I went to the store a couple of days ago and realized, as I was exiting the feminine hygiene aisle, that it’s preying on the weak when the store inventory gods place sweet and salty snacks one cartwheel away from tampons. They already know that if a girl is shopping in and around that aisle, they’re probably not gonna say no to a family-sized bag of white cheddar popcorn, a Twix bar, and maybe a couple Hostess cupcakes.
Do you gain weight during your period?
Here are some of the key things that go haywire during the days leading up to the start of a woman’s monthly cycle, and have been strongly linked to spurring dreams of cake and pizza:
- Lower serotonin levels: For some reason, when the female body is producing more progesterone, a.k.a. The Pregnancy Hormone, there is less production of happy brain chemical serotonin. This can cause anxiety and irritability.
- Higher insulin sensitivity: When progesterone levels are high, your body experiences a temporary increase in insulin sensitivity, which can cause cravings and make you feel hungrier.
- Iron depletion: The average woman can shed 20 to 80 mL of blood during her monthly period. That may not seem like much, but that’s a lot of iron! If your body is feeling a little anemic, it may trigger iron cravings. I know this happens to me, when I’m nursing cramps while trying to ignore the urge for a double cheeseburger.
- Mineral imbalances: Water and salt regulating hormones from the adrenal glands are thrown off, too, leading to salt cravings and bloating.
When the voices in your head start chanting for piles of red meat, junk food, and baked goods, heed my words: Go right ahead. Don’t get me wrong, give in to your cravings in mindful moderation, but also remember that there are healthy alternatives to satisfy or curb period cravings.
How to stop cravings
Carb and sugar cravings, including chocolate, are driven by low serotonin. If you tend to feel lethargic or down around that time of the month, push yourself to do some light to moderate exercise. Endorphins are a great way to counter that serotonin slump. You can also opt to snack on fresh or dried fruit, fresh juice, whole grains, and at least 60% dark chocolate. In a pinch, take a spoon and snack on a spoonful of cinnamon almond butter, guilt-free.
Don’t ignore iron cravings because being anemic is no fun, but you sure should avoid gorging on red meat. Luckily, you can find iron in a bunch of other food items, such as chicken, seafood, beans, dark leafy vegetables, peas, and anything fortified with iron. Keep in mind that iron absorption is enhanced by an acidic environment, so it also helps to eat something rich in vitamin C along with your source of iron, such as broccoli, peppers, and citrus.
Indulging salt cravings can lead to water retention, which causes bloating, discomfort, and increased thirst. First step is to stay hydrated and away from soda. If you absolutely need to snack, a handful of pistachios, whole wheat pretzels, or a pack of cheese and crackers should get that salt fix. There are also healthy alternatives to boost flavor in home cooked meals without adding salt.
Predicting your cycle
It’s tough work, staying on top of your nutrition, reproductive and mental health as a woman who has to undergo these monthly hormonal fluctuations. If you’re looking for a period-tracking app that, based on my unbiased and lengthy personal experience, can accurately predict your PMS, cycle start, and fertile window within a beautifully simple user interface, have no fear, Clue is here (on iOS and Android). You can program it to send you notifications so you’ll never be surprised by your first day, or have to wonder why you keep crying over everything. It also comes with condensed yet thoroughly researched information about the menstrual cycle, which makes managing symptoms easier.
What are your monthly food cravings, and how do you curb or satisfy them the guilt-free way? I’d love to know!