When you are a woman struggling with PMS, your hormones, during certain times of the month, seem to have an inexplicable hold on the food choices you make, as well as your level of activity. In order to deal with some of the unhealthy cravings that occur during this time, it is helpful to understand and define Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS.
What is PMS and When Does It Occur?
Premenstrual syndrome or PMS is defined by a mix of psychological, emotional and physical changes that typically occur after a woman ovulates, which end with the onset of menstrual flow.
The most common mood-related symptoms include:
Psychological symptoms typically include:
Physical symptoms are depicted by:
- Mastalgia (breast tenderness)
Food cravings are a major symptom during this time too.
The Appetite is Affected by Hormonal Levels During PMS
The appetite changes that a woman experiences during PMS are in direct correlation to the changes taking place in her body because of menstruation. While medical treatments for PMS may include the use of oral contraceptives, painkillers and diuretics, a menstrual diary may be utilized in reviewing the emotional triggers that cause a woman to overload on salty snacks or chocolates or experience a ravenous appetite before she begins her period.
Progesterone and Estrogen Levels Affect Blood Sugar Counts
Scientists believe that low levels of progesterone and high levels of estrogen cause the blood sugar to drop during PMS, thereby leading to a craving for sugar. Unfortunately, when women satiate the craving by eating a sugary food, they also experience a sharp decline in their level of blood sugar shortly thereafter. As a result, this “act in futility” results in the PMS sufferer experiencing a variety of emotions, including anxiety and irritability. It also leads her to, once again, look for a sugary treat to satisfy her craving.
Serotonin Levels also Impact What a Woman Eats
Another reason why cravings get out of control is due to the serotonin level – a feel-good type chemical that drops between ovulation and menstruation. When serotonin is reduced, women crave carbs like potato chips because carbs are needed for the production of the substance.
Tips for Cutting Down on Pre-menstrual Cravings
However, on a positive note, the cravings a woman experiences during PMS, are typically in line with the body’s clock and menstrual cycle. Therefore, you can institute some dietary guidelines that can be used during PMS or throughout the month. Following are some nutritional suggestions that you can employ to reduce the cravings that are associated with premenstrual syndrome.
- Choose foods that contain fiber and complex carbohydrates. Fiber-rich foods that contain complex carbs curb PMS cravings because they take longer to be absorbed by the body. Therefore, make it a practice to eat more cereals and whole grains as well as fruit, starchy vegetables and legumes.
- Eat six small meals rather than two or three larger meals during the day. Eating smaller meals, more frequently, assists in regulating blood sugar and reduces the need to binge. Eat meals about every three hours to give the body a consistent supply of fuel and to keep cravings at bay.
- Eat foods that contain protein. Eat snacks and meals that include such protein foods as eggs, turkey, fish, chicken or peanut butter. Include these foods in your diet to moderate imbalances in your blood sugar and to slow the digestion so you will feel more satisfied.
- Boost your intake of magnesium. Studies show that the level of magnesium drops during PMS, which also leads to cravings. Therefore, supplement your diet with magnesium-rich foods, such as almonds, brown rice, sunflower seeds, beans and peanut butter.
- Take a deep breath and de-stress. Cravings worsen when you feel anxious or stressed. Therefore, take some time to learn relaxation techniques or meditate instead of opting to go to the vending machine for a snack or “craving fix.”
- Spend more time outdoors. A lack of sunshine can also reduce the feel-good substance of serotonin in the body. Therefore, schedule your day so you spend more time outdoors to reduce cravings.
- Make exercise a habit. Exercise or physical activity increases the number of feel-good endorphins in the body as well as decreases one’s appetite. Regardless of whether you follow an exercise routine or maintain a physically active schedule, you will stymie the need to eat.