week, I was a hot mess of stomach pains and intense food cravings. I still have irregular periods and
consequently when I do get my period, my hormones go wild! In the course of an
hour I traveled through the full emotional spectrum: from angry to sad, and every emotion in between. In the
midst of Aunt Flow's arrival my arms and legs felt like a heavy sack of
potatoes; I moved as slow as an elderly person sloshing through a large pile of
mud in . My mom had it right
when she said: “I think you’re in a funk.”
Working out was not an option and neither was healthy eating. I slept for the majority of the day and when
I woke up I'd scavenge around the kitchen for anything that made my mouth water. Because we didn’t have any true sweets in our
house—courtesy of my mother—I was forced to improvise and make my own
concoctions. I threw my gluten free
eating plans out the window, smearing as much butter as I could over pieces of
whole wheat bread drenched with maple syrup (I had already gone through all the
waffles). I ate half a box of English
shortbread cookies without tea or milk and dipped handfuls of pretzels into
On a normal day these foods would not appeal to me in the least,
especially because I have a partial intolerance to gluten. But in the moment—as my hormones raged a war
inside of me—each bite felt like a new revelation in my mouth. Alone in the kitchen, I found comfort in the
mechanical motion of bringing food to my mouth and swallowing.
not an unfamiliar experience for me.
When PMS blues come around I often attempt to shut my feelings down by inhaling
an excessive amount of sugar and carbs.
Each time the same monologue plays itself out in my head. What is
1000 more calories? I've already completely disowned my healthy eating goals
for this summer. I might as well just
embrace the fact that I am a big FAT failure.
The next day I usually try to
make up for my naughty cravings, by working out hard and restricting my diet. However, despite my greatest intentions, by
night time I usually crash and end up binging all over again. Logically, I understand that I am not hungry;
however, this does not stop me from diving into a gallon of coffee ice cream
when I get a bad case of the midnight munchies.
to find out the cause of my cravings, I did some research on the link between PMS and junk food cravings. Netnutritionist.com explains how women in particular see large drops in serotonin and dopamine levels during the final 14 days of their menstrual cycle. During this time period, insulin sensitivity in females increases; this can have a large impact on our cravings for certain foods.
is a neurotransmitter in our brain that causes calmness, mood stability,
reduced stress, sleepiness, and appetite and pain control. According to The Physiology of Nutrition, reductions
in serotonin can lead to overeating or binges on junk food, especially rich in carbohydrates. This may be due to the fact that 80 to 90
percent of the human body’s total serotonin is found within the stomach. When we are low in serotonin levels our gut sends
our brain messages, which may explain why we desperately crave chocolate
covered strawberries at two in the morning for no good reason.
there are steps we can take to increase our serotonin levels when we go through these
emotional funks. Though I am no expert,
here are some natural serotonin boosting methods I have found helpful at keep cravings
at bay for the entire month:
1) Replace excessive cravings for carbohydrates and sugar with
protein. Why? Because over eating carbs and sugars can
actually lead to a decrease in serotonin levels. The best article I read on boosting serotonin entitled Understanding Our Bodies: Serotonin, The Connection Between Food and Mood reccomends food high in
protein like nuts, fish, yogurt, milk, meat, and eggs.
2) Avoid extreme dieting. Studies have shown
that women who greatly reduce calorie intake, and completely cut out carbs from
their diet can have dramatic decreases in serotonin levels. This most likely explains my own viscous cycle
between eating healthy during the day and binging at night.
4) Get outside. Sunlight and nature helps to boost serotonin levels.
5) Get sleep. A lack of sleep can actually
prevent proper serotonin signaling in our brains.
6) Engage in activities that naturally boost
your mood. Try mediation, yoga, working
out, or any other activity that takes your mind away from that Dairy Queen Blizzard.
I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel better to know that when I
overeat it is not necessarily because I lack will power or strength. With this
in mind, I can stop beating myself up and learn to better deal with hormonal triggers that cause me to binge on junk
food. Most importantly, I can begin to
take care of my bodies need for serotonin, without giving into unhealthy cravings.
Has anybody else gotten a bad case of the midnight munchies during PMS? I'd be interested to hear your comments.