The menstrual cycle – often associated with bloating, moodiness, cramps, and irritating hormonal breakouts – can be a frustrating time for many women. Fortunately, there are some simple dietary changes that can help reduce the severity of symptoms you experience each month. Read on to learn five important nutritional guidelines for balancing your cycle and improving your health.

1. Remove processed foods from your diet.

This is the best thing anyone can do for health. The challenge here is that many people think they are eating clean, but they are actually still eating a lot of processed foods. Do a little research on your daily diet, kitchen and cabinets. Are high sugar yogurts, granola and cereal bars showing up on your daily menu? What percentage of your food is unlabeled, such as vegetables? Try to eat mostly foods that don’t come in the package. Such a simple step will help a lot to balance your hormones and bring your body into alignment.

2. Remove synthetic hormones from your plate.

Choose local, clean, grass-fed meat and dairy with no added hormones and notice the difference in your monthly cycle. Food hormones can lead to heavier flow, more cramps, mood swings and even ovarian cysts.

3. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are often a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, which can help reduce the symptoms and severity of PMS.

4. Choose your proteins wisely.

Bioindividuality comes into play on a large scale with proteins. Some people notice much less cramping and a lighter, more comfortable flow feeling when they reduce their consumption of animal products. But women who are dealing with amenorrhea – or missed periods – may find that eating high-quality animal protein helps their periods return. When choosing protein, opt for grass-fed, local, hormone-free foods when possible. Try a more plant-based diet and notice how these different eating styles make you feel and how they affect your menstrual cycle.

5. Be honest about fat.

The concept that fat makes you fat is simply false. Lack of high quality fat in the diet is linked to skin health problems, amenorrhea, hormonal imbalance, ovarian cysts and a host of other common health problems for women. It’s important to remember that fat is your friend, not your enemy. Adding avocado, olive oil and even herb-fed butter can be very helpful in balancing your female cycle. Good fats, especially omega-3s, help reduce inflammation, which can be particularly helpful in reducing colic.