Part 1 of PMS: Natural Solutions for Food Cravings Plus Recipes (2024)

Dear Joyous Reader,

Especially the ladies who are experiencing the dreaded PMS, I have joyous news for you! Over the next few weeks I'm going to share natural solutions for your most common PMS symptoms:

  • Food cravings
  • Digestive problems, specifically constipation
  • Mood Swings: Irritability, anxiety, depression aka feeling "unjoyous"
  • Acne
  • Weight gain and water retention

Today's post is all about food cravings which affect approximately 33% of all PMS sufferers according to Natural Guide to Women's Health. This means a lot of you feel like a raving cookie monster 7 to 14 days prior to your period. Unfortunately, there is no one single cause of PMS, understanding your own unique imbalances is the key to addressing your symptoms. In this post I will review the causes, key nutrients, foods to eat (plus joyous recipes), foods to avoid and lifestyle factors.

The Estrogen and Serotonin PMS Connection

Although it is no entirely understood, the fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle may play a role in decreased levels of serotonin. Studies have been unable to confirm the exact role estrogen plays in levels of serotonin but it is believed that the two work in direct concert with each other.

Serotonin is a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that is responsible for keeping appetite in check and helping you feel calm and peaceful.

This means when one rises/falls the other one follows. As part of their dependent relationship, estrogen increases the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin as well as improves the efficiency of serotonin receptors, making serotonin more readily available to your body. In turn, serotonin allows for adequate levels of estrogen to be produced by the ovaries.

If estrogen (as well as other important hormones) are in balance then the relationship between hormones and neurotransmitters can live happily ever after and reduce your PMS symptoms. Although, this isn't a catch all cure for everyone and further studies must be concluded to support these claims, but balancing estrogen levels is a good place to start.

Causes for food cravings during PMS:

  • Low serotonin: Serotonin is nature’s mood regulator and natural appetite suppressant. When serotonin levels drop during PMS this causes cravings and emotional instability. Stress, more specifically the hormone cortisol causes serotonin levels to drop as well. Keeping serotonin levels adequate is key to keeping cravings in check. Furthermore, tryptophan is an amino acid and the precursor to serotonin. In order for this amino acid to cross the blood brain barrier and convert to serotonin, glucose is required.  This creates intense sugar cravings in order to replace low serotonin levels experienced during PMS.
  • Imbalance in the body’s regulation of insulin (hormone that regulates sugar) and cortisol (stress hormone).
  • Low omega 3 fatty acids: Deficiency in PGE1 (beneficial prostaglandin) can cause low blood sugar with sweet and food cravings.
  • Stress: The sudden increase and then dropping down of estrogen levels in the body during PMS triggers the release of cortisol. When there is an increased cortisol level in the blood, the appetite is stimulated and cravings ensue.
  • Estrogen/progesterone ratio: When this ratio increases there is a significant decline in endorphin levels. When endorphin levels are low this can affect your mood and make you crave carbs for a boost.

Nutrients to help relieve food cravings:

Supplements are supplemental to good nutrition!

Chromium Picolinate

  • Chromium helps insulin do a better job by aiding in the uptake of glucose into cells. Without it, insulin is less effective and glucose cannot enter cells and sugar cravings ensue because of the body’s perceived lack of sugar.
  • Food sources: Romaine lettuce, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, corn, sweet potato, apple, eggs.


  • Magnesium is involved with the regulation of glucose, insulin and the neurotransmitter dopamine. If you don't have enough magnesium in your diet, you may experience cravings for chocolate and sugar to replace low levels of dopamine “the pleasure neurotransmitter".
  • Food Sources: legumes, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, molasses, pumpkin seeds, coriander, dill, raw cacao and cumin.

Vitamin B Complex

  • Important for carbohydrate and protein metabolism, aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • Vitamin B6 has the ability to increase the synthesis of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
  • Essential for liver detoxification of estrogen.
  • Food sources: whole grains, beans, nutritional yeast, molasses, spinach, crimini mushrooms, asparagus and kale.


  • Required for balancing blood sugar levels by increasing insulin response, carbohydrate metabolism and improving glucose tolerance.
  • Food Sources: oysters, crimini mushrooms, spinach, summer squash, asparagus, collard green and pumpkin seeds.

IMPORTANT: Talk to your natural healthcare practitioner about dosage recommendations.

Foods to eat plus recipes:

Eat protein at breakfast to stabilize blood sugar and reduce cravings, plus provide essential amino acids to build neurotransmitters.

Recipes: Banana Protein Bakeor Overnight Strawberry Chia Pudding, page 157 in my book

Fiber-rich foods are particularly important in maintenance or restoration of healthy estrogen levels as fiber aids in the elimination through bowel movements of excess estrogens.

Recipes: Apple Beet Carrot Quinoa Slawor Apricot Oat Granola Muffins, page 139 in my book.

Eat complex carbohydrates to help stabilize blood sugars, increase fiber and boost serotonin production.

Recipes: Raw Recipe: Apple Avocado Collard Wrapsor Arugula Pesto on gluten-free Pasta, page 245 in my book.

Eat tryptophan rich foods such as turkey, chicken, potatoes, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, turnips, collard greens and seaweed. Tryptophan is converted into 5-HTP which is then converted to into serotonin.

Recipes: Roasted pumpkin soup with cumin and nutmegor Turkey Burgers with Walker's Spicy Brussels Sprouts, page 233 in my book.

What to AVOID:

  • Ditch the coffee. Caffeine causes a further imbalance in the regulation of cortisol and blood sugar, inhibiting the liver’s ability to manage serotonin, estrogen and progesterone.
  • Good riddance booze! Alcohol consumption in PMS phase aggravates symptoms by interfering with the liver’s detoxification ability (results in the inability to remove excess hormones) and by causing imbalances in blood sugar levels. This increases cravings for sweets and promotes fatigue and headaches. Alcohol inhibits gluconeogenesis (the formation of glucose from fatty acids and proteins rather than from carbohydrates), promoting reduction of blood sugar.
  • Be cautious of red meat* and dairy. Animal fats found in meat and dairy products increase production of harmful inflammatory prostaglandins (PGE2 & PGF2) that aggravate PMS symptoms. *If you do eat red meat, choose organic and grass-fed as it will have a higher ratio of omega 3 fats to omega 6 making it less inflammatory.
  • Avoid baked goods (unless made by you without refined-sugars). Sugars and refined carbohydrates because they result in a quick spike in blood sugar levels followed by a dramatic drop, creating increased cravings and thus a vicious cycle.
  • This one's a no-brainer: Refined foods offer little to no fiber which slows down elimination and can make you constipated, elevating levels of estrogen.

Lifestyle Recommendations:

  • Move that sexy booty! Mood affecting neurochemicals, serotonin & dopamine, are depleted during PMS. You can restore them either through nutrients from food or by getting adequate exercise & participating in activities that make you feel good. Getting 30-60 minutes of exercise each day is the healthiest way to keep these mood regulating chemicals in check and avoid the cravings.
  • Get a daily dose of Vitamin G. This stands for "greenspace" which is known to prevent anxiety and depression both of which can make you crave more sugars.
  • Keep junk food out of your house! As the old saying goes...

Part 1 of PMS: Natural Solutions for Food Cravings Plus Recipes (1)

Gather healthy recipes that you can whip up to curb your cravings when they strike.My book has a perfectly balanced 10-day meal plan to get you on track. In addition, the 10-day detox has plenty of ideas and recipes that will help facilitate detoxification.

Be sure to JOIN MY NEWSLETTERget all the joyous updates of the follow up posts.

Additional info and sources:

  • The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health- Dr. Sat Dharam Kaur, ND, Dr. Mary Danylak-Arhanic, MD & Dr. Carolyn Dean, ND, MD page 241. 2005
  • Premenstrual syndrome | University of Maryland Medical Center
  • University of Maryland Medical Center
  • Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Michael T. Murray N.D.

Special thanks to my intern Heather

Part 1 of PMS: Natural Solutions for Food Cravings Plus Recipes (2024)


What foods are good for PMS cravings? ›

12 Ways To Fight PMS Cravings

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.

How can I control my appetite during PMS? ›

How To Manage Cravings
  1. Boost your calcium intake. ...
  2. Choose fruit if you are craving something sweet.
  3. Consume protein, which helps satisfy your cravings. ...
  4. Drink plenty of fluids.
  5. Eat small meals frequently throughout the day.
  6. Opt for fiber-rich foods that keep you full for long periods.
Mar 23, 2024

When are PMS cravings the worst? ›

Many women experience intense food cravings in the week or two before their periods — a symptom of PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Scientists believe fluctuating hormones and serotonin levels during a woman's cycle are to blame.

What causes cravings during PMS? ›

Fluctuations in hormones affect your neurotransmitters, typically at the time that your egg is released during ovulation. Your body craves carbs, fat and sweets, so you reach for these high-calorie treats. This is an attempt to boost the lower levels of serotonin currently being produced by your body.

Which fruit is best during periods? ›

Watermelons, figs, and plums. The natural sugars found in these foods may satisfy cravings for something sweet. Additionally, these fruits are rich in vitamins that can help with bloating. Watermelon also has a high water content and can help keep your body hydrated, which will reduce swelling and bloating.

What tea is best for PMS? ›

One of the most common herbs used for the treatment of PMS is Chamomile [11]. Chamomile tea possesses anti-spasmodic properties, which can relieve the painful cramps associated with the menstrual periods [12].

How can I increase my serotonin before my period? ›

Fortunately, starchy carbohydrates have the same positive effect on serotonin and PMS as sugar. Pasta, potatoes, rice, polenta, bread, cereals, pancakes, and other starchy carbohydrates will also exert their mellowing effect on premenstrual mood by increasing serotonin.

What hormone makes you hungry during PMS? ›

There is good evidence that progestogens, such as progesterone, can stimulate appetite. Levels of this sex hormone reach their peak about one week before menstruation begins, which can help explain pre-period munchies. In a similar vein, while BMR decreases during menstruation, it rises to its maximum just prior to it.

Which diet is best in periods? ›

Avoid saturated fats such as butter, cream, bacon and potato chips; limit salt and caffeine. Drink more water and herbal teas such as chamomile. Increase your intake of calcium-rich foods such as nuts, low-fat dairy products, fish with bones such as salmon and sardines, tofu, broccoli and bok choy.

What vitamin deficiency causes you to crave salt? ›

Deficiency of potassium may also cause you to crave salt, though the connection between the two nutrients is still under scientific construction. Lack of sodium may also trigger the dopamine reward systems in the brain which induce reward motivated behavior, once you start replenishing it.

Is it OK to eat more before period? ›

Many people experience specific food cravings or a general increase in appetite in the days leading up to their menstrual periods. These are common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which affects over 90 percent of females at some point in their lives.

Why do females eat chocolate on their period? ›

Levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin drop and insulin levels go up. This dangerous combination leaves you reaching for mood-boosting foods like chocolate – that sweet mix of sugar AND fat – while glucose-levelling insulin leaves you craving a sweet treat to raise your blood sugar.

Why do I lose my appetite before my period? ›

These variations in energy intake and energy-regulating hormones correspond to changes in ovarian hormones. The decrease in energy intake may be due to anorexigenic/appetite-suppressing effects of estradiol,10,11 and increased energy intake might be due to orexigenic/appetite stimulatory effects of progesterone.

Is it normal to lose appetite before period? ›

Many women get specific cravings when PMS strikes, often for sweet or salty foods like chocolate cake. The reasons for this aren't really clear. Other women may lose their appetite or get an upset stomach. Bloating and constipation are also common.

Should I give in to my period cravings? ›

Period cravings are likely caused by changes in your serotonin levels, and they're very common. It's usually just fine to indulge your cravings, but certain salty or sugary foods may worsen PMS. Opt for unprocessed high-fat foods like yogurt or foods rich in iron, magnesium, or omega-3s.

Can PMS make you hungrier than usual? ›

Why am I so hungry on my period? "It's totally normal and extremely common to feel hungry while on your period, as well as in the days leading up to it," says Dr Harper. "Your progesterone hormone is more dominant during this part of your cycle, while your oestrogen levels are declining.

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