Does your appetite for pizza, pastries, chocolate, and anything with sugar in it skyrocket before or during your period? Some of us women have a unique ability to tell when our periods are about to start based on how intense our food cravings are. You can call it a sixth sense or a woman's intuition, but it's actually based on physiological changes happening in the body. It's also a common symptom of premenstrual syndrome (also known as PMS) that usually happens during the luteal phase of your period.
Good or bad, PMS cravings are surprisingly common. If you've ever wondered why you turn into the Cookie Monster at the same time every month, here's what you should know about why women get period cravings and how we can deal with them.
Yes, Cravings Are a Real Thing!
Have you ever had someone tell you that period cravings are all in your head? Send them this study and watch 'em squirm. Published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the study vindicates all women who experience increased cravings for carbohydrates and sugary food before and during their periods.
It turns out that our period cravings have a lot to do with our menstrual cycle hormones. Two hormones that play a part in our cravings are estrogen and progesterone. Rises in both estradiol (a form of estrogen) and progesterone levels are associated with increased cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods, sweet foods, and sweet drinks. Interestingly, higher estradiol levels are associated with carbohydrate cravings, while higher levels of progesterone are associated with sugar and chocolate cravings. These same hormones are also largely responsible for the intense pregnancy cravings some women experience.
Progesterone, in particular, rises drastically during the the first half of the luteal phase (between ovulation and menstruation) of our monthly cycle. The rise of this hormone is largely responsible for the sweet cravings many women experience in the days leading up to their periods. Symptoms usually subside after the luteal phase, though they may continue throughout the menstrual period and lead to binge eating episodes.
Hormonal fluctuations in estrogen are also associated with fluctuations in cortisol (otherwise known as the stress hormone). While your body wants to keep these hormones balanced, it sometimes struggles to do so. That's why some of us feel like rage monsters before and during our periods.
You've probably noticed that some women have fewer food craving experiences than others. You may even know some women who aren't affected by PMS cravings at all. This is probably because their hormones remain balanced throughout their menstrual cycles. For those of us who aren't so lucky and consistently deal with carb and sugar craving during our menstrual cycles, it's a good idea to get to the root cause of the problem (which is most likely our hormones).
While PMS cravings are not uncommon, they are indications of a hormone imbalance. If mood swings accompany your junk food cravings, bloating, severe menstrual cramps, or any other PMS symptom, it is possible to find relief. We'll talk about how in a minute.
What does a craving feel like?
A craving feels like an intense desire for a particular type of food. Unlike hunger, you're not driven by the need to refuel your body's energy stores when you crave something. Instead, you only want one type of food but not any others. Here are some things you may crave before your period:
Carbohydrates (give me all the bread and pasta, please!)
Salty snacks (such as chips, salted pretzels, and other salty foods)
Sweet foods (chocolate, ice cream, licorice, and all other sweets)
Fatty foods (pizza, cheesy dishes, burgers, etc.)
There are several reasons we might turn to these types of foods when we're about to start our periods. For one thing, they taste amazing, which is just what we want when we're feeling stressed and moody in the days leading up to our periods.
According to research, eating carbs may be a way for women with PMS symptoms to self-medicate. Carbs increase your serotonin level. Since serotonin is a "feel-good" neurotransmitter, eating carbs may temporarily help women feel better when dealing with hormone imbalances. Research shows that increasing serotonin neurotransmission through diet, medications, or supplementation may help reduce cravings and help women return to normal eating.
Are Your Cravings Telling You Something?
Though it may seem like your PMS cravings are pretty random, they may actually be your body's way of telling you it needs more of a certain nutrient. For example, if you suddenly feel an intense dark chocolate craving, your body may be telling you it needs more magnesium. Cocoa beans are high in magnesium, but so are green veggies, oats, and avocados. The next time you feel like eating all the chocolate bars at your local gas station, try eating a spinach salad or bowl of oatmeal first, and see if your cravings subside.
Similarly, if you feel like gorging yourself on salty foods, your body might be dealing with a mineral deficiency in the best way it knows how. Salt is one of the most common period cravings, and you may be able to satisfy it by eating more water-rich vegetables sprinkled with sea salt.
For those of us who experience a general increase in hunger before our periods, increasing our intake of certain foods may help. Instead of giving in to our cravings for sweets, we should try feeding our bodies healthy foods that will address any nutrient deficiencies we have and keep our blood sugar level stable.
Vitamin D, healthy fats (think avocados, olive oil, fatty fish) and complex carbohydrates (such as sweet potatoes, beans, and quinoa) can increase satiety. They also provide our bodies with the vitamins and minerals required to prep for the shedding of our uterine linings (which requires a lot of energy!) They can also help balance our hormone levels, which should be our main goal because balanced hormones can minimize or eliminate common period cravings and other PMS symptoms.
Lifestyle Changes to Curb Those Cravings
In addition to selecting healthier foods to quell our period cravings, other lifestyle changes can also help us have more comfortable, healthy periods. They include:
Do yoga: If you haven't jumped on the yoga bandwagon yet, it may be time to give it a try. Yoga helps minimize stress, which can lower your cortisol levels and help your hormone levels remain more balanced throughout your cycle.
Get good sleep: Sleep is SO important for hormone regulation. Women who consistently get insufficient sleep are more likely to deal with various hormone disruptions that can lead to irritability, increased hunger, and many other unpleasant symptoms. Pamper yourself with good shuteye at night, and your body's hormones will respond beautifully.
Supplement your diet as needed: Even if you generally eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and make time for yourself, your body may still need some extra help balancing your hormones. Supplementing with products such as Hermulti and Hertime Daily from Mixhers can help substantially. They're specifically designed to provide the complex female body with the nutrients and hormone-balancing ingredients required to feel better all month long.
Period cravings are real, but that doesn't mean they have to be part of your life. Learn to recognize the underlying causes of your monthly cravings, so they don't catch you off-guard. Reclaim control of your eating habits all month long by ordering Hertime today to help balance your hormones. You've got this!
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