Period Cravings Exist, but Who Knows Why?
Posted byLibby Mullen
It’s a tale as old as time. A girl gets period, goes to the store to buy tampons and ice cream, and comes home to Netflix and a hot water bottle. Have you ever wondered why dessert is such a common character in this plot? Virtually every woman has experienced period cravings, whether it be for sweets, protein or salty snacks, but there are conflicting explanations on why ladies are tempted by monthly carb binges.
Hormones, Hormones, Hormones
Cortisol, the hormone your body releases in response to stress, tends to spike right before your period, according to two nutritionists interviewed by Shape. Compounding the problem is the fact that your “calm-inducing hormone” serotonin also depletes at this time. “This combo causes cravings for sweets and carbs as well as fatty foods,” Stephanie Clarke, RD, and Willow Jarosh, RD, of C&J Nutrition explain.1
Confirming Their Existence
A recent study in the European Journal of Nutrition confirmed what most women already knew: we tend to eat more during our “time of the month.” Between the second half of the luteal phase and the peri-ovulatory phase (meaning: when you’re PMSing, when you’re on your period and the first few days after), women increased their intake of protein, specifically animal protein. The ladies surveyed also reported increased food cravings, particularly for chocolate, sweets and salty flavors.2
Maybe Just a Myth?
These types of cravings are centralized to the Western world, one study published in Frontiers in Psychology notes. While there are “pharmacologically active ingredients,” such as methylxanthines in chocolate that may help relieve the fatigue, irritability, bloating and cramps that come with your period, the authors note that there is not a high enough concentration of these chemicals to prompt a craving.3 Culture, the authors hypothesize, plays a much more significant role in what women crave when they’re uncomfortable.
“While chocolate is by far the most commonly craved food in the U.S., hardly anyone in Egypt endorses strong urges for chocolate or general sweet cravings,” the authors point out. Additionally, there are few languages other than English that have a word that directly translates to “craving.” This suggests “that the construct may be less important or altogether unknown in other cultures.”3
One thing is for sure: Many women crave some sort of comfort during their periods, whether it’s from their favorite foods, movies or a comfortable blanket. Regardless of whether the inspiration is physiological or psychosomatic, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to a snack that brings you comfort during your menstrual cycle. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you feel that your cravings are getting out of hand.
1Jenny Sugar, 6 Tricks to Outsmart Crazy Period Cravings, Shape. http://www.shape.com/weight-loss/weight-management/6-tricks-outsmart-crazy-period-cravings.
2Anna M. Gorczyca, Lindsey A. Sjaarda, Emily M. Mitchell, Neil J. Perkins, Karen C. Schliep, Jean Wactawski-Wende, Sunni L. Mumford. “Changes in macronutrient, micronutrient, and food group intakes throughout the menstrual cycle in healthy, premenopausal women,” European Journal of Nutrition, April 2016, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 1181–1188. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-015-0931-0.
3Natalia C. Orloff and Julia M. Hormes. “Pickles and ice cream! Food cravings in pregnancy: hypotheses, preliminary evidence, and directions for future research,” Frontiers in Psychology, published September 23, 2014. https://books.google.com/books?id=rAN7CgAAQBAJ&lpg=PA66&dq=menstrual%20food%20cravings&lr&pg=PA66#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- Posted by Libby Mullen
- On May 30, 2017