PMS and Cravings: Why Our Cravings are Heightened and How To Overcome Them

There aren’t a lot of things scarier than periods. And to make matters worse, you are craving sweet, salty and anything in between.

One minute you can seem to have it all together and the next you experience pain that no man could understand, then on top of that you break out, bloat, crave all of the food, and open up the floodgates for a week, every freaking month.

Okay, so literally not fun at all. Hey, Aunt Flow… nobody wants you here.

But because she is here… and she plans on staying for a while, you might as well learn how to cope with her. More specifically, you can learn why this happens, and how to cope with hunger cravings that are associated with your period.

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Why are cravings heightened during that time of the month?

Dealing with cravings is hard enough, so the fact that our desire to eat processed, sugary foods is heightened even more during menstruation, kind of (really) sucks. But instead of always giving in to your temptations you can better learn how to deal with them, and find out the causes.

There are actual reasons why your cravings seem to skyrocket around your period. And you can thank hormones for that - specifically cortisol and serotonin. 

Cortisol (the stress hormone) spikes right before your period and serotonin (feel-good hormone) levels tend to dip. This makes you crave foods that are high in sugar and fat because these foods will help to boost levels of serotonin helping you to feel happier and relaxed… at least for a short amount of time until you crash, causing you to reach for another sweet treat shortly after.

We are all guilty of giving in to these temptations from time to time. And while it is totally okay to indulge occasionally, you should find some healthier alternatives. 

 Let’s look at common period cravings, and what you can do to control them.

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Top Period Cravings

85% of women experience at least one symptom of PMS, so while not all of us will experience the same symptoms, cravings around your period are symptoms that a lot of us ladies are familiar with. Here are some of the most common period cravings:

 Magnesium

Leading up to your period, you have an increased need for magnesium. So during this time, you may find yourself craving magnesium-rich foods. And guess what is really high in magnesium? COCOA.

So if you are one of the ones who crave all things chocolate: ice cream, brownies, candy bars, cookies, all of it, there is a real reason for it.

But instead of reaching for a chocolate bar look instead to a better alternative, like dark chocolate. Unlike most chocolate bars that have been over-processed therefore losing their magnesium content, dark chocolate is less processed and will provide you with the magnesium you are craving.

Other sources of magnesium: Green veggies, oats, almonds, cashews, peanut butter, and seeds.

 Salty Foods

Our adrenal glands control a lot of the hormonal reactions in our bodies. When you have your period your hormone levels will change, this will put your adrenal glands to work. Minerals are really important to the function of our adrenal gland, and if you have a mineral deficiency you will actually crave salty foods.

These cravings can lead us to reach for the bag of processed potato chips. If you are craving salty foods you don’t necessarily need to try to ignore that craving, but you can be smart about which salty foods you eat.

Edamame, sunflower seeds, hummus, pickles, cottage cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette are all great options. Bonus: a lot of those also contain magnesium so you are killing two birds with one stone there.

But you also shouldn’t get too much sodium into your diet, as salt can actually worsen symptoms of PMS for many women, making you retain fluids, and causing you to bloat.

Sugar and Carbs

As mentioned earlier, serotonin levels cause many to crave sugary, fatty foods. The problem with many sugary foods is that they are simple sugars, so they will get processed quickly and you will feel hungry again shortly after.

It is important to choose foods with more nutritional value to help you stay fuller longer. We will go over some tips for overcoming these PMS hunger pangs now.

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Tips for Overcoming Hunger Pangs

Blocking hunger is important, especially when you’re really hungry since you’re more likely to reach for sugary, processed foods.

 1. Choose good sources of foods that are more filling. Some of the most filling foods include protein and fiber.

Protein: Protein takes longer to digest than other macronutrients, helping you to stay fuller longer. Some great sources of protein include yogurt, fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, and whey protein.

Fiber: Fiber is a carbohydrate found in fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Fiber gets digested slower than high processed foods, which helps you to feel fuller longer. So you won’t be as tempted to grab for a bag of chips every 30 minutes.

2. Eat More Meals a Day

Aim to eat 5-6 smaller meals a day. Eating more frequently helps to keep your blood sugar levels regulated and resets your metabolism. Eating more often also helps to keep you more satisfied. When you wait too long to eat you actually begin to crave more high fat, high-calorie foods. So aim to eat every three hours and make sure that your meals contain good sources of protein, fiber, magnesium, and complex carbs.

3. Drink Water

You should try to drink eight or more glasses of water a day to reduce bloating and to flush the body out.

 4. Get More Sleep

 Sleep and hunger directly relate. The less sleep you get the more you actually crave high-calorie dense foods.

There are two hormones that are responsible for controlling our appetite and satiety: ghrelin (stimulates appetite) and leptin (suppresses appetite). Sleep deprivation can actually alter ghrelin and leptin levels.

So getting more sleep is not only important to make us more alert, but also for controlling hunger and cravings.

You should aim for at least 7 hours of sleep a night.

 5. Exercise Often

Regular exercise that gets your heart racing is a great way to reduce food cravings. Working out raises serotonin levels and lowers cortisol levels making you happier, and therefore reducing your cravings for sugary, fatty treats.