Ravenously Hungry When Your Period is Due

For years women talk to each other about food cravings and their menstrual cycle, in a study by Yardena Arnoni-Bauer and colleagues and which was published in J Clin End Metabolism has begun to shed light on the subject as they looked at how food intake is regulated by the menstrual cycle. They emphasize there is much work to be done, to really help women make use of this information! At Women’s Health Practice we want to help you understand your personal cycles and hunger controls to help you eat the best.

Whether we are hunger or not is partially controlled by the brain. Both good signals (eat as you need food to survive), and not so good signals, (you are perfectly fed you just want more food or a certain type of food) are controlled in brain centers.

The brain through these control signals controls what we call our energy balance: the regulation of eating and burning calories.

The brain centers that control the amount of food you consume have both estrogen and progesterone receptors, the major hormones of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Day by day women eating to satisfy hunger, regardless of activity levels, naturally fluctuate between about 250-500 calories depending on the day of our menstrual cycle!

You are the most hungry in the middle of the progesterone phase of the menstrual cycle, the so called, mid-luteal phase.

There were higher fasting insulin levels at this mid-luteal stage of the cycle which is another factor that affects our drive to eat.

A new study seems to show that it’s the effect of progesterone on the reward area of the brain that makes us tend to take in more calories at particular times of the menstrual cycle.

The effects of hunger on the ‘cycle’ are not seen if you are on hormonal contraception. Birth control pills could cause weight gain due to water retention, accumulation of fat, or due to increased hunger drive followed by increased caloric intake. But these factors do not affect all women and it has mostly been found in older studies that may not be as accurate that pill users were no more or less likely to gain weight than non OCP users, which is postulated to mean they have similar calorie control, but this is being called into question.

There are many ways to control overeating, and that is something to come in and discuss.


Suzanne Trupin, MD, Board Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist and owner of Women's Health Practice, Hada Cosmetic Medicine, and Hatha Yoga and Fitness

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