Q: Why do I have food cravings pre- or during menstruation? Is it linked to hormonal changes?
A food craving is an intense desire to eat a specific food or types of food, which can contribute to overeating and weight gain. Research has been inconclusive but there has been increasing evidence towards emotional and restrained eating as the cause.
Potential mechanisms: 1. Decrease in progesterone and oestrogen pre- and during menstruation. However, studies have shown that cravings remain post-menopause, cravings remain despite increasing progesterone levels and found no association between oestrogen and cravings. 2. Emotional eating. Cravings are a ‘learned behaviour’ to cope with negative emotions such as cramp pain or depressed mood pre- and during menstruation. 3. Restrained eating. Women who linked cravings to the menstrual cycle were more likely to restrict their diet. Food restriction leads to preoccupation and cravings of avoided foods.
See the image below on tips to avoid emotional and restrained eating!
Source: Hormes JM, Timko CA. All cravings are not created equal. Correlates of menstrual versus non-cyclic chocolate craving. Appetite. 2011;57(1):1-5. Hormes JM, Rozin P. Perimenstrual chocolate craving. What happens after menopause? Appetite. 2009;53(2):256-9. Boswell RG, Kober H. Food cue reactivity and craving predict eating and weight gain: a meta-analytic review. Obes Rev. 2016;17(2):159-77. McVay MA, Copeland AL, Newman HS, Geiselman PJ. Food cravings and food cue responding across the menstrual cycle in a non-eating disordered sample. Appetite. 2012;59(2):591-600 Rodin J, Mancuso J, Granger J, Nelbach E. Food cravings in relation to body mass index, restraint and estradiol levels: A repeated measures study in healthy women. Appetite. 1991;17(3):177-85. Dye L, Blundell JE. Menstrual cycle and appetite control: Implications for weight regulation. Hum Reprod. 1997;12(6):1142-51.