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PMS Food & Chocolate Cravings
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
It's a few days before your period, and you feel a magnetic pull to the chocolate aisle at the grocery store. Or you find yourself irresistibly drawn to salty, crunchy, fried snacks—even though you've sworn off of them. Maybe your willpower deserts you at the dessert buffet, ruining the diet you've stuck to for weeks.
*Premenstrual food cravings are like that. They can feel overwhelming, impossible to resist, and for many women completely out of character—the rest of the month, staying with a disciplined diet may be relatively easy. Premenstrual food cravings are not imaginary; they are very real. And food cravings before the period is one of the most common PMS symptoms.
Food cravings may be partially the result of messenger molecules in our brain called neurotransmitters: serotonin and dopamine are among the best known. However, these molecules don't act in isolation: hormones, stress, and emotions all play a role in the way your appetite changes before your period.
Fortunately, you don't need to study biochemistry or psychology to take control of your PMS food cravings, no matter what they're for—chocolate or salt or sweets, or just for more food than you usually eat. It will help though, to have plenty of:
When your blood sugar falls too low, your appetite regulation changes and your willpower decreases, too, a combination which can lead to overeating (and of the wrong foods, too). If you find that you become faint, irritable, or tired if you miss a meal or snack, you may have a condition called hypoglycemia—which is a fancy way of saying your blood sugar, and your blood sugar-balancing hormones, aren't working well together. Hypoglycemia tends to lead to food and sweet and chocolate cravings.
When you keep your blood sugar well-balanced with the right foods and overall eating patterns, it prevents premenstrual food cravings before they start. You can go a long way towards overcoming even the most intense food cravings, including PMS food binges, by following these simple guidelines:
Eating this way will keep you feeling full and satisfied, help maintain even mood and energy level throughout the day, and make it much easier for you to resist cravings, especially for sweets. We recommend you eat this way all month long if you have the hypoglycemic tendency, or if you get premenstrual food cravings. If your food cravings are mild, they may disappear if you use this approach just in the last two weeks of your cycle (from ovulation to the first day of your period). Our complete hypoglycemia program, part of our PMS Balance Diet, gives you the tools and information you need to get back on track and have stable mood and energy.
Let's face it: chocolate is good! It tastes great, it makes you feel good, and it's a proven source of healthy, powerful antioxidants. It may even contain chemicals that mimic the ones your brain makes when you're in love. In moderation, it's a healthy treat. And for many women, a little goes a long way: they'll eat a couple squares of dark chocolate before their period, and that's all they need. But not everyone's appetite works this way: extreme premenstrual chocolate cravings undo many a woman's diet, and all the fat and sugar in the chocolate just might undo its healthful benefits.
If PMS chocolate cravings are outsmarting your will power, try this action plan:
Part 2 of this article covers some of the other trouble spots for PMS food cravings, including cravings for sweets in general and for salt. We also explore the problem of overeating and binge eating.
Premenstrual food cravings, binges, and appetite changes are often symptoms of an overall hormonal imbalance that can interfere with your life in many ways. The best approach to premenstrual syndrome is a holistic one that addresses all the underlying causes of hormonal PMS: diet, nutrition, lifestyle, and emotions. In the process of using a holistic PMS action plan, you'll be improving your overall health and wellness.
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