appetite and the menstrual cycle

PMS is associated with mood swings and stomach cramps, but the most stereotypical image of a hormonal woman involves eating. Whether it’s chocolate bars or pots of ice cream, the belief that our cravings skyrocket around our menstruation is long held.

Although it is a reductive image, many of us do notice that our appetite changes around our menstrual cycle, whether it is insatiable just before we bleed or feel too nauseous to eat as we go on. But do our appetites and energy needs really change from week to week?

“Our hunger and appetite are controlled by complex regulatory pathways that are neurochemical, hormonal, physiological and psychological,” says Dr Ghazala Aziz-Scott, specialist in integrative women’s health and bioidentical hormone balancing for the Marion Gluck Clinic. Given the fact that we have changes to all these aspects of health through our cycles, it makes sense that our desire for food is affected throughout the month.

Aziz-Scott says that our menstrual cycle has two main phases, the luteal phase and follicular phase, and that our hunger can differ between these two stages.

Hunger and appetite during the follicular phase

During the first half of the menstrual cycle, starting on day one of your period and lasting until ovulation, our estrogen levels are at their highest. “Higher estrogen levels stimulate serotonin, our feel-good neurotransmitter, and reduce insulin sensitivity. It also affects hormones that cause satiety, such as GLP1. This means our appetite tends to be lighter, we are less likely to have cravings and our bodies use carbohydrates efficiently for fuel, ”says Dr Aziz-Scott.

PMS can affect your appetite

Although this is the case for the majority of the two-week follicular phase, the first few days of our bleeding tend to be more individual. “Menstruation is a time when appetite varies with every woman from a dull appetite with nausea to intense cravings,” says Dr. Aziz-Scott.

Hunger and appetite during the luteal phase

The luteal phase begins with ovulation and ends as your period begins and is characterized by an increase in progesterone. “Higher levels of this hormone increase appetite,” says Dr. Aziz-Scott, and the main reason for our desire to eat more food is because the body burns more energy. “Progesterone is a calming hormone, but also has a hyperthermic effect to increase body temperature, which means the body uses more energy,” she explains.

Research shows that daily caloric needs during the late luteal phase increase by 100-300 calories per day, which shows that your PMS appetite is not in your head – it is the body that really needs more fuel. Honoring that hunger is important to support your energy levels during a tiring week.

What menstrual cycle cravings mean

Cravings get a bad rap. It is true that sometimes your taste buds just feel like eating whatever delicious meal they remember, but often it is your body that tells you what you are missing.

“In the follicular phase we can crave more carbohydrates as estrogen uses it as fuel. When progesterone peaks in the luteal phase, it promotes protein catabolism, so we need good protein sources – note your cravings for meaty foods or legumes. Our serotonin also decreases during this phase, and we may crave food with tryptophan (a building block of the neurotransmitter).

“After menstruation, we often crave iron-rich foods while trying to supplement what is lost in menstruation. In general, our bodies are intuitive and will give us messages about what they need, ”says Dr Aziz-Scott.

It does not mean relying solely on its signals. Knowing that our nutritional needs change means that we can eat accordingly, especially during the week before the period when our caloric needs increase and energy tends to be lower.

Dr. Aziz-Scott recommends the following foods for PMS

Zinc to support hormone synthesis – from red meat, poultry, whole grains and legumes.

Proteinscontaining amino acids to support tissue growth and recovery, including white meat, eggs, beans, tofu and nuts.

B vitamins supports metabolism and hormone regulation- B6 supports mental health during PMS and is found in red meat, seeds, legumes and whole grains.

Ironlost during menstruation should be eaten in the form of beans, legumes and red meat.

Magnesium It is shown to relieve cramps and regulate the nervous system during attacks of PMS, so eating whole grains, beans and green vegetables is important.

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