If you’ve been menstruating for a while now, you’re probably no stranger to a period craving or two.
In fact, according to the Office on Women’s Health, over 90% of us experience cravings during our premenstrual phase (1). It’s practically considered a ‘normal’ part of our cycle, signalling to us that our period is looming. We might feel a little indulgent as we have more chocolate than usual or devour some family-size packets of crisps. Although we consider this a normal part of the cycle, in some cases, it can lead to feelings of guilt, discomfort, and negative body image (2). These feelings can lead to cycles of restrictive eating, which can cause long-term mental and physical health issues (2).
Fortunately, we can try to combat these negative feelings by improving our understanding of why we have period cravings (3). Depending on the type of foods we desire and how we feel, our cravings might signal something else – the nutrient requirements needed for our body’s hormonal fluctuations (4). Intrigued? Well, this article is here to dissect this a little. Read on to learn all about cravings, the why, the what, and more.
Why do we experience premenstrual cravings?
Our hormones have a much larger influence on our body’s actions than it might seem. Increased hunger from metabolic changes and specific cravings from stress are prime examples to be discussed.
Peaked testosterone and progesterone may cause increased hunger during the premenstrual period (5). Research suggests that these changes can boost our metabolism, resulting in the need for more energy (aka, food) than usual (5).
Another possibility is a drop in serotonin towards the end of our luteal phase (2). Serotonin is the happy hormone, and if our brain feels low on this hormone, we might crave more food (2).
Cortisol has also been suggested to influence our hunger levels by altering our blood sugar levels (6). Dysregulated blood sugar can lead to cravings for sweet foods and inflammation, causing hormonal disruption (6).
Additionally, for those with restrictive eating patterns, this period may be considered an ‘acceptable time’ to break food rules (2). This suggests that cravings may be expected and used to ‘indulge’ – however, this psychological component may require more insight (2).
– Sweets, Carbs, and Chocolate
Why:Low serotonin, higher energy requirements, and potentially higher magnesium requirements (2,5,7).
Why:Dehydration and excess cortisol (8).
– Orange Juice
Why:Higher requirements for calcium and vitamin C (1).
What should we do about period cravings?
First up, there is nothing you need to do. As mentioned, we know that cravings before and during your period can be a normal reaction to your body’s changing needs. We can, however, identify the possible underlying causes and amend these to support ourselves. If we crave salty foods during or before our periods, prioritising hydration is a positive first step. Similarly, with sugar, we can try to look after our mental and physical health by eating enough complex carbs. If you deal with a condition like PCOS or endometriosis, which is affected by changing blood sugar levels, adding certain nutrients into your routine may be beneficial. Magnesium, B6, Vitamin D, and calcium may reduce overall PMS symptoms (9).
There we have it! I hope these tips help you navigate your next bout of premenstrual cravings with a little more self-love. Our bodies are constantly changing, and being kind to them is one of the best things we can do for our health. So, if you’re craving a little chocolate or salty snack – enjoy yourself. Food can nourish both the body and mind, and you deserve to eat foods that bring you joy.
If you’re interested in learning more and receiving personalised support to help optimise cycle syncing to your lifestyle and needs, my Menstruation Made Easy journey is here to help you feel your best. Plus, I’ll soon be launching my cycle syncing workshop! To receive updates about this and be the first to know once it’s live, sign up for my newsletter now.
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Boberová Z, Husárová D. What role does body image in relationship between level of health literacy and symptoms of eating disorders in adolescents?. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2021 Mar 27;18(7):3482.https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/18/7/3482
Hashim, M. S., Obaideen, A. A., Jahrami, H. A., Radwan, H., Hamad, H. J., Owais, A. A., Alardah, L. G., Qiblawi, S., Al-Yateem, N., & Faris, M. A. E. (2019). Premenstrual Syndrome Is Associated with Dietary and Lifestyle Behaviors among University Students: A Cross-Sectional Study from Sharjah, UAE. Nutrients, 11(8), 1939. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081939