A craving means an intense desire for something, like a certain food. Some people crave foods that they really enjoy, while others desire specific items because their bodies are lacking some essential nutrient. Some cravings pop up at a specific time. For example, you might crave sweets during your period. The desire typically disappears when you are done menstruating, then returns every month.
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A period is part of the menstrual cycle, which runs about 28 days. Ovulation occurs at the mid-point of the cycle, when one of the ovaries releases an egg, and your period comes at the end if the egg is never fertilized. Your uterus sheds its lining during this phase, resulting in the discharge of blood. Your body then prepares itself to repeat the cycle by releasing another egg. You may experience a variety of physical symptoms before and during your periods, including cramps, stomach upsets, sleep problems, depression, anxiety and certain food cravings.
Cravings for sweet foods are common before and during a period, and some women also crave high-carbohydrate foods like pasta, white rice and white bread. These cravings are often a sign of low blood sugar, especially if they are accompanied by feelings of fatigue and headaches. Some women's bodies become more responsive to insulin during their monthly cycle, making them more prone to blood sugar drops. The brain instigates a sugar craving in response to the need for more fuel.
Some women specifically crave chocolate sweets like candy bars during their periods or in the premenstrual phase. There are many theories for this craving, but none has been proven valid. For example, chocolate possibly increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, like dopamine or serotonin, according to Columbia University's Health Q&A Internet Service, or fulfills an iron or magnesium deficiency. Women do not typically crave other foods rich in those minerals during their periods, however, and cocoa capsules do stop the cravings. The desire may simply be caused by the pleasant taste and sensations of eating chocolate.
You can fulfill cravings for sweets during your period in healthy ways rather than focusing on candy and other calorie-laden foods that have little nutrition. Yogurt, bran muffins and granola bars are sweet and contain useful nutrients, although they still cause weight gain if you eat them in excess. Drink 100 percent fruit juices as a sweet beverage rather than soda. Unfortunately, you should avoid chocolate because its caffeine content can worsen your mood.
- Women's Health Information; Menstrual Cycles, What Really Happens in those 28 Days; January, 2011
- Go Ask Alice, Columbia University: Chocolate Cravings and PMS; May 2009
- Kotex: Alleviating PMS Symptoms With Proper Nutrition
- MayoClinic.com; Nutrition and Healthy Eating; Katherine Zeratsky; Aug. 27, 2009
- Women'sHealth.gov; Premenstrual Syndrome; May 2010