This crops up so much with my clients so I though I'd delve a little deeper into the reasons as to why we get so hungry and crave certain foods.
In the week or so leading up to the first day of bleeding we go through a huge change in hormone ratios. After ovulation (around day 15 but please not everyones cycle is different) we move into a high hormone phase called the luteal phase and Progesterone becomes more pronounced.
Progesterone has an appetite stimulating affect and women oftern experience an increase in hunger. BMR actually increases a little here due to a rise in body tempurature by approx 100-250kcals a day. Progesterone lowers insulin sensitivity so the body is more prone to storing fat. One theory to explain this is to support the bodies anticipation of pregnancy.
Many women write off the changes of hunger being all in their head and often blame themselves for lack of willpower but understanding how the cycle works and making smart choices will improve the feeling of being more in control.
The next stage is the late luteal stage (days 25-28)- if the egg hasn't been fertilised progesterone and oestrogen start to fall.
PMS may occur if not before and cravings for particular foods like salty/sweet combinations or chocolate. The reason why chocolate cravings are so specific are because magnesium drops in this stage (good quality dark chocolate contains magnesium), serotonin levels drop (the mood enhancing hormone)and chocolate definately boosts our mood along with a need for energy dense foods due to the increased BMR. According to studies the craving for chocolate cannot be satiated by any other food.
GI discomfort, cramping and bloating may also be an issue with some women suffering from constipation or more commonly diarrhoea. This is largely due to the progtaglandins that are being produced and released by the uterus in preperation for shedding. Identifying trigger foods such as coffee a few days before would be advantageous if this is the case.
So lets have a look at some foods that may help around this time
Increase magnesium rich foods such as spinach, pumpkin seeds, good quality dark chocolate at least 70% cocoa in moderation.
Or try adding cocoa into your diet as a hot drink, a smoothie or you can get cocoa based teas.
Try to minimise your sugar intake and consume low GI carbs to keep your blood sugar levels as stable as possible.
Eating regularly also helps BS levels and keeps hunger at bay to prevent a PMS binge.
Eat foods that will boost seratonin such as leafy greens, quinoa and buckwheat.
Cinnamon is a great spice to help blood sugar levels so incorperate where you can.
A gentle duretic tea may be helpful to remove a little excess water. I personally love yogi tea with dandelion root, cinnamon and liquirice root.
Increase fibre by incorporating fibre rich veggies, fruit and drink plenty of water, room tempurature may be better at this stage.
Avoid trigger foods.
You may find it helpful to increase more anti-inflammatory foods and decrease foods that may cause digestive upset. Some women find wheat or dairy to cause uncomfortable bloating at this time. But find what works for you.
This is also a good time to focus on restorative exercise like yoga, stretching and gentle walking.
Although having your period can be a little rough at times, a regular healthy cycle can be a window on a womens menstrual health. Switching it into a positive can have real psychological benefits for many.