why do women crave carbs before their period

When PMS is about to hit, many women forego their diets and diveбinto the depths of junk food. We shamelessly swap our celery stick for a slice of chocolate cake, a bowl of pasta, or both, and satisfyбour ravenous appetite for carbs. A
published in Annals of Endocrinology suggests food cravings before our period are triggered by fluctuating levels of hormones, includingб estrogen and progesterone, and may lead women to eatб 500 extra calories per day. "There are often dietary compulsions during this period of the cycle, especially for sweet foods and chocolate," the researchers. The craving for carbs is triggered by the brain, not our taste buds. For example, carb craving is a signal we need to eat something sweet or starchy, because the brain needs to make serotonin. Typically, this food craving is accompanied by a bad mood. has found when people have an urge to eat carbs, theyБre usually stressed, irritable, angry, depressed, or tired, among other things. These moods are reflective of a change in neurotransmitters like serotonin. Researchers from the National Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology in Tunisia sought to explore whether a change in diet before menstruation is linked to fluctuating serotonin levels and mood swings. A total of 30 healthy women between the ages 18 and 45 were monitored for changes in hormone levels, calorie intake, and weight.


The findings revealed between day one to three of the БfollicularБ phase, or menstruation, the women consumed an average of approximately 1,700 calories a day. However, in the three days leading up to menstruation, the women ate an extra 500 calories a day. More than half of the increase in calories was due to carbohydrates; the women gained 0. 66 pounds more before their period than while they were ovulating. Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels are known to affect serotonin activity and levels, which play a big role in mood swings and food cravings. When serotonin levels are low during the late БlutealБ phase, or right before our period, eating foods rich in sugar and carbs will lead to a spike in serotonin and dopamine levels, boosting our mood and making us feel better, according to a 2003 in PNAS. In a similar carried out at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers had women with severe PMS stay at the MIT Clinical Research Center at the beginning and end of their menstrual cycle. These healthy women increased their caloric intake by more than 1,100 calories daily when they were premenstrual, and the calories came entirely from carbs. The researchers discovered low serotonin activity was behind their food cravings and premenstrual moods.


In reality, the brain wants what it wants. When the brain craves carbs to increase serotonin production, it will haunt us until we give in to carb-laden foods. We do have control of the carbs we choose to eat Б healthy carbs like brown rice, multigrain bread, yogurt, and fruits, among others, is a healthy alternative. Source: National Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology in Tunisia. Menstrual Cycle and Appetite Control. Annals of Endocrinology. 2016. From chocolatey treats to salty snacks, many women experience intense cravings and ravenous appetites a week or two before their periods. Experts have their theories on what causes these monthly hankerings. For one, scientists believe low progesterone and high estrogen levels generate a drop in blood sugar levels, which leads to sugar cravings. Eating sugary treats will raise blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, the quick fix is followed by sharp blood sugar declines, creating a roller coaster of irritability, anxiety, and more sugar cravings. Another cause of cravings may be due to serotonin levels, which are generally lower during PMS. Serotonin is the feel-good chemical in your brain. When levels are low we crave sugars and especially other carbohydrates like potato chips. That's because the body uses carbs to make serotonin.


One thing's for sure, cravings can occur like clockwork and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Because they're practically predictable, women can take several positive measures to prevent monthly pig-outs. Here are the top ways to curb those inevitable cravings. Eat six mini meals. Eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day helps regulate blood sugar levels and keeps cravings from becoming binges. Try eating six smaller meals instead of the usual three bigger ones. Space them out about every three hours to give your body constant fuel. Choose complex carbs. Fiber-rich foods are complex carbs that take longer for your body to break down and absorb, further curbing your cravings. Eat more whole-grain breads and cereals, and produce like legumes, fruit, and starchy veggies, which are on the complex-carb list. Go for protein. By including protein at every meal or snack you help moderate blood sugar imbalances and slow the digestive process to keep from feeling hungry. Choose better-for-you protein options like eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, even peanut butter. Maintain magnesium intake. Research indicates women can experience low levels of magnesium during PMS. Peanut butter, almonds, cashews, brown rice, sunflower seeds, and most beans are great sources of magnesium.


It should be noted that chocolate is also rich in magnesium (which may further explain the cravings), but it's also high in fat. If you simply must have chocolate, try to make it a small piece of high-quality, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, which typically has more calories and fat. Relax and take a deep breath. Cravings can worsen in times of stress. By learning relaxation techniques and practicing them whenever you feel anxious or stressed, you can curtail the snack attacks. Bring on the sunshine. The lack of sun can reduce serotonin levels, which leads to increased appetite and cravings. Get outdoors or let the sunshine in to raise serotonin levels and reduce sugar and carb cravings. Get moving. Exercise boosts endorphins and decreases the appetite, but it's not just scheduled exercise that can help. Being more physically active throughout your daily routine can also make a difference. Walk the dog, vacuum the floor, take the stairs, and simply keep moving. Take heart. Cravings aren't the only thing on the premenstrual rise. The female metabolism also increases a week before menstruation. So if you cave in to a craving you'll be happy to know our bodies may burn an additional 100 calories a day during this time. It's a small way of counteracting extra eating!

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