Why do we experience cravings?
1 - Stress
Cortisol is one of our main stress hormones and levels of this hormone could have something to do with cravings. As cortisol levels increase, they can cause the body to engage its ‘fight or flight’ response, which of course needs fuelling quickly – hence the sudden urge to eat sweet treats which are a fast source of energy as a result of their glucose content!
Unfortunately as our levels of sex hormones drop off each month to give us our period, it can often make us more vulnerable to suffer from stress at the hands of cortisol. However, don’t panic, there are still some useful tips you can use to help overcome this:
Employ some relaxation techniques
If stress is getting the better of you (whether it’s work or your personal life), it’s time to slow down and take out some time for you. You won’t be working at your most productive anyway so you can afford to take some time out to look after yourself. Yoga, meditation or deep breathing techniques are good options or else just simply taking some time out each day to relax and do something you enjoy – whatever that may be! Stress Relief Daytime can also be a useful addition – even if you only find you struggle more to cope with stress at certain times of the month – this remedy is particularly quick acting so can often do the trick.
If your body is relaxed and fully restored with good quality sleep, then your cravings are less likely to be so bad. A lack of sleep is more likely to make you feel more stress, anxious and give rise to wobbly blood sugar levels the next day. If you’re struggling to sleep some supplements could help you drift off. Try our herbal remedy Dormeasan made from fresh extracts of valerian and hops or work on topping up your magnesium or B vitamin levels – both of these nutrients help support your nervous system and therefore your ability to nod off.
Although this is often the last thing you want to do if your period is due, exercise really can help you to handle your stress levels that little bit better. As you exercise you release feel-good chemicals called endorphins which help to calm the nervous system. Remember, even a simple walk constitutes as exercise!
2 – Wobbly blood sugar levels
Your blood sugar levels can easily drop in the lead up to menstruation due to fluctuating hormones, and poor dietary intake. This can also become more apparent if you are low in stores of certain essential nutrients, including magnesium and chromium.
Some of the common signs of wobbly blood sugar include; feeling hungry not long after eating, tiredness, irritability and sometimes the shakes – all of which give the feeling that they will be helped with a quick sugar or carb fix! This can easily turn into a vicious cycle and you can end up feeling worse for wear if you’re tempted to give into those cravings.
Some tips to help overcome wobbly blood sugar include the following:
Stick to your routines
Try and stick to regular meal times as much as possible to help prevent unnecessary drops in your blood sugar. Aim to include good sources of protein and healthy fats with each meal or snack to help slow the release of simple sugars into your bloodstream. Avoid skipping meals and loading up on caffeine or alcohol which will only risk throwing your blood sugar levels off further.
Add in some chromium
Try chromium in supplement form to help better regulate your blood sugar levels and help manage those cravings.
Helping to keep the gut bacteria as ‘friendly’ as possible can help to manage your blood sugar. If bad bacteria or yeast are able to proliferate we’re more likely to suffer at the hand of cravings so use Molkosan to support your gut going forward.
3 – Mood
Cravings are also thought to be linked to serotonin and dopamine levels. Firstly, low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin have strong links with low mood and depression and guess what can provide a brief increase in serotonin? Carbs! ‘Brief’ is the operative word though, as after the initial increase, you can be left lower in mood and craving more, a little later on.
If you find you more often than not crave snacks with a higher fat content, this tricky fat:carb combo could suggest that you’re craving a dopamine hit instead. Dopamine is associated with reward centres in our brain which is a likely reason why this brutal combination found in a large selection of junk food is thought to be so addictive!
If you think your cravings are covered by your mood some top tips from me are as follows:
Identify the hormone imbalance
If low mood is getting you down and causing havoc with your appetite and cravings, there could be an underlying hormone imbalance at play. Progesterone dominance, in particular, is often linked with low mood and more infrequent periods can be a sure sign this is what’s going on. Click the link to learn more!
Try out St. John’s Wort
If you’re hoping to take the edge off your slight low mood, St. John’s Wort Hyperiforce could do the trick. However, as always, if you feel it isn’t helping after a few weeks, you should always discuss this with your doctor. Please note, you also shouldn’t take this remedy if you are on the pill and this deserves a trip to the doctor anyway – the balance of hormones provided by the pill may no longer be right for you.
Pop some probiotics
As well as the Molkosan as mentioned above (it’s often nice to start with this one as it’s a prebiotic), probiotics can be used to help top up the numbers of bacteria in your gut. This is all very relevant as did you know that it is here, in amongst the hoards of bacteria that the majority of your serotonin is made? Happy gut = healthier serotonin levels!
Are there any other tips?
Whether it’s your cortisol, serotonin, blood sugar levels, oestrogen or progesterone balances that are slightly out of kilter, everything you do in terms of your diet and lifestyle habits can have a positive effect on your endocrine (hormone) system.
If you don’t quite know where to start, a few more general points to consider are as follows:
1 - Aim for a balanced diet
Carbs, fat and protein – the main constituents of any diet, but aiming to get a balanced intake of these nutrients is essential for proper blood sugar control and ultimately to support the balance of your other hormones too. Aim to get a good dose of protein and healthy fats to help slow the digestive process down suitably and more to the point, to help keep you feeling fuller for longer!
2 - Make sure that you’re going to the loo regularly
Ensuring that your bowels are moving is essential for supporting your digestive system. A bunged up bowel can easily contribute to a questionable balance of gut bacteria and a liver under pressure which can all create a vicious cycle – not a happy situation for sure!
3 - Limit alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant and can also cause havoc with your blood sugar; both of which can give rise to difficult cravings. Alcohol, much like many medications that need to be processed by your liver, also risk eating up your B vitamins. This class of vitamin are important for helping to convert your food into energy and help to keep you feeling satisfied and energised.
4 - Eat the colours of the rainbow
At this time in the month we need all the nutrients we can get anyway, but eating a bigger variety of colours helps ensure we are getting a wider range. From a practical point of view, colourful fruits can also act as a natural sugar supply (but without all the extreme effects on blood sugar) so they may even be just the trick to help take the edge off any cravings!
5 - Get outside
Daylight and fresh air are always helpful when it comes to mood; giving you more energy and helping to increase serotonin levels. Moving more can also act as a distraction if you’re feeling peckish as often it’s just boredom or habit eating away at u!
6 - Drink plenty of water
As well as being out of habit, you might also reach for something sweet when you’re body is actually crying out for some water instead. Pour a glass of water with some lemon in to help hydrate you and get your bowel moving along - a sure way to help flush out toxins, reduce bloating and make the body feel replenished!
Hopefully at least one or two of these points will strike a chord with you and seem achievable; remember, simple changes, no matter how small, may just help to get those troublesome cupboard visits under control, once and for all.
Originally published on 18/03/2015, updated on 03/12/2018