PMS and Food Cravings

What is PMS?

PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is the name for the symptoms women can experience in the weeks before their period. Most women have PMS at some point. 

PMS Symptoms:

  • trouble sleeping
  • feeling anxious, mood swings
  • bloating
  • breast tenderness
  • headaches
  • spots or oily hair
  • change in appetite (which we will explore today!)

Changes in appetite around your period

A question I get asked about all the time is how to stop ‘binge eating’ or food cravings when it comes to that time of the month. Although the reasons for PMS symptoms are unknown, it is thought to be linked to the changing levels of hormones during the menstrual cycle.

Some studies say that the changes in hormones especially estrogen and progesterone can cause cravings for foods like carbohydrates and sugar before you begin your period. This could be the case or it could be that these foods can reduce the feeling of fatigue or boost our mood (two other symptoms of PMS).

Why do we crave carbohydrates?

Many people say that their biggest cravings is carbohydrates when it comes to their period or pre menstrual such as pizza, chocolate and bread. When we consume carbohydrates they can help release serotonin, this is a hormone that affects the entire body but is widely known for its affect on our cognition. Serotonin enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other and can help us with sleeping, eating and stabilising our mood.

So, when we consume carbohydrates, whether they are in ‘simple’ or ‘complex’ form serotonin is released, which may make us link this these foods to feeling happy or even preventing fatigue. Therefore, when it comes to PMS symptoms, carbohydrates maybe the food we turn to to help relieve those symptoms.

Supplementation

Some women have found that vitamin D, magnesium or calcium supplementation alleviates some symptoms. However, the British Nutrition Foundation say there is little convincing evidence of any benefit of these supplements for PMS, so women should follow the principles of healthy eating and always seek medical advice before taking large doses of single supplements.

Strategies to reduce cravings in PMS:

  • Make healthier food choices throughout the entire month. Include complex carbohydrates, as discussed above, carbohydrates in any form will release serotonin so try not to avoid them.
  • Exercise regularly whether that is a walk, yoga or workout but studies show this can help boost mood and help improve sleep patterns
  • If you can and it fits in with your lifestyle, eating small, frequent meals high in fibre but low in salt can help and may also prevent bloating.

Summary

Hormone changes can affect appetite and a number of other things on the days leading up to your period. It is important to note that everyone is unique and to listen to your body, if your appetite increases then do not ignore it. Chocolate is great, let’s not forget that!

Please note; this is general guidance, please speak to your health care professional for more information.

References:

  • British Nutrition Foundation
  • Medical News PMS
  • PubMEd Changes in macronutrient, micronutrient, and food group intakes throughout the menstrual cycle in healthy, premenopausal women

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