Why am I so hungry before my period? This is a question I hear so often among clients and if you’re ravenous and feeling like you want to eat everything in sight in the days (or even weeks) leading up to your period… you’re not alone! Before I trained as a nutritionist, I had the most intense cravings right before my period that would often lead to me eating anything and everything. My mood swings were also crazy and I’d often go from irritable to super emotional…especially if I was hungry!
An increase in appetite during this time of the month is really common among many women and one of the most reported symptoms of PMS or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome. But just because it’s common, this doesn’t mean it’s NORMAL.
There are many reasons why you might feel hungrier right before and even after your period starts - see below for the main 6 contributors to intense pre-period cravings (and more importantly, what can you do about it!)
An increase in progesterone
Some research suggests increased cravings is to do with the rise in progesterone which peaks during the second half of your cycle (otherwise known as the luteal phase) following on from ovulation. Some women may naturally make higher levels of progesterone and are therefore prone to symptoms such as bloating, fatigue and food cravings, especially for those that are higher in calories. It's worth getting your progesterone tested to see if this is causing your cravings.
An increase in Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
It’s reported that a women’s nutrient requirements may increase by up to 10-20% during the luteal phase due to the increase of body temperature and also your basal metabolic rate (BMR) during this time, which could explain more hunger in those PMS weeks. Your BMR is the amount of energy our bodies use when we are resting, so theoretically, you may even be able to burn more calories during this time!
Dips in serotonin
Reduced levels in the neurotransmitter serotonin (otherwise known as your happy hormone) right before your period can also lead to carb cravings. After all, food can be really comforting, especially when we’re not feeling our best. The body actually uses carbohydrates to make serotonin so might explain those pre-period munchies! Serotonin levels are also affected by hormone imbalances and poor nutrition.
A change in blood sugar levels
In the days leading up to your period, women may experience an change in blood glucose and insulin levels. This is not surprising given that oestrogen and progesterone both play a role in controlling blood glucose levels as they affect insulin. Some women are more sensitive to these fluctuating hormones during this time of the month and if these hormones are out of whack, a women is more prone to blood sugar fluctuations (cue mood swings, a crazy appetite and intense cravings!)
If you’re craving chocolate specifically, you might be suffering with low levels of magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is really common, especially if you’ve been on the pill for any length of time, regularly drink coffee, take proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medication such as Omeprazole or are dealing with chronic stress, you might be low in magnesium! Interestingly, dark chocolate (preferably organic and above 70% cocoa) is a rich source of magnesium which could explain cravings for this particular food.
Many women who experience PMS often report insomnia or poor sleep in the week leading up to their period. Unfortunately, poor sleep can impact our hunger hormone, ghrelin which impacts appetite and can increase cravings for high energy foods if we’ve our sleep has been poor.
SO WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT MY CRAVINGS?
My 4 top tips to reduce those crazy cravings right before your period include:
Avoid drinking coffee on an empty stomach / instead of breakfast. Coffee for breakfast on an empty stomach can lead to a prolonged increase in the stress hormone cortisol which can disrupt our natural hormone balance, and make PMS symptoms much worse. It can also have a negative effect on our blood sugar levels which will inevitably lead to you craving high-energy or high-sugar foods later on in the day!
Regular exercise throughout the month can help to manage your mood and blood sugar levels. You might want to leave the higher intensity workouts until the week after your period and focus on more restorative exercises such as walking, yoga and Pilates in the week before your cycle. I’ll talk about the importance of cycle-syncing your exercise in another post though :)
Make sure you include a good source of protein at breakfast to set yourself up for the day. Some great options include:
Scrambled eggs and rocket on rye bread
Greek yoghurt with berries, almond butter and flaxseed
A protein smoothie with one scoop of high-quality protein powder (such as Purition or Nuzest), a banana, spinach and some almond milk.
Consider getting your hormones tested. I’m a huge fan of the DUTCH test which has been a game-changer for so many of my clients where we can look at what these hormones (and serotonin!) are doing during your luteal phase. For more information on this test, click here.
STILL STRUGGLING WITH PMS?
Don't worry - you're in the right place! I’ve worked with hundreds of women to reduce their PMS and if you’re struggling with cravings right before your period, I have some great resources for you! There’s lots of easy dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce those cravings. A great place to start is my FREE eBOOK - Say goodbye to PMS where you’ll learn my 5 step ‘Hormone Fix’ protocol to learn how you can balance your hormones.
If you are in need of some more personalised support and want to find out how I can help, feel free to book in your FREE 30-Minute Discovery Call to find out if we would be a good fit!