If you are hungrier during your premenstrual time, guess what?
It’s completely NORMAL.
Way back in the 1920s, researchers confirmed something that women have known first-hand for a long time:
We eat different amounts during different phases of our menstrual cycle.
Maybe you've heard a friend or client (or yourself!) say something like, "I ate a whole block of chocolate in one sitting... my hormones made me do it!"
But while many women have personal experience with it, you rarely hear about the underlying physiology.
Instead, it’s common to berate yourself for having no willpower or discipline and feel guilty for eating more than usual!
This cycle ends today as I’m here to tell you that there is a physiological explanation behind it all which once you’ve read this blog will hopefully bring you greater awareness around the natural fluctuations in your appetite throughout the month and deepen your level of self-acceptance at the times you do eat more!
Knowing specifics — like which parts of your brain and which appetite hormones are affected by your sex hormones — can help you come up with some strategies for dealing with the monthly appetite fluctuations you'll likely experience.
Let's look at all of this in more detail...
Research demonstrates that reproductive hormones play a role in the regulation of appetite, eating behaviour and energy metabolism.
If we look at an average menstrual cycle and say it lasts 28 days it goes through two distinct phases: follicular & luteal.
These phases are regulated by your sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, as their levels rise and fall throughout the cycle.
The estrogen-dominant follicular phase is associated with lower food intake as estrogen is appetite suppressing, while the progesterone-dominant luteal phase demonstrates an increase in appetite, as progesterone is appetite enhancing. This research is shown across the board in studies of animals and humans alike.
Specifically, appetite appears to be lowest right before ovulation, increases during the luteal phase and peaks right before menstruation. When a woman does not ovulate, and therefore has little progesterone, no effect has been found in eating patterns.
Another factor at play is estrogen’s role in the production of dopamine and serotonin and the weakening of ghrelin. Ghrelin is your “hunger” hormone, so whilst estrogen is high, ghrelin keeps appetite low, and research shows women consume less food.
As estrogen drops off in the lead up to your period, so does serotonin our “happy” hormone. When serotonin is low, we crave carbohydrate foods because they give us a boost in serotonin- the happy brain chemical.
Another reason why you're hungrier during your premenstrual phase is because your body needs extra energy to have a period! Yes - it takes alot of energy for your body to shed the lining of your endometrium!
So, to get the additional calories for energy production, your body sends a message to your brain telling you you’re hungry more often.
It turns out our bodies require 100 – 300 more calories during our luteal phase (the week before our period is due). This is because our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR – the number of daily calories needed to stay alive) during this time increases by 10-20%.
It’s no wonder why we want to double up on the doses of pasta or slice that extra slither of cake…
The natural fluctuations in your hormones are having a direct effect on your brain and your appetite.
Meaning you’re not lacking discipline or being “bad” when you have stronger cravings and eat more food.
What you’re experiencing is a very real response to neurological signals. Read that again my friend.
So, let’s look at strategies to manage your cravings!
Although natural fluctuations in your appetite are NORMAL, intense & uncontrollable cravings for sugary, fatty foods are not.
These kind of intense cravings are signals that your hormones, blood sugar & gut health may needs some extra attention!
But never fear.. Here are five practical things you can do to manage the effects of hormonal changes throughout your cycle, and reduce pre-menstrual food cravings:
EAT ENOUGH PROTEIN
Often, the best way to look at cravings is that they are your body communicating HUNGER, and that it needs more food!
But not just any foods, more of the RIGHT kinds of foods! Protein, I'm looking at you!
Studies have shown that eating more quality protein at each meal helps curb cravings and make you feel fuller for longer, compared to a low-protein meal which will result in cravings a few hours later.
Protein actually has a slight ‘sweet’ flavor, and when our bodies are craving the grounding that ‘sweetness’ brings us, protein can provide that instead of looking to sugar or processed foods as a quick fix.
Most of us are not eating enough protein to help us preserve or build muscle mass, make hormones and feel truly satiated (ie: 2 eggs at breakfast isn’t cutting it and it took me so long to realize that). I’d suggest aiming for at least 30-40g per meal.
Options for protein are: lentils, legumes, tempeh, tofu, nuts, seeds, fish, chicken, lamb, turkey, eggs, etc
TOP TIP: Try sprinkling 2 tablespoons of Earth Seeds over any meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner to increase your protein intake and boost of hormone-healthy nutrients.
INCREASE MAGNESIUM INTAKE
If you particularly crave chocolate it can come down to one of two health issues – a magnesium deficiency or an overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast in your gut, which makes you crave sugar.
If this craving really gets you, you need more magnesium.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that can help reduce cravings by managing blood sugar and promoting healthy hormone production and metabolism of estrogen.
Natural sources of magnesium include leafy greens, nuts, seeds and fruit.
However, we can’t get enough magnesium from food alone which is why increasing intake daily with a supplement or Moon Boost Magnesium Oil daily is essential for optimal hormonal balance and reducing symptoms of PMS such as cravings.
If there is one mineral every woman needs more of every day its magnesium.
EAT BREAKFAST AT THE RIGHT TIME
Try eat breakfast within 90 minutes of waking up to help prevent blood sugar imbalances & cravings for food again a few hours later.
Choose a good-size, protein rich breakfast!
Research has shown a big protein rich breakfast helps to prevents cravings, and hormonal imbalance issues.
MANAGE STRESS LEVELS
Cortisol is a hormone that’s released when you’re stressed. When cortisol levels are high, it messes with your progesterone levels and reduces insulin sensitivity, which in turn causes your body to hold on to energy and increase one’s appetite for sugary foods. Hello cravings!
How can you get your stress in check? Daily walks, mediation, breath work, exercise, self-care, long-baths, you know what to do!
LIMIT REFINED SUGARS AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
Sugar is really no friend to our hormones, and limiting intake throughout the month is going to do wonders for your hormones and periods.
Sugar causes inflammation & blood sugar imbalances both of which are the root cause of hormonal imbalances and period problems like PMS, cravings and cramps.
When the sugar or chocolate cravings hit, reach for a “better” alternative.
The good news is that chocolate can be a superfood when you opt for the right kind!
For example, instead of a block of dairy milk chocolate, enjoy a Luna’s Lover Hot chocolate latte specifically created to satisfy cravings and support your hormones with high quality cacao and adaptogenic herbs.
HERE'S WHAT TO DO WHEN ALL YOU WANT IS WHITE CARBS
Craving white carbs is typically a sign of blood sugar instability and vitamin B deficiency.
Your hormones then struggle to help you gauge how hungry you are and send you into a carb binging frenzy.
What to do about it?
Instead of avoiding the entire food group of pastas and breads, instead opt for healthier carb alternatives such as oatmeal, quinoa, sweet potato, brown rice, and buckwheat.
These options will fill you up faster, boost your B vitamin stores, keep those sugar levels balanced and thus curb the cravings.
You can also look into supplementing with a B-6 or B-complex vitamin to help battle PMS.
EAT GOOD FATS WITH EVERY MEAL
When you don’t eat enough healthy fats it can cause depression, anxiety, mood swings, cravings and even struggles with fertility.
Your body uses cholesterol from healthy fats to make hormones & balance hormones which helps curb craving, improves metabolism, increases energy and enhances your libido.
Examples of healthy fats to add to each meal are salmon, olives, olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, ghee, grass-fed butter, nuts and Earth Seeds.
Aim for 2tbsp of fat per meal!
LEAN ON ADAPTOGENS
When we are stressed, not sleeping well and burning the candles at both ends it’s a recipe for hormonal imbalances, period problems and intense pre-menstrual cravings.
Its a major sign your body needs more love and support.
Sometimes when stressors in life are unavoidable, the most important thing we can do is work on building our stress resiliency.
This is where adaptogenic herbs come in, to help strengthen us during times of stress and burnout to help take care of cravings on a root cause level.
When I’m in this place where stress levels are heightened, I lean on our Luna’s Latte Blends which are made with powerful, high quality adaptogenic Herbs.
My favourite for helping with stress & satisfying cravings is Luna's Lover Chocolate Latte Blend, a unique blend of adaptogens & cacao which help to support your body’s intrinsic resilience.
WANT EXTRA SUPPORT?
It can feel overwhelming to know where to start when it comes to healing your hormones and improving your periods.
But I'm here to take out the confusion, and help guide you every step of the way!
To learn how to balance hormones naturally and reverse symptoms of PMS such as uncontrollable, cravings, bloating, cramps and mood swings join my mini-course The Better Period Method for step by step guidance, empowerment & true lasting improvements.
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