As any woman can tell you, PMS is not the most fun time of the month. Cramps, bloating, crankiness, and on top of it, we get these powerful, incessant food cravings. It’s a lot. But when you think about it, food cravings can be particularly odd, and they can really challenge your commitment to a diet or healthy eating plan. So why do they even happen, anyway?
First things first: you do eat more before your period. And studies have shown that most of these calories come from carbohydrates. Like we really needed science to tell us that… So, right off the bat, it is completely normal for you to be consuming a few hundred more calories in the week prior to your period.
But why do we get cravings, from oddly specific foods to entire segments of the food pyramid? There are a few reasons why women can experience premenstrual food cravings:
Hormones get bouncy. Levels of serotonin, a mood regulating hormone, are actually lower in the week or so before a woman’s period. Meanwhile, your stress hormone, cortisol, is on the rise. It’s a rough combination. The cravings for sweets or starches may be the body’s way of trying to maintain balance by slowing the cortisol rise and keep serotonin levels from taking a nosedive.
It may also be helpful to eliminate caffeine, which tends to skyrocket cortisol levels. Try to keep a really balanced diet and lifestyle in the week prior to help your hormonal fluctuations adopt a more gentle slope.
Nutritional deficiencies manifest. Some women get killer cravings for chocolate. Some women get killer cravings for broccoli. Paying attention to the types of foods you are craving can tell you a lot about what parts of your diet are lagging behind. Chocolate cravings can be a sign of slight magnesium deficiency. Craving beets or beef can signify low iron levels. And so on.
It is important in these situations to listen to your body, but also to go the extra mile. If you’re craving chocolate, have a little chocolate but also take an epsom salt bath to boost your magnesium levels. If your iron is low, eat some beets, broccoli, and chickpeas, but also practice less strenuous exercise. Think yoga in favor of Crossfit. Give your body lots of what it needs and be grateful that it is powerful enough to communicate these needs to you.
The comfort food effect. From a young age we have been trained that comfort foods make everything a little better. Feeling pretty icky? The answer has always been chicken soup, ice cream, cookies, or chocolate. So, certain cravings could be a little more psychological in nature. But, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in comfort foods, as long as you don’t overdo it. But if you’re craving cake batter, that’s probably why.
PMS cravings can be optional. PMS, especially strong PMS symptoms, is simply a sign that your body is a little out of whack. You may need to cut out the processed foods, eat foods with more nutrient density and diversity, get more sleep, practice better self care, et cetera. Essentially, if you treat yourself with the utmost care and respect, your dreaded PMS symptoms can dwindle and even potentially disappear. Consider it: no more PMS. That is a beautiful world to live in.
As a woman, it is enormously important to nourish your mind, body, and spirit by practicing self-care. So many of us put the health and happiness of others ahead of ourselves that we end up too exhausted to take care of ourselves properly. There is no need to suffer or to martyr yourself in favor of the happiness of others. Take care of your own needs and not only will you be happier, but your premenstrual symptoms will become way more manageable. Take that, cravings!