Placeholder How Diet Impacts Women's Menstrual Cycle Holland & Barrett

Can food affect hormones?

¿Puede la comida afectar las hormonas?

Let's dive into what hormones are; We will cover how food affects hormones, as well as look at the different stages of the menstrual cycle in relation to hormones and diet.

Why does food affect women's hormones? 

Necessary for many different processes such as growth and development, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction and mood, hormones are your body's chemical messengers.

Every month, our nutritional needs change due to a fluctuation in hormones.

Each phase of your cycle will have corresponding changes in hormones, especially with estrogen and progesterone. Cortisol also changes throughout your cycle; However, significant increases have been detected during ovulation.

Your diet can sometimes interfere with your hormones, so it might be good to know some hormone-balancing foods. For example, high-glycemic foods like white bread and sugary drinks can cause a spike in blood sugar. Women with type 1 diabetes may be particularly sensitive to these increases in blood glucose a few days before their period.

And this brings us to...

Foods to avoid during your menstrual cycle

There are 4 phases in the menstrual cycle, these are: Menstruation, the Follicular Phase, Ovulation and the Luteal Phase.

We are going to look at the 4 phases of the cycle, giving you a summary of what they are and what foods are suggested to avoid during each phase.


During menstruation you are losing blood and experiencing rapid hormonal changes at the same time. So, it is better to choose foods with many nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, water, protein, iron and fiber.

Do your best to avoid the following:

  • Processed foods
  • Sugary sweets and salty foods
  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • spicy foods

The follicular phase

The first phase of the menstrual cycle is the follicular phase, which occurs from the first day to the 14th day of the menstrual cycle, based on an average duration of 28 days.

During this phase it is supposedly recommended to avoid:

  • Excessive amounts of ultra-processed foods
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • High-fat dairy foods


The following list of foods are anecdotally thought to be best avoided when you are ovulating:

  • fried foods
  • Processed meats
  • Unpasteurized dairy products
  • Soft sugary drinks

The luteal phase

Research is limited, but some people believe you may want to reduce these foods in the luteal phase:

  • Caffeine Refined carbohydrates (such as white bread and pastries)
  • Foods high in sugar
  • Excess salt

Foods to add during your menstrual cycle

A good place to start is with an emphasis on whole foods! Whole foods along with eating a variety of plants are beneficial for your overall health, especially your gut.

Eating foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds can support a decrease in inflammation in the body, helping to calm menstrual cramps.

Incorporate a mix of fiber-rich carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats into all meals. Once you've established a solid foundation with a balanced diet, it is recommended to add these foods for additional support:

  • Colorful fruits and vegetables
  • fatty fish
  • Fermented foods

Below, we have listed some foods to eat that could help regulate hormones specifically within the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle:


Are you wondering what are the best foods for menstruation? Well, other women suggest including these foods within the menstruation phase of your cycle:

  • Seafood
  • Pig
  • Pumpkin and flax seeds
  • Black and red beans
  • Beets, berries, grapes, red peppers
  • Algae

The follicular phase:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Lean proteins
  • Whole grains
  • healthy fats
  • Sprouted and fermented foods


These anti-inflammatory foods have been suggested to be eaten in the ovulation phase for additional support:

  • Berries
  • A variety of vegetables and leafy greens
  • Dark chocolate
  • fatty fish
  • Almonds

The luteal phase 

  • White fish
  • Red meat and turkey
  • Sesame and sunflower
  • Chickpeas Berries and grapes
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Apples, dates, pears, peaches
  • Integral rice

Can alcohol affect hormones worse during one of the phases?

Alcohol can affect your menstrual cycle.

Alcohol induces hormonal alterations that can disrupt the body's ability to maintain stability. This can eventually result in various disorders, such as cardiovascular diseases, reproductive deficits, immune dysfunction, certain cancers, bone diseases, and psychological and behavioral disorders.

There is some early evidence to suggest that alcohol consumed in your luteal phase (the second half of your menstrual cycle) may have more of an effect on your mood than during the follicular phase.

What foods can help with premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

Thiamine is found naturally in whole grains, meat and fish. One study found a significantly lower risk of PMS in women with high intakes of thiamine and riboflavin from dietary sources alone.

Iron-rich fruits and vegetables can also help prevent PMS or relieve symptoms. Iron plays an important role in how your body produces neurotransmitters called serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, all of which are important for mental health.

When analyzing mineral intake, an inverse association was observed between total iron intake and the development of PMS. Participants who consumed a higher total iron intake had a 31% lower risk of PMS than those who consumed less.


We hope we've helped break down which foods might be best for supporting your cycle and hormones. It is important that we consume a varied and balanced diet, without sacrificing the foods we enjoy the most.

What affects one person during their menstrual cycle may not affect you, as each person is unique.

Hormones play a big role in how we function, so finding out which foods can best support your body at different times of the month could allow you to feel a step ahead.





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