Why Do I Eat More on My Period? Hormones, Hunger, and Health

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It’s not uncommon for many women to experience hunger and cravings before and during their menstrual cycle.

In fact, according to research by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nearly 85% of women report at least one symptom of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), including increased appetite.

So, what’s the reason behind this? Is it just our hormones, or is there more to it? In this blog post, we’ll dive into why women eat more during periods, what foods support health, and how you can manage your diet to feel your best.

Hormonal changes:

One of the main culprits behind our increased appetite and food intake during our period is hormonal changes. In particular, the hormones estrogen and progesterone play a crucial role in regulating our appetite and metabolism.

Before and during menstruation, these hormones fluctuate, leading to changes in our appetite and food cravings. For the menstrual cycle hormones, for example, some women may experience a decrease in blood sugar levels, leading to feelings of fatigue and hunger.

Additionally, estrogen is known to increase the production of the hunger hormone ghrelin, leading to an increase in appetite.

Nutritional needs:

Another reason why women may experience increased hunger levels during our period is due to our body’s increased nutritional needs.

During menstruation, women lose blood, which contains essential nutrients like iron. This loss of nutrients can lead to feelings of fatigue and hunger. To combat this, women should focus on incorporating nutrient-dense foods into their diet, such as leafy greens, nuts, and lean proteins, or iron supplements if necessary.

Emotional stress:

Many women experience emotional stress during their period, which can lead to overeating and cravings for comfort food. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that increases appetite and cravings for unhealthy foods.

To manage emotional stress, it’s essential to take care of your mental health by practicing self-care techniques like meditation, exercise, and relaxation exercises.

Lack of sleep:

Another factor that can contribute to increased appetite during your period is lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation can affect the production of hormones that regulate appetite, leading to increased appetite control cravings for unhealthy foods.

To get a better night’s sleep, avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed and practice relaxation techniques like reading or a warm bath.

Healthy eating tips:

To support your health and manage your extreme hunger during your period, try incorporating these healthy eating tips into your diet:

  • Eat fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.
  • Include foods high in iron, such as red meat, spinach, and tofu.
  • Choose lean proteins like chicken and fish and plant-based options like tempeh or beans.
  • Avoid processed foods like chips, cookies, and sugary drinks.
  • Practice mindful eating by chewing slowly, savoring each bite, and paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues.

Why Am I So Hungry Before My Period?

Are you feeling hungrier before your period? You’re not alone! Hormonal changes, such as increased levels of progesterone and decreased estrogen, can ramp up appetite hormones and up your appetite.

These hormones can also affect serotonin, which can influence food cravings. So, if you eat carbs, can’t worry – it’s normal to want a few more snacks during this time. Remember to choose healthy options to keep your body feeling its best!

Why Does Compulsive Eating Happen Before My Period

  1. Hormonal Changes: Before menstruation, your body experiences a hormone fluctuation like estrogen and progesterone, which can increase your hunger.
  2. Serotonin Levels: These hormonal changes can also affect your serotonin levels – a neurotransmitter that influences your mood and appetite, leading to cravings.
  3. Energy Needs: Your body needs more energy during this time, which can cause an increase in appetite.
  4. Emotional Factors: Some people may experience stress or mood swings before their period, which can lead to emotional eating.

Remember, it’s perfectly normal to feel hungrier before your period. But if you find yourself struggling with compulsive and binge eating again, it’s essential to seek help and support.

Why Do I Crave Sugary Foods and Carbs Before My Period?

Cravings for sugary foods and carbs before your menstrual period are pretty standard, and here’s why:

  • Hormonal Fluctuations: Changes in hormones like estrogen and progesterone can trigger cravings for high-carb and sweet foods.
  • Serotonin Levels: These hormonal changes can also impact serotonin levels – a neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation. Serotonin production increases with carbohydrate intake, leading to these cravings.
  • Blood Sugar Levels: Hormonal shifts can cause a drop in blood sugar levels, leading to sugar cravings.

So, it’s perfectly normal to have these cravings. However, you can manage them by choosing healthier alternatives and maintaining a balanced diet.

Iron Levels and Period Cravings

Cravings during your period can sometimes be a sign of low iron levels. Here’s why:

  1. Iron Loss During Menstruation: Heavy periods can cause iron loss, leading to iron-deficiency anemia, which might trigger unusual cravings.
  2. Impact on Body Functions: Iron is vital in carrying oxygen in the blood and supporting body functions. Low levels can affect these processes, potentially leading to cravings.
  3. Pica and Iron Deficiency: A condition called ‘Pica’ can cause cravings for non-food items like ice or dirt due to iron deficiency.

So, if you’re experiencing unusual cravings during your period, it might be worth checking your iron levels. Eating iron-rich foods or considering supplements can help maintain healthy iron levels. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

Insulin Sensitivity and Period Cravings

However, these cravings might also be due to changes in your insulin sensitivity.

  1. Hormonal Impact: Hormones such as progesterone and estrogen fluctuate during your cycle. These fluctuations can impact your body’s response to insulin, leading to decreased insulin sensitivity before your period.
  2. Increased Appetite: Reduced insulin sensitivity may cause your blood sugar levels to drop, increasing appetite and cravings for quick energy sources like sugars and carbs.
  3. Body’s Natural Response: This is your body’s natural way of preparing for potential pregnancy and the increased energy needs it would bring.

How many days do you get hungry before your period?

Have you ever noticed how your appetite spikes a few days before your period? You’re not alone. It’s common for women to feel hungrier in the week and days leading- up to their period, typically 7-10 days before menstruation begins. This is due to hormonal changes that can affect your metabolism and trigger cravings for carbs and sugar.

Is it normal to be hungry during your period?

Yes, it is expected to feel hungrier than usual on your period. This is due to hormonal changes, particularly the increase in progesterone, which can stimulate your appetite. These fluctuations are a regular part of the menstrual cycle and can lead to cravings for carbohydrate-rich and sugary foods. Remember, listening to your body and nourishing it appropriately is essential during this time.

How many extra calories do you burn daily when you have your period?

During the luteal phase, the week before your period, your body may require an additional 100-300 calories per day due to a slight increase in your Basal Metabolic Rate.

However, the exact number can vary from person to person. It’s important to remember that these are averages, and individual experiences may differ.

How do you manage your period cravings?

  1. Listen to Your Body: Your body is wise, and its cravings are not random. They can signify that it needs more nutrients, especially during your period. So, listen to what your body is telling you.
  2. Eat Balanced Meals: Make sure your meals balance protein, fat, and carbohydrates. This can help keep your blood sugar stable and prevent extreme cravings.
  3. Stay Hydrated: Sometimes, our bodies confuse thirst with hunger. Keep a water bottle nearby and sip regularly.
  4. Don’t Skip Meals: Eating regularly can help manage hunger and reduce the intensity of cravings.
  5. Mindful Snacking: If you’re craving something sweet or salty, it’s okay to indulge in moderation. Choose nutrient-dense snacks like dark chocolate or nuts.
  6. Physical Activity: Regular exercise can help reduce cravings by reducing stress and helping you distract from food thoughts.
  7. Get Enough Sleep: Lack of sleep can intensify cravings. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
  8. Practice Stress Management: Stress can trigger cravings. Incorporate stress-reducing activities into your day, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.

Remember, it’s not about perfection but progress.

The key is balance and understanding your body’s needs. And remember, you’re not alone. Many women experience increased cravings during their period, and there’s a whole community here to support you on your journey to mindful eating.


Our increased appetite during our period is a complex issue that involves hormonal changes, nutritional needs, emotional stress, and lack of sleep.

By using more calories and understanding the reasons behind our hunger and cravings, we can make more informed choices about our diet and better manage our health.

Remember to prioritize nutrient-dense foods, take care of your mental health, get enough sleep, and practice mindful eating habits to support your well-being during your period.

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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