Is PMS Sabotaging Your Diet?
How to cope with food cravings and keep losing weight
Hormones to Blame continued...
Whether a woman will crave sweets or croissants, though, depends on yet
another player: the brain chemical serotonin, she says. Most women with PMS
experience a drop in serotonin levels, which triggers cravings for carbs
because the body uses carbs to make serotonin.
"If cortisol is high and serotonin is low, you'll seek carbs and fats,
but really heavy duty on the simple carbs -- sugar-based sweets like chocolate
bars," Peeke says. The reason: Simple sugars are metabolized more quickly
than complex carbs, so they offer a quick serotonin fix.
If cortisol is way up but serotonin is relatively normal, a woman is more
likely to crave a fat-carb combo without a huge sweet component, such as a
bagel laden with cream cheese, Peeke says.
The Blood-Sugar Connection
Other research has linked PMS to a state of low blood sugar, or
hypoglycemia, in the second half of the menstrual cycle, says Susan M. Lark,
MD, a clinician in Los Altos, Calif., and author of Premenstrual Syndrome
Self-Help Book: A Woman's Guide to Feeling Good All Month. "Women in
these studies experienced a significant drop in blood sugar after eating,
accompanied by edginess and irritability," Lark says. "Then within an
hour or two, they are hungry again and craving more food."
Whether it's blood sugar, cortisol, or serotonin levels that are out of
whack, experts say, eating huge servings of ice cream, chocolate, and chips are
not the only way to bring levels backs into check -- in fact, they are the
worst way. Proper nutrition and lifestyle habits will achieve the same thing,
with long-lasting results.
12 Ways To Fight PMS Cravings
How to Fight Food Cravings
So how can a woman combat PMS cravings and keep from gaining weight?
Eat complex carbs
Though it might seem counterintuitive to feed a diet, Wurtman suggests reaching
for a snack high in complex carbs whenever you feel an attack of the grumpies
coming on. Taking in a few extra calories in rice cakes now will prevent you
from raiding the icebox later on. Meals also should be high in complex carbs,
such as whole-grain breads, pasta, and cereals. "Eaten on an empty stomach,
baked potatoes, even half a bagel or low-sugar cereals, will increase serotonin
levels within an hour," Wurtman says.
Avoid processed sugar
Simple sugars increase insulin secretion, which lowers blood sugar, Lark
explains. And if insulin levels shoot up enough, your appetite for carbs and
Try foods high in essential fatty acids
Food high in essential fatty acids, such as salmon or safflower or canola oil
mayonnaise, "slow absorption of carbs, stabilize the blood sugar, and stop
cravings in their tracks," Lark says. Try tuna with a little low-fat
canola-oil mayo on a rice cake, she says, or a couple of tablespoons of flax
meal in a protein shake.