​A normal menstrual cycle should last between 21-35 days and averages 28 days (counting from the first day of menses to the first day of the next menses). Bleeding should be for no longer than 7 days.

Menstruation symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Water retention
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability

Foods that help ease menstrual cramps

"While painkillers may be effective in eliminating any pains, there are five foods that have been found to help alleviate menstrual woes, although more thorough research is still required," says Christine Ong, Senior Principal Dietitian, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, KK Womens and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.

1) Calcium

Calcium is found to reduce cramp pains, reduce bloating and water retention. Calcium is present in substantial amounts in:

  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Fish with edible bones
  • Other plant sources including calcium-fortified soy milk and tofu

Dairy products

2) Fibre

Fibre ensures regularity of bowel movements. Rather than feeling even more bloated, aim for at least two servings of fruits and vegetables daily and opt for wholegrain products (refer to the HPB My Healthy Plate diagram below for portions). To prevent constipation, do not forget to increase your fluid intake too!

HPB My Healthy Plate

3) Magnesium

Magnesium is found to reduce symptoms such as headaches and cramps. Magnesium rich foods include:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Avocados
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Almonds
  • Wholegrain products (see below)

Wholegrain foods

4) Omega-3 and Vitamin B12

Used in combination, Omega-3 and vitamin B12 have been found to be more effective than just having adequate omega-3s alone. Some good options to consider including in your diet before your period are:

  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds

Omega 3 foods 

5) Vitamin E

For reduction in menstrual pains, studies that have shown improvements included up to 500 IU of vitamin E daily. Foods that are high in vitamin E include:   

  • Wheat germ
  • Dry roasted sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Peanut butter

Vitamin E foods

Ref: N18

Check out our other articles on menstruation

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): Link Between Oestrogen and Mood

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): When PMS Gets Severe

Menstrual Disorders: Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Menstrual Disorders: Manage Your PMS Symptoms

Menstrual Disorders: Painful Periods

Menstrual Disorders: Irregular Periods

Heavy Periods (Menorrhagia): Symptoms and Causes

Heavy Periods (Mennorrhagia): Diagnosis and Treatment

Menstruation Pains and What They Mean