Passing by a cake shop or chocolate house on a normal day is testing enough as we tightly cling on to our well-balanced eating routines and a disciplined lifestyle to keep up our promise which is nothing but changing our eating habits for the better. Indeed, we don’t skip our weekend cheat meals or Friday night movie time with a tub of popcorns and that’s bad enough. There are times when our cravings overpower our willpower and all that remains is the satisfaction of eating our favorite sweet treat and the guilt that follows soon thereafter. Craving for food is even more predominantly seen on those days right before a woman’s menstruation cycle.
Raving Food Cravings
Food cravings has been a topic of interest to researchers for a long period-They love to get definite answers to multiple questions-who gets these cravings, why, for how long, how often and how to curb them. There have been more than 150 symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) identified including depression, anxiety, stress, mood swings, sleeplessness and above all, food cravings. Food cravings might be only one of the symptoms of PMS (caused mainly due to hormone fluctuation) but it is a mighty symptom that needs to be corrected as early as possible.
Some even figure out that it’s time for the monthly menstruation as their body suddenly bosses over their taste buds and demands an immediate supply of their favorite chocolates, sweets and chips. Almost 85% of women have some form of PMS symptom but only 20-40% meet their diagnostic criteria for PMS. There has been research showing that these food cravings can occur in women even when their diagnosis for PMS is false-in fact, we have a study showing that 97% women have experienced food cravings without any menstrual cycle closeby (https://www.popsci.com/science-of-pms-food-cravings/). These cravings have the potential to shoot up total calorie intake by as much as 500 more calories per day! Whoa!
There are different theories postulated for the reason behind these PMS food cravings. Research suggests that change in levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can cause cravings for foods rich in carbs, fats and sugars right before periods. Some feel that endogenous opioid peptides (EOPs) that are amino acid bonds always present in the body might be the reason sometimes. Also, cortisol (stress hormone) levels spike and serotonin (mood balancing hormones) levels dip whose combination is deadly increasing the cravings for sweets, fats and carbs.
One study published in a reputed journal found that 50% of women in United States crave for chocolates before menstruation-this might be because of the fact that our body runs low in magnesium during premenstrual cycle and the cocoa in chocolate is high in magnesium content. Sometimes, irregular periods or absence of periods can cause binge eating behavior in some people too. Food cravings might be common to all but the type of food we crave might change. It’s been seen that women with PMS crave for all macronutrients and total increase in energy while those without PMS crave for fat and energy.
We do know that the days right before menstruation are like a roller coaster ride for women as they have various emotions disturbing them from deep within- a sense of frustration, anger or even hopelessness. Individuals rely on food for physical and psychological comfort and have succumbed to emotional eating multiple times unknowingly increasing their total calorie intake. Women feel that all their emotional traumas and unpleasant feelings that arise during PMS go down with the dust when they are engaged in eating good food. While this might seem to elevate the mood immediately its effects also wear out in quite a short duration and again the craving might set in which is indeed not good for the woman’s health.
Tame Your Cravings
Our menstrual cycles occur every month and hence we need practical and efficient ways to put our PMS cravings under control or even more, avoid them completely. Usually our cravings wander around a tub of ice cream, sweets or fats that are full of empty carbs. Its not wrong to choose carbs but the type of carbs that you choose must be convincing enough-maybe go for some whole grain sandwiches, pasta or rice with vegetables to satisfy your hunger as well as your taste buds. Also, just because you have indulged in some junk food, it does not mean that you skip the next meal as this might lead to overeating and of course, extra calories. Try to eat small meals throughout the day to ditch any cravings or overeating. Make it a point to eat small healthy snacks in between your meals to keep you full. Choose foods rich in fiber as these control blood glucose levels and also improve your satiety for longer periods.
Periods is difficult, tiresome and wreckful for many people as they suffer from extreme body pain and abdominal discomfort. This might also be your worst time for exercise but lack of it can also engage you in negative thoughts and make you yearn for emotional foods. Instead, try doing simple yoga postures, go for a short walk with your friend or practice meditation at the comfort of your home. Exercise in general elevates mood levels, keeps off stress and brings in well-being and I am sure all these changes can be felt during your menstruation too.
Never try to totally stay away from what you love. Give in to your cravings once a while but ensure that the portions are controlled. You can also bring in certain swaps to enjoy your food as well as to keep it well under recommended calorie limits. For instance, choose unsweetened yogurt with berries instead of the sweetened yogurt, eat a piece of dark chocolate rather than munching upon the entire chocolate bar, replace fries with popcorns or go for fresh fruits/fruit juice instead of the calorie-laden smoothies with cream.
When you follow these techniques, it would indeed become a pleasant surprise for yourself as things get better, cravings become lesser and emotional trauma decreases.
Why You Have Food Cravings on Your Period: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a19947726/why-you-have-period-cravings/
How to Deal with Period Cravings: https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/08/07/how-to-deal-with-period-cravings_a_23069359/
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.