Top Tips to Beat PMS Cravings

From chocolatey treats to salty snacks, many women experience intense cravings and ravenous appetites a week or two before their periods. Experts have their theories on what causes these monthly hankerings.

For one, scientists believe low progesterone and high estrogen levels generate a drop in blood sugar levels, which leads to sugar cravings. Eating sugary treats will raise blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, the quick fix is followed by sharp blood sugar declines, creating a roller coaster of irritability, anxiety, and more sugar cravings.

Another cause of cravings may be due to serotonin levels, which are generally lower during PMS. Serotonin is the feel-good chemical in your brain. When levels are low we crave sugars and especially other carbohydrates like potato chips. That’s because the body uses carbs to make serotonin.

One thing’s for sure, cravings can occur like clockwork and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because they’re practically predictable, women can take several positive measures to prevent monthly pig-outs. Here are the top ways to curb those inevitable cravings.

Eat six mini meals. Eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day helps regulate blood sugar levels and keeps cravings from becoming binges. Try eating six smaller meals instead of the usual three bigger ones. Space them out about every three hours to give your body constant fuel.

Choose complex carbs. Fiber-rich foods are complex carbs that take longer for your body to break down and absorb, further curbing your cravings. Eat more whole-grain breads and cereals, and produce like legumes, fruit, and starchy veggies, which are on the complex-carb list.

Go for protein. By including protein at every meal or snack you help moderate blood sugar imbalances and slow the digestive process to keep from feeling hungry. Choose better-for-you protein options like eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, even peanut butter.

Maintain magnesium intake. Research indicates women can experience low levels of magnesium during PMS. Peanut butter, almonds, cashews, brown rice, sunflower seeds, and most beans are great sources of magnesium. It should be noted that chocolate is also rich in magnesium (which may further explain the cravings), but it’s also high in fat. If you simply must have chocolate, try to make it a small piece of high-quality, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, which typically has more calories and fat.

Relax and take a deep breath. Cravings can worsen in times of stress. By learning relaxation techniques and practicing them whenever you feel anxious or stressed, you can curtail the snack attacks.

Bring on the sunshine. The lack of sun can reduce serotonin levels, which leads to increased appetite and cravings. Get outdoors or let the sunshine in to raise serotonin levels and reduce sugar and carb cravings.

Get moving. Exercise boosts endorphins and decreases the appetite, but it’s not just scheduled exercise that can help. Being more physically active throughout your daily routine can also make a difference. Walk the dog, vacuum the floor, take the stairs, and simply keep moving.

Take heart. Cravings aren’t the only thing on the premenstrual rise. The female metabolism also increases a week before menstruation. So if you cave in to a craving you’ll be happy to know our bodies may burn an additional 100 calories a day during this time. It’s a small way of counteracting extra eating!

Even without a menstrual tracker, many people can tell when they’re a couple days away from getting their period. That flash of irrational anger when Starbucks is out of almond milk starts to make sense when it’s coupled with a craving for cookie dough ice-cream and a wave of fatigue. IMO, tampons should just come with a dark chocolate bar.

While it may seem like the universe is rigged against you, there’s actually a purpose behind the types of foods people crave before and during their periods. In her new book The Better Period Food Solution, registered dietitian and You Versus Food host Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, reveals not only the reason for craving carbs and fats instead of healthier foods, but also how menstruation affects hunger levels in general. Seriously, where was this intel in seventh grade health class?

How your cycle affects how hungry you are

There’s one specific time of the month where you’re more likely to be hungrier than normal. No, it’s not during your period—it’s in the first few days after ovulation (roughly halfway through your cycle if you have a 28-day cycle.) According to Beckerman, this period of your menstrual cycle is called the luteal phase, which is when your body’s main goal is to thicken and build up the uterine lining to prepare for a potential pregnancy. “If you don’t get pregnant, that uterine lining is ultimately what is going to be shed during your next period,” Beckerman says. “In assembling this so called ‘cushion’ in your uterus needed to support fertilization, the body requires more energy from nutrients in the luteal phase.” In other words, your body needs energy to build up the uterine lining, which is why it’s sending the body a signal to eat heartier than usual.

Beckerman says that another reason why it’s normal to feel hungrier at this part of the cycle is that your resting metabolic rate increases, meaning that you’re burning anywhere between 2 and 10 percent more calories than normal. “In the luteal phase, there is a drastic rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone which may be contributing to this increase in metabolism,” Beckerman says. “As we burn more calories, our tendency to be more hungry is only natural. But this phenomenon essentially cancels itself out at the end of the day because if we burn more calories and then we eat more calories, it starts us back at zero.”

For the average person, the luteal phase lasts between 12 and 14 days. Don’t expect to feel super hungry the entire time—that feeling is mostly concentrated in the first few days post-ovulation. But Beckerman says you can expect to feel ravenous again at the end of the luteal phase, which is when estrogen and progesterone levels drop. “Estrogen on its own is known to suppress appetite, and when that starts to crash down at the end of the luteal phase, right before PMS, our appetites can come back with a vengeance,” she says.

Why you crave unhealthy food before and during your period

Speaking of craving junk food, there’s a scientific reason for that, too. Simply put, carbs and fat make us (momentarily) happy. “The crashing of estrogen and progesterone cause our mood-boosting chemicals, like dopamine and serotonin, to plummet, making food an easy solution to help us turn that frown upside-down,” Beckerman explains.

Let’s face it: the days leading up to your period—and the first couple days you’re on it—aren’t fun. You have cramps, feel bloated, and are moody AF. A bowl of mac-and-cheese provides at least a temporary comfort and boosts serotonin. While that’s a totally valid approach every once in a while, Beckerman says no one will feel great in the long run if they rely on unhealthy foods to get them through a large part of the month, every month. Most traditional comfort foods are high in either refined sugar or carbs, which can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes that affect energy and mood levels; if they make up the bulk of one’s diet, that’s not going to be particularly helpful for maintaining a healthy, well-rounded diet.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to deny your cravings. “Instead of avoiding carbs completely like it’s the plague, arm yourself with better-for-you carb choices like satisfying and warm grain bowls, refreshing grapefruit, or DIY energy balls,” Beckerman says. “Plus, eating colorful fruits and vegetables will not just put your in a better mood but will also help to quench cravings.” (And yes, even a square of dark chocolate will help.)

Check out the video below for food choices that will make you feel amazing before and during your period:

The fact that dopamine and serotonin levels drop during this part of the cycle doesn’t mean food is the only way to show yourself some comfort. Doing something you love—whether it’s watching your fave ’90s movie, signing up for your favorite yoga class, spending time by yourself reading a good book, or meeting up with friends are all ways to elevate your mood, too.

Here’s how magnesium-rich foods can help ease period cramps. Plus, other foods that can help reduce PMS symptoms.

Here’s Why Your PMS Cravings Are Totally Okay, According to Science

Premenstrual food cravings are the punchline of endless jokes. Like most good jokes, they’re funny because they’re true.

Certain parts of a woman’s menstrual cycle do seem to go hand in hand with the desire for chocolate ice cream and potato chips. I hear about this every day from my OBGYN patients.

Researchers have studied food cravings for years; one of the most cited studies dates back to 1953. Scientists – and lots of others – want to know who has food cravings and why, what they crave, when they crave it and how to minimize the cravings. Here’s what the research has found.

Craving and eating before a period

Food cravings are just one of the many symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, also known as PMS. PMS is likely caused by hormonal fluctuations and how they affect chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters. Its symptoms are exclusive to the second half of the menstrual cycle.

This luteal phase of the cycle starts with the release of the egg at ovulation and ends when a period begins. The symptoms usually resolve around the third or fourth day of menstruation.

Researchers have documented more than 150 different PMS symptoms in studies, ranging from physical to emotional to behavioral to cognitive.

Food cravings are up there with the most commonly reported behavioral PMS symptoms, along with mood swings, irritability, anxiety and tension, and sad or depressed mood.

A woman doesn’t need an official diagnosis of PMS to report hankering for sweets and chocolates, though. Eighty-five percent of women have some sort of perceptible premenstrual symptoms, while only somewhere in the range of 20 percent to 40 percent of all women meet the diagnostic criteria for PMS.

Researchers find that cravings can occur during that premenstrual time period in normal, healthy individuals without a diagnosis of PMS or other disorder.

In fact, one study showed that 97 percent of all women had previously experienced food cravings – independent of their menstrual cycle.

Research data confirm women tend to eat more during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, compared to the follicular phase that leads up to ovulation. With or without the diagnosis of PMS, this increased food intake can be as high as 500 extra calories per day.

What foods are women reaching for? Carbs and fats and sweets. No surprise there. The most commonly reported food craving is chocolate, likely because it’s a pleasantly sweet combination of carbs and fat.

And although the existence of any craving is similar across women with and without PMS, the craving itself may differ depending on if you have the diagnosis of PMS.

In one study, women without PMS increased their intake of energy and fat, while women with PMS showed increase in total energy and all macronutrients.

What causes food cravings?

Researchers aren’t exactly sure where these food cravings come from, but there are several leading theories.

One idea is that women are unconsciously using food as a pharmacological therapy. Many studies show that women in their luteal phase crave more carbohydrates compared to during their follicular phase.

Eating carbs turns up levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, which contributes to a general sense of well-being and happiness.

By increasing carb intake, women may be self-medicating with food to cause that serotonin bump in order to feel better. In one study, when researchers increased serotonin neurotransmission in the brain, either through diet or drugs, people’s food intake and mood went back to normal.

Another possible explanation for food cravings suggests that women intentionally turn to food for physical and psychological comfort. Food can play a sensory role, eliminating any uncomfortable feeling of hunger while tasting good and feeling pleasant to eat.

Researchers find that “thinking” of a really tasty food is the most common provocation for wanting to consume it and that cravings are not solely hunger driven. Women also usually reported specific triggers for thinking of comforting food, like boredom or stress, further promoting the idea that the comfort of food helps mitigate unpleasant feelings – as one might experience with PMS.

Other researchers suggest that these food cravings are regulated by hormones. Scientists have observed that women tend to eat more when estrogen levels are low and progesterone levels are high – as occurs during the luteal phase.

The reverse pattern is seen in rats during the follicular phase, when estrogen levels are high and progesterone levels are low.

The fact that progesterone-only forms of contraception like Depo Provera are associated with weight gain, likely due to increased appetite, supports this theory as well.

How can you get rid of monthly cravings?

My general advice to women: be knowledgeable about your own body and how it changes in response to your monthly cycle. Your experience is different than your best friend’s.

Being in touch with your symptoms can help you acknowledge that they are normal for you at this point in time instead of worrying whether they’re weird. If you feel unsure, ask your gynecologist.

Lifestyle changes can help balance and minimize unwanted symptoms related to your menstrual cycle. Things to try include regular exercise, relaxation and stress reduction techniques such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, massage, self-hypnosis and regular, good sleep.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback may be options. They usually require support of a therapist or counselor to be most effective.

And you can optimize your diet to fight cravings:

  • Choose complex carbohydrates, including whole grains, brown rice, barley, beans and lentils. Choose whole wheat over white flour.
  • Reduce fat, salt and sugar – all of which can leave you craving more.
  • Minimize or avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Eat more calcium-rich foods, including green leafy vegetables and dairy. One study showed women who consumed milk, cheese and yogurt had less abdominal bloating, cramps, appetite and cravings for some foods, possibly because the calcium they contain helped reverse an imbalance of feel-good serotonin. Women who are sensitive to dairy can take a calcium supplement of 1200 mg daily.
  • Try magnesium supplements. This mineral can help reduce water retention and bloating, breast tenderness and mood symptoms.
  • Vitamin B6 (50 mg daily), in addition to magnesium, may have some benefit as well.
  • Vitamin E (150-300 IU daily) may be helpful to reduce cravings.

When food cravings are part of a PMS diagnosis, treatment for premenstrual syndrome in general may help minimize them.

Sara Twogood, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Southern California.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


One of the most commonly asked questions in our PIIT28 message boards is, “What do I do about PMS cravings when I’m trying so hard to eat clean?” We figured if our PIIT crew wants to know, chances are you guys do too.

Up to 85% of women experience at least one PMS symptom per month! These symptoms range from mood swings and fatigue to bloating and food cravings. So no, you’re not alone! These symptoms are very real, and they’re related to hormonal shifts that occur any time in the last two weeks of your cycle. So if you have intense chocolate and pizza cravings, and a moodiness that seems to zap your otherwise healthy willpower, it’s not your fault; hormones are driving the ship. Fortunately, there are several ways to captain that ship if you’re feeling fed up and want control once and for all. If you eat well most weeks, except for when you’re on your period, those out of control days might be the reason you’re not reaching your goals. It’s simple math, really. Consuming an extra 850 calories over four days equals roughly 1 pound of fat gain. If you’re in a calorie deficit most other days, you might be staying the same. If not, you might slowly be gaining. Either way, it’s extremely frustrating given how hard I know you exercise and care about your body.

Before diving into the solutions, do you want to know WHY your body cries out for sweet, salty or extra carby foods that time of the month? Estrogen is a key player in our bodies, and as its levels go up and down, so does cortisol (our stress hormone). When cortisol levels are high, the body turns on its fight-or-flight response. This stimulates appetite, and causes cravings for carbs and fat, the two things that support and fuel that response (yep, the caveman days still affect us even now!).

The types of cravings we experience come from cortisol and serotonin ratios. Isn’t it crazy how one day you’re diving into doughnuts, and another you’re eating a box of macaroni and cheese?! You’re actually not crazy at all! It’s physiological. According to Web MD, “If cortisol is high and serotonin is low, you’ll seek carbs and fats, but really heavy duty on the simple carbs— sugar-based sweets like chocolate bars.” Simple sugars are metabolized quickly, so they offer a quick serotonin fix. “If cortisol is way up but serotonin is relatively normal, a woman is more likely to crave a fat-carb combo without a huge sweet component,” like pizza.

As if that weren’t bad enough, we are often bloated, tired and grouchy, which makes us throw in the towel and say, “oh well, I might as well eat whatever I want because I’m fat and uncomfortable already.” We’ve all done this, right? But that attitude is a lot like jumping on your cell phone just because you dropped it. You don’t need to break it just because it cracked. The same goes for your body. Sure, the scale might be up five pounds and you have a little Buddha belly for a couple days, but those things will go away once your hormones even out. So instead of diving into the Ben & Jerry’s, be proactive to ensure you don’t put on real weight during your period. And who knows, you might even prevent your cravings all together!



Research has linked PMS to low blood sugar/hypoglycemia. Drops in blood sugar lead to irritability, shakiness and further hunger, generally for simple carbs, which deliver a quick rush of sugar to the system. To avoid cravings that stem from low blood sugar, eat five balanced meals each day. This might mean Greek yogurt, fruit and nuts for breakfast, a protein shake for a snack, a quinoa salad for lunch, bananas and peanut butter for a snack and chicken tortilla soup for dinner. The meals are smaller than “3-square meals” because you’re eating five times per day. They include balanced ratios of protein, fat and carbs which eliminate the blood sugar spikes and plummets that come with a day comprised of pancakes, a sub sandwich and Chinese takeout for dinner. Blood sugar stabilization is the premise of The 28 Day Reset – the official meal plan of PIIT28.


A breakfast of scrambled eggs with veggies and avocado starts your day off much better than waffles or cereal. Having protein and fat in the morning leaves you satiated and energized, and a lot less likely to crave chocolate by noon.


#1 New York Times Bestselling author, Dr. Hyman, suggests increasing vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains in order to ease PMS constipation, which affects your gut, which affects your cravings. “Two tablespoons of ground flax seeds a day are especially helpful in correcting constipation and balancing hormones. Put them in a shake or sprinkle them on salads or food.”


Well, not really loading up, but a few moderate complex carbs can help raise your serotonin levels to stave off the, “I could kill for a Snickers bar right now,” moments. They key is having just enough to raise your serotonin without sending your blood sugar skyrocketing. So the next time you’re feeling crabby or a bit blue, and your period is near, go ahead and have two ounces of whole wheat pasta with marinara, a small baked potato or a slice of toast. The amount you have won’t ruin your diet, and might spare you from raiding the pantry tomorrow. It’s best not to eat these carbs with lots of fat, as fat will slow the absorption of the carbs, thus, postponing your serotonin surge.


As much as you might feel like a beached whale, the best remedy for beating bloat is 8-10 glasses of water. The sooner the bloat is gone, the happier you’ll be, which mean you won’t be eating raw cookie dough to temporarily lift your spirits. The bottle above helps me stay hydrated throughout the day. You can get the Timer Bottle here.


Whatever gets the blood pumping will raise serotonin and lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is your stress hormone, and nothing relieves stress like exercise! This can have a huge impact on your cravings too! The happier I am, the more I want healthy and clean foods. I know it’s hard, but get a short workout in, even when you want to crawl under the covers in your pj’s. You’ll never regret that workout!


When all else fails and you just can’t force yourself to eat a salad because only a huge quesadilla will do, don’t fight it, make it healthier. There’s always a healthier option for the bad stuff. Craving a burger? Go turkey burger with avocado and half the bun. Need chocolate? Make an avocado chocolate mousse, or grab some chocolate covered edamame. French fries? Make your own baked sweet potato fries. You’ll have a lot less regret this way, and you’ll still satisfy your craving.


Caffeine spikes cortisol, so reducing it helps, once again, with your cravings. Chances are, though, if you cut it out completely, you’ll experience moodiness and fatigue, which won’t help your cause. So just try reducing it by half, or try a nice soothing tea.

That’s it guys! Can you do it? Can you cut your coffee by half, increase your fiber and eat balanced meals before and during your period? Let me know if you choose some, or all, of these PMS craving-cures and let me know how you feel!


ᐅ Top 5 Ways to FINALLY Curb Your Period Food Cravings for Good 🌸

Ok, ladies, we’ve all been there…

It’s that time of the month again, and no matter what you do, you can’t stop thinking about that chocolate candy bar.

You just ate lunch, so you’re not even hungry, but your body is telling you that you won’t be happy until you give in to that craving and just eat a little bit… And by a little bit, I mean all of it.

Time to do something about it!

In this post, you will learn:

🍫 Exactly what causes period cravings

✌ How to kick cravings to the curb

🤒 How to avoid bloating and other “monthly” symptoms

⚠ So… what are period cravings?

Cravings are a natural side effect of having a period, and everyone craves different things, from sweet chocolate, greasy pizza, to that soda we know we shouldn’t drink.

Many of the foods we crave can even make your periods worse and harder to deal with. It is like a never-ending cycle where we find comfort in food that doesn’t find comfort in us.

Certain foods we crave are known to cause bloating and impact our sleep, which then makes us more irritable and exhausted.

These cravings come on strong and can be difficult to ignore, and with everything else your period is putting your body through, we tell ourselves that we deserve it and we cave in.

Unfortunately, caving in can have many adverse side effects and knowing how to deal with your cravings and prepare for them can have a significant impact on your menstrual experience.

🍩 What causes period cravings for foods?

Most women experience cravings either before or during their period due to a change in hormones. As you begin your cycle your cortisol levels spike, all while your serotonin levels drop.

This means that simultaneously your stress levels are rising while your feel good hormones are dropping and your body begins to seek ways to find comfort and happiness again.

One way to do this is through sugary and fatty foods that your body knows will give it a sudden release of “feel good hormones.” These foods that you crave are meant to keep your body happy and relaxed.

🍽 Food Cravings During Your Period

Whether you are on your period or not, your hormone levels are constantly changing throughout the entire month and the cravings you feel right before your period are not actually a response to your period, but rather a response to recent ovulation.

Post ovulation, your estrogen and progesterone become imbalanced, which can lead to changes in mood, anxiety, and food cravings.

It is this that we often associate with our periods because it occurs the week before and it is actually the start of your period that helps to even out our hormones.

It is the drop in estrogen and progesterone levels that triggers the lining of the uterus to collapse, which causes your period.

This decline in hormones is also often associated with a more calm and relaxed feeling with fewer cravings as your period progresses.

This is why most women experience most of their cravings and changes in their mood the week before their period, or what we all know as PMS.

Food consumption plays a significant role right before our period starts. In fact, we don’t just crave food we shouldn’t have, but we actually consume more on a daily basis than we otherwise would.

If you are keeping track of your health, or have goals regarding weight loss, caloric intake and cravings can have an adverse effect and interfere with these goals as you consume more unhealthy foods and more calories.

Some studies show an average increase of 500 calories a day in the week before your period begins. Over a period of seven days, this is an extra 3,500 calories.

🛑 How can I stop period cravings?

Although period cravings are natural, they are not wanted.

Yes, if you give into them they may make you feel better at that moment, but often the sugary, salty, and fatty foods that we crave can have a very negative impact.

It can end up making you feel worse, make you more bloated, and give into your cravings can have a negative impact on your health.

And if you are trying to maintain your weight, or lose weight, these cravings are the last thing you want. As mentioned, cravings can lead to the consumption of unhealthy foods and a significant increase in calories.

Giving into a craving is and eating something unhealthy any other time of the month is the same thing. Too many sugary and fatty foods can negatively impact your health, so the best way to not give in to cravings it to learn how to eliminate or limit them in the first place.

Here are some ways you can control your period cravings:

  • Eat more protein
  • Avoid hunger by snacking healthy
  • Cut down on caffeine & alcohol intake
  • Dark chocolate + almonds make great snacks
  • Use Detox Organics to prevent cravings and beat the bloat

If you are trying to control your cravings before your period, the best way is to outsmart your cravings, and you can do this by limiting how often they may be occurring and finding healthier ways to give into them.

The first way you can outsmart your craving is by starting your day off with more protein. When you consume protein, you better control your blood sugar levels, and this will help you feel more satisfied throughout the day. Every morning, start your day off with at least 20 grams of protein, and you may find yourself experiencing fewer cravings throughout your day.

You can also cut down on cravings by making sure you are keeping yourself from being hungry throughout the day. If you know you won’t have time to make breakfast in the morning, prep something the night before that you can easily take with you, rather than going hungry. While cravings can happen even when we are not hungry, they are more likely to happen and be harder to give into when your body is in need of more fuel.

⚠️ Are you ready to prevent cravings, reduce appetite, and beat the bloat?

Join 225,000+ fans all over the world who trust Detox Organics to prevent food cravings & finally eliminate stubborn fat.

Cutting your caffeine intake can also be helpful. Many of us rely on caffeine every day to give us the energy we need to get all of our work done, but caffeine doesn’t always work well in conjunction with cravings and our periods because it can interfere with our stress levels, blood flow, and sleep patterns. The same thing goes for alcohol, and the last thing we need during a time when we are stressed and irritable are things that make us more stressed and more irritable. And, as we know, stress can make cravings more prevalent. Instead, rely on whole foods to give you energy or limit your caffeine and alcohol intake.

Finally, I understand that there will be times when cravings happen, and you will want to give into them. If you do decide to break down and give into them, then do it wisely, and you’ll be okay. One way to give into your cravings is by choosing to eat dark chocolates and almonds. This can provide you with the sweetness you crave and with a dose of healthy fat, rather than choosing something that is fried or greasy. You can also consume Detox Organics to satisfy your sweet cravings. Simply add it to some almond milk or your favorite type of yogurt, and you’ll have a delicious chocolate snack that is also healthy. So, instead of consuming sugary candy, you are choosing to consume herbs and vegetables that taste like chocolate.

How to stop period cravings for good?

There are many things you can do with Detox Organics besides mixing it is yogurt or almond milk. In fact, you can use it to make your own chocolate candies and desserts.

Making your own sweets with our superfoods powder when you know your body is going to be cravings sweets is a great way to get a head of the game.

Perhaps one of the positive aspects about cravings that are related to your menstrual cycle is that, unlike typical sugar cravings, these cravings can be predictable and we know when they are going to be impacting our lives.

⚡ Related: Learn How to Stop SUGAR Cravings for good

We can then prepare ourselves, make some healthier snacks, and store them in the fridge. This way, when you have a craving you can’t get rid of all you have to do is reach in and grab one. When you do this, you are less likely to impact your health and may even consume fewer calories than you would when you reach for less healthy alternatives.

Ask the Diva: Why Am I So Hungry During My Period?

Q. When it’s “that time of the month” I feel like my stomach is a bottomless pit. I can eat and eat. I also crave sweets. Is this normal?

A. It’s very common to experience an increase in appetite just before or during your menstrual cycle. The hormone changes associated with the menstrual cycle can make you feel hungrier, and the mood changes that sometimes accompany your period might lead you to crave foods that are high in carbohydrates and/or sugar. This effect can be exaggerated in women who experience PMS. (It just ain’t fair…)

You also burn more calories in the days leading up to your period – but don’t break out the King Size bag of M&M’s just yet. It’s an oft-repeated myth that women burn up to 500 extra calories per day during their period. In reality, you probably burn an extra 500 calories per cycle. And if you cut back on exercise during your period, it might just be a wash.

When faced with menstrual munchies, try to stick to yummy but healthy foods that fill you up: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein-rich foods. If the cravings feel emotional, see if you can find other non-caloric ways to lift your mood: take a walk in a beautiful place, schedule a massage, take a yoga class, see a funny movie, or call a favorite friend.

Make sure to get plenty of sleep. Being under-rested can powerfully increase appetite and cravings.

Finally, treat yourself to an ounce or two of the best quality chocolate you can find! Chocolate contains compounds that lift your mood! ‘Nuff said.

Image courtesy of

Why Do I Get So Hungry Right Before My Period?

This is the last of three posts from the Eating Disorders, Compulsions and Addictions Service (EDCAS) of the William Alanson White Institute in recognition of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 24th through March 2th).

In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I’d like to bring awareness to a lesser-known aspect of appetite and disordered eating—the impact of sex hormones and the menstrual cycle on appetite and body image.

Women are more prone to eating disorders than men. Statistics indicate that 80% to 90% of all people who suffer from eating disorders are women. This is usually explained by “cultural” differences: in the fashion industry, media, and cinema, female beauty is synonymous with a thin body; girls are brain-washed to believe they must have little or no body fat to be attractive. But this is not the whole story.

New research suggests that the menstrual cycle and the production of sex hormones are equal, or even more important, factors. Although both men and women produce sex hormones, women experience a monthly hormonal cycle from puberty to menopause. And the cyclical nature of sex hormone production has a powerful impact on appetite for both human and non-human female animals.

Although very little has been written on this subject, many women know intuitively that their relation to food changes across the menstrual cycle. It is common in my psychotherapy practice to hear female patients comment: “I was PMSing and couldn’t stop eating.” “I always binge on chocolate right before I get my period.”

Theresa Kinsella, a nutritionist in New York City who works with eating disordered women reports, “I have one client who is overweight and a binge eater. She calls her PMS phase, ‘the monster’ and has cravings for chocolate, frozen yogurt, and candy. ‘But it’s over,’ the client observes, ‘the second I start to bleed.’”

Kelly Klump, Ph.D., a research psychologist and professor at Michigan State University, studies the etiology of eating disorders with an emphasis on genetic and neurobiological factors. Klump and associates have demonstrated empirically that certain hormones are implicated, not only with regard to changes in appetite during the menstrual cycle but in body image as well.

In a recent issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders, she and her associates examined changes across the menstrual cycle in two independent samples of women and found a direct effect of sex hormones on both appetite and body image.

The researchers found that both binge eating and body dissatisfaction peaked during the pre-menstrual, or luteal phase when there is increased progesterone production. Estrogen, highest just before ovulation in the follicular phase, has been found to be an appetite suppressant.

In a recent conversation, Klump told me that binge eating during the pre-menstrual phase and appetite suppression during the follicular phase is also found in non-human animals. Animals show the same pattern of binge eating during the pre-menstrual phase and appetite suppression during the follicular phase. In addition to cultural factors, biology clearly contributes to female eating behavior.

Klump also found that during the pre-menstrual phase, when progesterone production is at its highest, women were less satisfied with their bodies. How do hormones affect body image (dis)satisfaction? Klump hypothesizes that progesterone leads to binge eating, which then triggers body dissatisfaction. In addition, progesterone contributes to pre-menstrual anxiety, a state that can make women feel more critical of their bodies.

What are the implications of this research for the treatment of eating disorders? Just as women with mood disorders are more prone to an increase in symptoms during the pre-menstrual phase, women who express anxiety and depression through disordered eating, particularly binge eating, would be expected to show an increase in symptoms during the pre-menstrual phase. This is exactly what Klump’s research found.

Jean Petrucelli, Ph.D., Director of the Eating Disorders, Compulsions and Addictions Service at the William Alanson White Institute emphasizes the importance of creative treatment strategies. She asserts that eating disorder symptoms are not something to simply eradicate, but are part of a story about the patient’s relational experience with caretakers. She stresses the importance of helping patients become aware of all that contributes to their disordered eating.

Petrucelli often recommends patients to keep a food journal as a vehicle for examining symptoms. The journal is a record of eating times, locations, and food choices, as well as associated feelings and eating disorder “behaviors.” She may suggest patients email a report of their weekly food intake and other ingested substances (alcohol, laxatives, diuretics, drugs) prior to meeting with her. Pictures of plates of food may also be included when portion sizes are in question. Active documentation helps alert the patient to feelings and experiences that trigger disordered eating.

Given the new research findings implicating sex hormones in eating behavior, it’s likely useful to expand the journal to include notes about the timing of menstrual cycle phases.

In recognition of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, let’s make an effort to become aware of the effect of sex hormones and the menstrual cycle on appetite and body image.

We’ve all heard about PMS-induced hunger and cravings, but are you actually hungrier before and during your period, or do you just believe you are because of stereotypes featuring PMS-stricken women and chocolate bars? What should you really be eating at that time of the month? Read on to find out the real deal when it comes to hunger and your period:

The Science

Throughout the 28-day menstrual cycle, levels of hormones — like estrogen and progesterone — vary depending on which phase you’re in (ovulation, menstruation, etc). It has actually been proven that estrogen inhibits appetite while progesterone increases it. During ovulation, estrogen slowly builds and progesterone is low, but right before and during your period, the pattern reverses; you suddenly are experiencing low levels of estrogen, the hunger inhibitor, and high levels of progesterone, the hunger promoter. This means that the perceived hunger you feel during these times is hardly a figment of your imagination.

Source: @bresheppard

Why You Crave Everything Starchy, Sweet & Salty

As you may have noticed, women often tend to gravitate towards starchy and/or sweet foods before and during their periods. Levels of cortisol, often dubbed the “stress hormone,” are usually slightly elevated during your period, which can cause you to become more sensitive to insulin. As a result, you burn though your sugar stores quicker than usual and thus begin to crave more sugar in order to bring your levels back to normal. At the same time, levels of serotonin — often referred to as a “happiness hormone” — drop right before your period which helps to explain many common symptoms of PMS, including the desire to consume carbs. In addition to generally being delicious, carbohydrates have been known to prompt the release of serotonin, thus making you feel better.

Source: Chelsea’s Messy Apron

What to Eat Instead

In order to set yourself up for the least painful period possible, seek out foods rich in magnesium and iron just before and during your period. These two essential minerals are quite depleted for most people around the time of their period. Red meat, shellfish, and spinach are great sources of iron while dark chocolate, avocados, and nuts are rich in magnesium. Chocolate also contains a fair amount of magnesium which helps to explain its popularity as a period craving favorite. However, try to indulge in dark chocolate as milk chocolate doesn’t contain nearly as much of the mineral.

In addition to increasing your intake of these two minerals, take advantage of front-loading breakfasts with protein and fiber to ensure that your blood sugar levels will remain steady throughout the day. Fluctuating levels typically induce cravings for starchy foods. Be sure to stay hydrated to reduce existing bloating and lessen the chance of future cravings coming on.

While you probably shouldn’t raid the candy aisles of your local drugstore upon starting your period, don’t hold back from indulging in some healthy carbs like a tasty whole-wheat pasta dish, bread, or fruit. After all, you’re definitely hungrier than you were two weeks ago.

Get a FREE copy of “7 Worst Foods That Cause Painful Period Symptoms”

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses, Kit Kat bars, hot chocolate, truffles, dark chocolate bars with cherries, and chocolate covered protein bars – many women eat these when craving chocolate before or during their period.

Why Do I Get Cravings Before My Period

The problem is that craving food before your period is a nutritional issue. It isn’t normal to crave foods unless you are hungry. But if you are craving sugar, sweets, red meat, spicy foods, salt, junk food, milk and dairy products, alcohol, peanut butter, vinegar, and carbohydrates, it’s a sign that you are missing vitamins and minerals, not a sign of your weakness.

How to Stop Food Cravings

You’d be amazed about how many women have addressed their nutritional needs and then rarely had cravings for chocolates and other foods afterwards. Sure, it wasn’t overnight, but within a few months, these women weren’t run by cravings during their period and before. They had wondered how to stop PMS craving, and yet when they started eating a better diet and took multivitamins and minerals such as the period vitamins, the cravings slowly and surely stopped.

Is It Normal to Get Cravings Before Your Period?

Cravings for different foods are not normal. They show you that you have dietary imbalances or nutritional deficiencies. You probably know this already, as you simply have to think about how your appetite was as a child. You weren’t driven by cravings but rather by hunger.

In the brain is an area called the satiety center. This area is controlled by protein in the meal, fat, and nutrients. Protein, fat and nutrients shut off the signals that tell you to keep looking for more food. On the other hand, carbohydrates increase the signals that tell you to keep eating. The entire process of satiety is also influenced by hormones such as glucagon and insulin as well as cortisol.

How to Control Cravings

One of the primary herbs that may be used for stopping cravings is Gymnema sylvestris. This herb is a favorite of many alternative medicine practitioners because it can stop a craving attack within a few minutes. The dosage is one to two capsules daily; that’s all that is needed.

Cravings can also be a result of low blood sugar levels. This condition is regulated by two minerals and one vitamin – zinc, chromium and niacin. The dosages of these nutrients are listed here in a chart –

• 50-75 mg zinc daily

• 200-500 mcg chromium

• 50-100 mg niacin

One of the reasons why you crave different foods is because you may be low in any or all of these three nutrients for blood sugar regulation. They all participate in the Glucose Tolerance Factor Protein complex, which keeps your blood sugar levels in the normal zone even though you may be hungry.

Herbal Remedies for PMS Cravings

Other herbs that can help stop cravings are ones usually included in a pancreas cleanse: cedar berry, uva ursi leaf, licorice root, mullein, cayenne pepper and goldenseal root. You can’t select one or a few of these herbs and expect them to work better than the entire combination as herbal cleanses are for the purpose of supporting the entire organ. Generally two caps are taken twice daily.

You can stop those PMS cravings, which really are not normal. Just make up a plan for yourself, give your body enough time to change (a few months), and stick to the plan.

Is It OK to Eat More During Your Period?

Feature Image by Dylan Lu

Whenever it’s that time of the month, we constantly crave carbs and sweets like french fries, pizza, and chocolate, which makes it more difficult to stick to a healthy, balanced diet. But you shouldn’t feel guilty when you’re giving into your cravings. In fact, it’s completely normal and OK to eat more during your period. We explain why, below!

Your body needs more calories when menstruating
Your menstrual cycle increases your metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy you expend while at rest. The weeks leading up to your period, you actually burn more calories than any other time of the month. When your period does finally come, your body has used up a lot of its fuel, so it’s no wonder why you’re so hungry.

There’s a change in hormone levels
There are two main phases of a period: the follicular phase and the luteal phase. The levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone go up and down during the different phases of your period, which affects your hunger levels.

The body craves mood-boosting foods
The rise in estrogen during the follicular phase can leave you feeling moody, cranky, and sad. Therefore, your body craves foods that will give you a quick energy boost. For example, when you bite into a chocolate bar, you feel comforted and lifted all at once. The high feeling you get is the result of chocolate, carbs, and sugar-laden foods that offer a boost of serotonin and dopamine.

Your blood sugar changes
Yep, your period also affects your blood sugar level. Because of this, women are more responsive to insulin (the hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood) when they’re on their periods. Cravings for chocolate and sugary foods are normal in response to your body’s need to raise its blood sugar levels. Just be sure to limit your intake of sugary foods, which provide a quick boost but will leave you feeling tired shortly after.

Your body is fatigued
Changes in diet during your period are a natural response to fatigue and a drop in iron levels. The simple fact that your body is tired and taking on the internal stress of a menstrual cycle on top of your everyday responsibilities, means it’s perfectly OK to eat more during your cycle. However, it’s important to also eat whole, nutritious meals with lots of greens to restore your iron levels.

xx, The FabFitFun Team

Do you tend to lose track of your menstrual cycle? These period tracking apps will make your life so much easier.

Cravings while on period

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