Ever experience an intense urge to break out the biscuits or reach for those chips before your period arrives?
These cravings are real! Research supports that in the pre-menstrual period our desire for foods loaded with sugar, salt and fat increases .
So what drives this desire and how can we combat the cravings?
Hormones that regulate our blood sugar and sensitivity to insulin change across our menstrual cycle.
During the second half of our menstrual cycle, the luteal phase, we may be less responsive to insulin.
A lower score is more desirable, indicating that you are responsive to insulin.
In one study they monitored changes in insulin, glucose and insulin resistance in over 250 females. Insulin resistance was significantly increased in the later part of the menstrual cycle compared to the follicular phase .
Levels of oestradiol and progesterone were positively associated with insulin resistance.
Is it a Serotonin Boost?
Animal research shows an increase in serotonin production with increased carbohydrate intake. Serotonin levels may be lower in the last days of the menstrual cycle in people experiencing PMS, compared to those without symptoms. Reductions in serotonin can lower mood.
Some researchers have proposed that increasing carbohydrate intake in the days leading up to menstruation may be a way to self-medicate in an attempt to boost serotonin levels and improve mood .
Whether we are subconsciously trying to boost serotonin or not, there are changes in insulin and glucose that also leave us craving simple carbohydrates.
Curb Those Cravings!
1. Get Moving
The changes in insulin sensitivity across the menstrual cycle can be related to our physical activity and aerobic fitness . Heading out for a 30 min walk at a moderate intensity can improve insulin sensitivity.
These benefits are also seen with high intensity interval training and strength training. Include variety in your activity and intensity across the week so you have time to recover and adapt. As you build up fitness over time you may notice your cravings start to dampen with each menstrual cycle.
2. Keep the Sleep
Just one night of disrupted sleep can be enough to increase insulin resistance, driving those cravings even more. Lack of sleep also impacts our resilience and decision making which can be a combination to throw us off track.
Aim to keep to a regular bedtime and wake time with at least 7 hours sleep a night for a routine to support you across your cycle.
3. Don’t Skip Meals
Restricting food will only intensify those sugar cravings as blood sugar falls. Keep to regular meals with snacks throughout the day, opting for meals that combine fibre, protein and healthy fats.
4. Pair Your Sweet Treat with a Prebiotic
If you are eating simple sugars, combine these foods with prebiotic fibre which lowers the blood sugar response and will keep those hunger hormones at bay!
Our Microbiome Essentials daily prebiotic blend also provides 68% of your daily chromium needs. Chromium prevents spikes in our glucose levels that can bring on strong sweet and carb cravings while improving insulin sensitivity.
Reaching for a Cacao Latte instead of a sugar loaded hot chocolate provides the perfect blend of sweet indulgence combined with prebiotics to regulate post-meal blood sugar .
Raspberry & Coconut Blondie with a Cacao Latte anyone?
Nourish Your Gut Diversity
Our microbiome can generate cravings for certain foods. Promoting the production of short chain fatty acids with proven prebiotics improves glucose metabolism. With consistency in creating a fertile gut the overwhelming intensity of those pre-menstrual cravings may just be a thing of the past!
- Souza, L.B., et al., Do Food Intake and Food Cravings Change during the Menstrual Cycle of Young Women? Rev Bras Ginecol Obstet, 2018. 40(11): p. 686-692.
- Yeung, E.H., et al., Longitudinal study of insulin resistance and sex hormones over the menstrual cycle: the BioCycle Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 2010. 95(12): p. 5435-42.
- Wurtman, J.J., et al., Effect of nutrient intake on premenstrual depression. Am J Obstet Gynecol, 1989. 161(5): p. 1228-34.
- MacGregor, K.A., I.J. Gallagher, and C.N. Moran, Relationship Between Insulin Sensitivity and Menstrual Cycle Is Modified by BMI, Fitness, and Physical Activity in NHANES. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 2021. 106(10): p. 2979-2990.
- P., M., N.I. Kapoor, and T. O., Soluble dietary fibre partially hydrolysed guar gum markedly impacts on postprandial hyperglycaemia, hyperlipidaemia and incretins metabolic hormones over time in healthy and glucose intolerant subjects. Journal of Functional Foods, 2016. 24: p. 207-220.