As a woman, you know a slew of uncomfortable physical symptoms accompanies your menstrual cycle. Some of the signs your period is coming include breast tenderness, fatigue, bloating, and cramps. But did you know that cravings can also be a sign of your period?
Indeed, for many women, premenstrual cravings are just another painful symptom to deal with during “that time of the month.” Cravings before and during your period can range from craving sugary treats to wanting savory snacks. But why do we have them pregnancy cravings?
Causes of Period Cravings
There are several reasons why cravings occur on and before the period. These include:
Hormonal fluctuations play a major role in your body and mental health during the menstrual cycle. Estrogen and progesterone are hormones that increase during the luteal phase—the time between ovulation and your next period—before dropping off after your cycle. During this window, estrogen levels can drop drastically, and progesterone surges right before your period due to its strong premenstrual effects. The decrease in estrogen usually causes our bodies to crave saltier and sweeter snacks when this hormone imbalance occurs. This hormonal fluctuation is one factor meaning you experience cravings while on your period or just before it hits you.
Sometimes you might have an intense craving for something specific just because your body needs it – like large amounts of calcium prior to bleeding to reduce menstrual pain or iron when anemia levels are high due to prolonged or heavy periods. If this is the case, consider incorporating more nutrients into your diet instead of eating processed junk food to satisfy them. Eating vegetables, spinach, and dark leafy greens are relatively easy ways to introduce more iron-rich foods into your diet without the additional calories from fried foods, sweets, etc.
Many women experience heightened emotions in the days leading up to their period, which may lead them toward comfort food. The same is true emotionally after our period ends, too; we might reach out for chocolate or a pint of ice cream as our reward for surviving another cycle! Succumbing to these cravings once in a while helps relieve stress. Still, it is also important not to go overboard with unhealthy treats as they usually lack essential vitamins and minerals needed during this time.
A Natural Reaction
Finally, cravings are a natural part of the menstrual cycle. Hormone levels can cause cravings just like many women feel in their life changes—such as pregnancy or menopause—and it is important to remember that it is perfectly normal to have them. Even if your cravings are mild, indulging in them once in a while won’t hurt.
Tips for Managing Period Cravings
Although cravings are usual and can be beneficial, it’s important to remember that they should be managed in moderation. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track with your eating:
Understand your triggers.
The first step is understanding what triggers your cravings in the first place. We often overeat without even realizing why; it’s only after we realize our hunger is actually due to emotions like stress or boredom.
Once you start paying attention to what triggers your cravings, you’ll be better able to identify them before they happen and take steps to avoid them. For example, if you notice that you tend to reach for sweets when you’re feeling stressed out, try taking a few deep breaths or taking a break from whatever task is causing stress instead of reaching for something unhealthy.
Research indicates that CBT journaling can be great tool to help identify triggers.
Keep healthy snacks on hand.
It’s much easier to manage cravings when there are healthy snacks around. Keep things like cut-up vegetables and fruit in the fridge for easy snacking, and make sure your pantry is stocked with other nutritious options like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, popcorn, yogurt cups, etc. This way, if you have an urge for something sweet or salty–there will always be a healthier option available that won’t derail your diet goals!
Getting up and moving around can help distract you from those pesky cravings. Exercise releases endorphins that can help reduce stress and make us feel better overall – which are key when trying to resist a craving! Plus, working out also helps boost our metabolism, which means we burn more calories throughout the day – bonus! So next time a craving hits, take a quick walk around the block or do some jumping jacks until it passes.
Eat regular meals.
Eating regular, balanced meals can help to keep your blood sugar levels stable and minimize cravings. Eating three meals a day–breakfast, lunch, and dinner–plus two healthy snacks can help keep your hunger pangs at bay and prevent you from reaching for something unhealthy. Also, ensure your meals and snacks are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats since these nutrients help keep us fuller for longer.
Drink more water.
Drinking lots of water is essential for keeping your hormones balanced, so make sure you’re getting enough throughout the day. This will help minimize cravings and keep you feeling full longer. It has also been proven to reduce bloating, which can worsen any craving, especially those for salty snacks!
Get enough sleep.
It’s also important to get enough sleep to reduce cravings. Lack of sleep can lead to an energy crash and the need for a quick pick-me-up, which often means reaching for something sugary or fatty. Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night, and you’ll be less likely to give in to cravings.
Avoid tempting situations.
If certain places or situations trigger your cravings, do your best to avoid them. For example, if you always crave ice cream when you walk past the ice cream shop, try to take a different route. Or, if you tend to overeat at parties, try eating a healthy snack before you go so that you’re not as tempted by the unhealthy options. Doing these can help you control your cravings and keep them at bay.
Practice mindful eating.
Mindful eating is a technique that can help you to become more aware of your eating habits and make better choices about what and how much to eat. When practicing mindful eating, pay attention to your hunger cues and eat only until you’re satisfied—not full. Additionally, take your time while eating and savor each bite instead of scarfing down your food quickly.
Take supplements to curb cravings.
Some supplements can help with period cravings. Magnesium, for example, helps regulate hormones and reduce PMS symptoms. Calcium is another supplement to consider. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for hormone balance and can help curb sugar cravings.
By understanding what period craving is and why it happens, you can better manage them and make healthier choices for your body. It’s important to remember that there’s no need to completely eliminate cravings from your life—enjoying a treat every now and then won’t derail your diet. Make sure you’re eating in moderation and fueling your body with the nutrition it needs to stay healthy.