What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and what are its causes?
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a group of symptoms linked to the menstrual cycle. PMS symptoms occur a week or two before your period and usually go away after your period starts.
The causes of PMS are not clear and changing hormone levels during your menstrual cycle might play a role. Many women who complain of PMS describe symptoms such as tension, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness and various food cravings especially for sweets.
Why do women have cravings during PMS?
Scientists and medical professionals don’t completely understand the causes for PMS and the cravings that go along with it yet. The general consent is that hormones (progesterone, estrogen and testosterone) are involved as is the brain chemical, serotonin.
The fact is that cravings amplify during the two weeks prior to a woman’s period probably because fluctuating estrogen levels have an effect on brain chemistry and this in turn makes many women crave foods mostly high in calories, fats, sugars and salt. But overeating these foods will only make PMS symptoms worse because when you eat them, your blood sugar fluctuates and it is known that controlling blood sugar is a crucial step in controlling your symptoms of PMS.
Why is chocolate the most craved food?
- The taste of chocolate on the tongue is likely to release endorphins in the brain to produce a pleasurable feeling
- Sugar in chocolate may raise serotonin levels & soothe a gloomy mood & relax you
- The aroma of chocolate may affect brain chemistry
- You can have a chocolate treat whenever you like; remember to have it in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
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What can you do to curb your PMS cravings, what is the alternative to sweets?
Diet plays a crucial role in the management of PMS. The best way to curb PMS cravings is to raise levels of serotonin in the brain. And this can be done by eating mood-boosting carbohydrate-rich foods in moderation such as whole-wheat bread, pasta, or rice or baked/boiled potatoes.
You can get the same craving curbing effect by eating a combination of carbohydrates with a little fat and protein in the mix. Good choices include combinations of whole grains with a protein source like beans, lentils, chickpeas or lean protein like chicken or turkey. For example:
- A turkey or grilled chicken sandwich prepared with brown bread
- Low fat glass of milk with whole-grain breakfast cereals
- Lentil soup with brown toasted bread or bean stew with brown rice
In addition to keep your blood sugar and insulin levels steady and to eliminate cravings, it's important to have six small meals spread throughout the day at regular times.
Remember, you may not be able to get rid of your PMS cravings completely but by following the advice above you can manage them and gain at least some control over your cravings.
What is the treatment for PMS?
Many things have been tried to ease the symptoms of PMS. No treatment works for every woman, some lifestyle changes may help you feel better. Below are some lifestyle changes that may help ease some of your symptoms: Exercise regularly as people who exercise report fewer cravings than non-exercisers due in part to the feel good endorphins released during physical activity
- Eat healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains which help control blood sugar levels and provide you with vitamins and minerals
- Try to avoid salty, fatty and sugary foods and substitute with healthier alternatives
- Get enough sleep. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night
- Don’t smoke