Every month us ladies have the pleasure of going through menstruation and all the associated symptoms that come with it – PMS, bloating, mood swings, cravings and problem skin.

Food and hormones are so intrinsically linked that what you eat can drastically affect your monthly symptoms.  One of the most common symptoms is bloating, which can leave you feeling heavy and struggling to fit into your favourite jeans.  This is usually a result of hormonal changes which causes the body to retain water, causing bloating, as well as gas (a build up of air in the stomach and intestines).

Diuretics are not the answer

Many over the counter PMS medications are available to help combat bloating.  These are mainly in the form of diuretics, which help you to excrete excess water through urination.  The trouble with these is that as well as water you also lose important minerals (mainly potassium and magnesium, both of which are required to combat bloating).  They also do not treat the underlying cause of the symptoms (namely a hormonal imbalance) as they are merely masking the symptoms. By reducing the levels of these important minerals, they can in fact make your bloating worse.

Your diet is the answer

Following these few simple dietary rules can provide significant relief from monthly bloating:

Foods to avoid:

Wheat – these products are difficult to digest and as gas is produced as a by-product of digestion, they contribute to bloating.  Avoid bread, pasta and cereals and aim for quinoa, sweet potatoes and brown rice instead.

Salt – these cause the body to retain water.  Remember that most processed foods (ready meals, crisps etc) contain high levels so avoid these and avoid adding salt to your meals.  Processed meats (salami, sausages, bacon), canned soup, ready meals, and salty snacks like crisps and pretzels are especially high in salt, as well as condiments like soy sauce, ketchup and bottled dressings.  Aim for fresh fruits, vegetables, natural yoghurt and plain (unsalted) nuts and seeds instead.

Refined sugar – these make it difficult for the body to process the hormone oestrogen.  They also cause blood sugar levels to rise, which in turn promotes the retention of water.  Water molecules also bind to glucose (sugar) molecules, causing bloating.  On the flip side, avoiding refined sugars will cause the body to release stored water molecules.

Alcohol – this increases the severity of PMS symptoms.  It compromises liver function leading to a build up of hormones.  It is also dehydrating, therefore causing bloating.

What to have:

Potassium – bananas, sweet potatoes, yoghurt, spinach, beans and pulses are all rich sources of bloat reducing potassium.

Magnesium – Consuming magnesium rich quinoa, brown rice, nuts and seeds can all help to reduce the effects of bloating.

Water – when you’re dehydrated the body holds on to as much water as possible, leading to bloating.  The more you drink, the more your body is encouraged to release the water it has been storing.

Fibre – think brightly coloured and green leafy vegetables.  Fibre binds to hormones (oestrogen) and thus helps to remove any excess hormones from the body.

Tea – fennel, dandelion, peppermint, chamomile and ginger tea can help to reduce bloating symptoms.


As mentioned above taking a magnesium supplement can really help with bloating.

Look out for the Part 2 in which we cover  food cravings…