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Why do my food choices change when my periods are coming?

Girls, there are so many physiological changes are actually the reason why we all feel like chocolate when its “that time of the month”.

There are two key phases to our monthly cycle: follicular phase and luteal phase. Most of our symptoms (or PMS) is associated with the second half of the menstrual cycle – the luteal phase.

This phase starts with the release of the egg at ovulation and ends when a period begins. In the luteal phase, there is a change in our two key hormones: estrogen drops low; and progesterone skyrockets.

How does this affects us?

  • The surge in progesterone is known to increase our body temperature and increase our BMR (calories our body will use while at rest).

  • The drop in estrogen affects the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine (these are our feel good hormones, ie the ones that help us feel happy and they control our food cravings).

  • The increase in progesterone will also affect our body’s insulin response, ie our body becomes more insulin resistant during this phase, and this will cause our blood sugar levels to become more unstable. Unstable blood sugar levels stimulate hunger and food cravings

How do we commonly respond when all these hormone changes are happening? Well basically these changes explain why we are feeling hungrier (as our energy levels are higher); moodier (as serotonin as dropped off); and we are feeling the effects of unstable blood sugars.

Move in carbs !

Many studies have shown that women in their luteal phase crave more carbohydrates compared to the follicular phase; as carbohydrates boost up levels of serotonin – so we feel a sense of happy (self-medicating) (study published on the conversation blog); plus they help pick up our low blood sugar levels, and when hungry everyone gets the biscuit over the carrot.

Acknowledging the feeling and recognising this “feeling” is actually a physiological feedback symptom will help appreciate our body. Each month this will happen in a women’s body, so if we can plan for this phase, and then change our food to meet our body’s requirements, we will be ahead of the game (and not in the binge eating pattern of nonstop eating everything sweet in the fridge or the cupboard)

My Tips

  • add low Gi carbohydrates to each meal and snack in the few days leading up to your periods and for the first few days of your menstrual cycle (everyone is different as to how long their PMS last). Ie: Roast beef, sweet chilli and philly, avocado salad wrap for lunch; english muffin with peanut butter for afternoon tea; a warm curry or country style potato, chicken and vegetable soup for dinner

  • Plan for your sweet, ie make some dark chocolate date balls; buy a dark chocolate hot drinking powder; buy some Lindt dark chocolate (the darker the chocolate, the less sugar that’s present, and also the more magnesium present – that’s another post, re nutrient changes with periods). Have your sweet with your meals, and enjoy them. Take time eating them, notice their texture, smell, sound (we call this, to eat mindfully eat).

  • Keep really hydrated


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