11 Foods That Can Make Period Cramps & Bloating Worse

by Raven Ishak
Originally Published: 
Cheeseburger from chopped beef cutlet with tomato, salad, bacon, sauce and red onion. Next to the ch...

Let's be real; having your period can be the worst. It can make wearing white pants scary, or like you want to cry at everything in sight. While you're probably aware there are certain foods to avoid during your period, you might not be listening to that advice because, well, sometimes the foods with the least nutrients just taste good — especially during your period. (And that's OK!)

But if you want those awful cramps and uncomfortable bloating to go away, eating foods that are nutrient-dense is your best option. "Our bodies are losing a lot of blood [during our periods]. Depending on flow and duration, this could be 30 to 80 mL of blood loss. Your body must replenish this blood to attempt to keep you in balance," director of Clinical Health Psychology and founder of Health Psychology & Wellness Center at Behavioral Associates, Dr. Michele Barton, PhD, says in an interview with Bustle over email. "That is achieved through increased requirements of certain nutrients, and energy normally used in other ways. In addition, we are dealing with hormones going up and down, which is off-putting to us psychologically and physically."

Yes, those cupcakes and pizza pies do sound amazing, but during this time, your body needs the right nutrients so you don't feel even worse. Need more proof about what I'm talking about? Here are 11 things you shouldn't have during your period.

1. Processed Foods That Contain Unknown Ingredients


As much as it pains me to say this, those cookies or frozen pizzas you love so much might only make your period feel worse. "Our bodies are already sensitive during this time. Introducing unknown substances into your digestive system is rarely a good idea, but certainly more discouraged during menstruation. Our bodies are already working overtime, it's best not to add to this work when avoidable," says Barton.

2. Foods That Cause Bloating

"You have hormones acting to provide that service already. Mainly avoid sodas or other carbonated beverages, and foods with high salt content. Some of the hormones responsible for menstruation cause water retention, and therefore bloating. Eating foods that usually cause a bloated or gassy feelings will amplify these effects on your body and further increase bloating and discomfort," Barton says. These foods include frozen dinners, fast food, canned soups, and bacon.

3. Large Meals

"The signals that tell your brain your stomach is full are known to run on a slight delay," Barton says. "This means for most people, that they continue to eat after they are actually full. Under 'normal' circumstances this causes added stomach and abdominal expansion putting pressure on surrounding organs. This can create discomfort, amongst other issues. While you have your period, this can contribute to increased cramping, in addition to other unpleasant digestive issues," Barton says. Before you get that second course, try to wait about 20 minutes to see if you're still hungry. Remember to try to eat slower than you might typically, in order to eat as much as you're hungry for.

4. Foods High In Fat


While red meat is a good source of iron, consuming fatty meats can actually make you feel worse during your period because it can lead to cramping, bloating, and acne. According to Livestrong, foods with high fat can influence your hormones. Avoid foods made with with fatty cuts of beef, whole-milk dairy products, and burgers.

5. Fried Foods

Even though you may be craving fried food during your period, these foods can lead to bloating and stomach cramps as your body tries to process them.

6. Dairy Products

According to HuffPost, eating dairy can actually trigger menstrual cramps because they usually contain arachidonic acids, which are cramp-inducing. Try swapping for oat, almond, or soy milk instead.

7. Refined Grains


According to Healthline, refined grains can contribute to bloating, while whole grains will keep your digestive track regular. While white rice, white flour, and white bread taste delicious, these types of foods don't have that much nutrients left after the grain has been processed.

8. Avoid High Carbohydrate Meals

Meals that are high in carbohydrates — which include fruits and vegetables, by the way — are important because of the fiber they contain and energy produced when carbohydrates break down into sugars, but they may not be as filling as a meal with a higher ratio of protein, which will provide longer-lasting energy. That can leave you feeling even more tired during your period. Add more vegetables and fruit like oranges to your diet to help lessen your PMS symptoms.

9. Avoid Waiting Until You're Starving To Eat

If you wait till your starving to eat, you're going to feel fuller faster, which can lead you feeling even more uncomfortable. Plus, you're depriving your body from only getting nutrients to certain parts of the day. "If you eat smaller meals more frequently and of high nutritional quality during menstruation, you will stay satiated and reduce the intensity of cramping, while satisfying these feelings of hunger by giving your body what it is so desperately seeking," Barton says.

10. Caffeinated Drinks

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According to period tracking app Clue, caffeinated beverages that are consumed are linked to more intense PMS. While you may feel tired and irritable during this time, drinking caffeinated drinks can increase blood pressure and heart rate and it can lead to anxiety and tension which can make you feel more uncomfortable.

11. Alcohol

While alcohol can tastes good in moderation, the only thing worse than having cramps on your period is having cramps and a hangover. Plus, alcohol dehydrates you, which can lead to stomach troubles. Try to drink non-alcoholic or low-alcohol beverages instead.

It can be hard enough dealing with getting a period once a month. Instead of allowing your menstrual cycle dictate how your day is going to go, make sure you're trying to have a well-balanced diet during that week so you can manage your bloating and cramps that much better.

This post was originally published on May 5, 2016. It was updated on August 8, 2019.

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