Why We Feel Hungry During Our Period + How to Avoid Bloating and Calm the Rage Monster Within

By: Mariam El Naggar

It’s safe to say periods come with a lot of baggage, with the all-too-familiar food cravings and uncontrollable rage making the top of the list. I always find myself compulsively craving and consuming sweet, salty and everything in between. And let’s just say all the wondrous calorie-ridden options Ramadan provides us with don’t always help avoiding these never-ending hankerings. And then there’s the bloating…

So, definitely far from my definition of fun. But, nonetheless, our periods and their frustrating companions are here to stay so we might as well take the time to understand and cope with them.

Why do we feel hungry during our period?

Like everything associated with your period, you can thank your hormones for influencing your sudden outbursts of hunger. There are primarily 5 things that influence cravings during/around your period:

  1. Progesterone, this hormone peaks dramatically around your period and is known to increase appetite. Therefore, it can be responsible for you feeling ravenous.
  2. Cortisol is known to increase insulin sensitivity which leads to more sugar being used, and thus a lower sugar level. Paired with that and the fact that it spikes just before your period women tend to experience sugary cravings. 
  3. Serotonin is the calm-inducing hormone and it tends to decrease during menstruation as a result of an increase in cortisol and a decrease in magnesium. However, levels of serotonin boost when you consume carbs. So, it’s literally a case of the more carbs you eat, the better you feel. 
  4. Magnesium levels deplete during your period due to fluctuating hormone changes. It’s been scientifically linked that when your body needs minerals like magnesium you tend to crave salty things.
  5. Your basal metabolic rate, this peaks right before your period, which causes increased appetite.

How food can calm the rage monster within

I love food. Yup, I’m you’re typical food-obsessed, doesn’t-really-have-any-self-control when it comes to food, shella member. And it tends to be really hard trying to avoid eating everything around me when I’m lashing out at everything around me (i.e during my wonderful time of the month). But it turns out if you’re binging on the right food, you can actually calm the rage monster within. Without further ado here’s how food (aka the love of my life) can be your savior:

  • Leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach and cabbage are great choices to make when trying to improve your nutrition and feel fuller. This is because they are rich in iron and B vitamins. Their high fibre count can also help with digestive issues often associated with menstruation.
  • Nuts are a perfect example of foods that are rich in good fats and omega 3-s. These can be helpful and a much more filling alternative than processed junk food options.
  • Fresh fruit is rich in fibre and contains many vitamins and minerals. This makes it very helpful in keeping your digestive system healthy and happy.
  • Whole grains, like fruit, contain lots of fibre and complex carbs. This means your body gets the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep your digestive system going great. Fibre also gets digested slower than highly processed foods, which helps you feel fuller for a longer period of time.
  • Red meats are famous for being a rich source of iron. This is a good way of replacing the iron that’s lost via blood loss during your period. Eating foods high in iron also helps avoid anaemia and symptoms that are often associated with it.

What to eat to avoid bloating 

Just like food can be your saviour during times of stress and anguish, it can also be your worst enemy. Binging on the wrong types of food can result in feeling bloated. You can reduce and even avoid bloating by limiting these 5 foods during your period:

  • Coffee: coffee during your period is a big no-no. Not only can it be responsible for more erratic mood swings, but it’s also a contributor to bloating. This is because coffee is acidic which irritates the stomach and it can overexcite the digestive tract which may stimulate spasms in the bowel, both of which cause bloating.
  • Carbonated drinks: bubbles in fizzy drinks are actually gas, which can get trapped in your stomach and cause bloating. They’re also a source of caffeine, which, as previously stated, also contributes to bloating. 
  • Sugar: although there is controversy on whether sugar is something that causes bloating, there is significant evidence that suggests that it does. Bacteria in your GI tract consume the sugars in your foods and can increase gas production, hence increasing bloating.
  • Salty foods: eating food containing high amounts of sodium can trigger water retention, which can balloon you up. Cutting out salt is much easier said than done as it’s in so many foods we eat on a daily basis. So if you do succumb to salt, drink a lot of water to help flush it out.
  • Dairy: feeling gassy after consuming dairy products is very common. This can cause gas to form in the GI tract, which may trigger bloating.

Still suffering from period baggage? 

Sorting out your diet is often a great way to calm common period/PMS symptoms, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. In the end, we’re all unique so it’s perfectly normal that various components of our diet will affect us differently. You can always keep a food diary to track which foods work for you (or don’t) and sometimes seeking a professional opinion can be extremely beneficial.

Hope this helped and stay safe everyone 🙂

P.S If you still feel like you want to better understand your erratic mood swings or you want more info on how to reduce bloating – just click those links!

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