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The Science Behind PMS Cravings: Understanding and Managing Your Period Food Desires

The Science Behind PMS Cravings: Understanding and Managing Your Period Food Desires
Do you crave pizza, pastries, chocolate, and other sugary foods before or during your period? Some women can predict their periods by how much they want to eat. It's based on body changes, not a sixth sense or a woman's intuition. Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, often occurs during the luteal phase of your cycle when your body prepares for menstruation.

PMS cravings are surprising. If you've ever wondered why you turn into the Cookie Monster around the same time every month, here's why women get period cravings and how to deal with them.

Cravings exist!

Have you been told your period cravings are all in your head? Research published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, supports women's cravings for carbs and sweets before and during their periods.

Our menstrual cycle hormones affect our cravings. Estrogen and progesterone affect cravings. Estradiol and progesterone levels rise with carbohydrate, sugar, and sweet beverage cravings. This association persists after controlling for sugar intake. Estradiol increases carbohydrate cravings, while progesterone increases sugar and chocolate cravings. This is also why some women experience extreme pregnancy cravings due to the same hormones that cause them.

Progesterone levels peak in the first half of the luteal phase, the period between ovulation and menstruation. This hormone spike causes many women to crave sweets before their periods. Symptoms may last all month and cause binge eating.

Hormones can change a lot about the way someone acts. 

Estrogen levels affect cortisol levels (otherwise known as the stress hormone). Your body struggles to maintain healthy hormone levels. This makes people extremely irritable before and during periods.

You've noticed that some women have fewer food cravings, even during pregnancy. Some women also don't experience PMS cravings. This may be because their hormone levels remain stable throughout their menstrual cycles. For those who struggle with carbohydrate and sugar cravings during menstruation, it's important to make sure there are no underlying causes (even if it is most likely just hormones).

How does a craving feel?

Cravings, unlike hunger, is not driven by energy needs. Instead, you crave only a few foods. Pre-period cravings may include:

  • Carbohydrates, please!
  • Salty snacks (such as chips, salted pretzels, and other salty foods)
  • Sweets (chocolate, ice cream, licorice, and all other sweets)
  • Fatty foods (pizza, cheesy dishes, burgers, etc.)

We may choose these meals near the start of our periods for various reasons. For one, they taste great, which is perfect for PMS-related tension and irritability.

Carbohydrates boost serotonin. Carbohydrates, which contain serotonin, may help hormone-imbalanced women temporarily. This is "Feel-good" serotonin. According to research, increasing brain serotonin neurotransmission through diet, medicine, or supplements may reduce food cravings and help women return to their usual eating habits.

What are your cravings telling you?

  • PMS cravings may be your body's way of telling you it needs more of a vitamin, even though they seem irrational. If you suddenly crave dark chocolate, your body may need more magnesium. Cocoa beans, green vegetables, cereals, and avocados have high magnesium content. Try eating oatmeal or a spinach salad before eating diving into the chocolate bars.
  • If you crave salty food, your body may be trying to make up for a mineral deficiency. Increase your intake of water-rich vegetables and sprinkle them with sea salt to satisfy your salt craving, a common period craving.
  • Increasing certain foods may help those of us who have a general increase in appetite before our periods. Instead of giving in to sweet cravings, we should feed our bodies nutritious meals to address any dietary deficiencies and maintain our blood sugar levels.
  • Vitamin D, healthy fats (like avocados, olive oil, and fatty fish), and complex carbs can increase satiety (such sweet potatoes, legumes, and quinoa). They also give us vitamins and minerals to prepare for the energy-intensive removal of our uterine linings. They can also help balance our hormones, which should be our main goal since balanced hormones may reduce PMS cravings and other symptoms.


Lifestyle changes to tame the cravings.

In addition to eating healthier during our periods, lifestyle changes may help us have healthier, more pleasant periods. 

  • Yoga or Pilates

    Try yoga if you haven't already! Yoga lowers cortisol and maintains hormonal balance throughout the menstrual cycle, relieving stress
  • Rest and relaxation

    Hormone control requires enough sleep. Hormone disruptions can cause irritability, hunger, and other unpleasant symptoms in women who consistently get less sleep. Quality sleep at night will boost your hormones.
  • Use supplements:

    Even if you eat well, get enough sleep, and take time for yourself, your hormones may need some help. They are designed to provide the body with nutrients and hormone-balancing ingredients to feel better throughout your period. We of course recommend Aura's PMS Gummy for this!

Period cravings are real, but they don't have to rule your life. To avoid surprises, you should identify your cravings monthly. 

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