In order to alleviate the symptoms of PMS, it is possible to modify your diet during this period.

A diet rich in key nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, iron and omega-3s can help reduce some of the PMS symptoms.


Magnesium is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, but it also helps reduce nervousness and mood swings. 

You should therefore eat foods rich in magnesium, during the time of your PMS syndrome:

  • Nuts, especially Brazil nuts, cashew nuts or almonds,
  • Seeds, especially flax, sesame or chia seeds,
  • Whole grains, such as oats or buckwheat,
  • Legumes, such as lupins, beans, or navy beans,
  • Vegetables, such as mushrooms, spinach, or artichokes,
  • Fish, such as turbot, haddock, or tuna.

The consumption of alcohol, caffeine and soft drinks should be reduced as they contribute to the elimination of magnesium. 

Whole grains and pulses

Grain products and pulses promote the production of serotonin and can therefore have a positive effect on fatigue, agitation and depression.


Calcium is an essential nutrient with a positive effect on PMS symptoms. This trace element is involved in the nervous balance of the hormonal system. Dairy products are the main source, but certain fruits and vegetables (watercress, spinach, fennel, broccoli, green beans, kale, rhubarb) and legumes are also rich in calcium, although calcium from plants is less well absorbed by the body.

It is recommended to consume it with each meal because the body can only assimilate 500 mg of calcium per food intake, whereas it is recommended to consume 1200 mg per day when you are subject to PMS.

Omega-3 fatty acids

As menstruation approaches, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps reduce the formation of prostaglandins, pro-inflammatory molecules responsible for the contraction of uterine muscles and which can, in some women, cause digestive problems, which are characteristic of PMS.  

Omega-3 fatty acids are found mainly in oily fish, but also in walnut oil, flaxseed oil, hempseed oil, certain vegetables (watercress, cabbage, spinach, etc.), almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts. 


During menstruation, it is advisable to pay attention to your iron intake, especially when the flow is heavy. A low iron reserve may lead to severe fatigue. Iron-rich foods can be consumed in greater quantities, such as red meat, oily fish, spinach, lentils, wholegrain cereals, thyme, cumin, etc.

Finally, it is important to listen to your body! And don't hesitate to see a healthcare professional if the symptoms of your premenstrual syndrome (PMS) have too great an impact on your quality of life.

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Take care!

avatar Candice Salomé

Author: Candice Salomé, Health Writer

Candice is a content creator at Carenity and specialzes in writing health articles. She has a particular interest in the fields of women's health, well-being and sports. 

Candice holds a master's degree in... >> Learn more

Who reviewed it: Laury Sellem, Doctor of Nutrition

Laury holds a PhD in Nutrition Sciences (University of Reading, UK) and a master's in Nutrition and Human Health (AgroParisTech, France). She has conducted clinical and epidemiological research projects in Nutrition... >> Learn more


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