Period cravings: Why they happen and what you can do about it

It’s completely normal to have specific food cravings during your period or the week before, and probably linked to your hormone or serotonin levels. Most common cravings include carbs and sweets, and you don’t need to feel guilty for wanting to chow down on your favorite comfort food.

Find out what might be causing your period cravings and get some tips on when to satisfy them and when to opt for alternatives.

What causes period cravings?

Changes in serotonin levels in the brain can influence PMS symptoms, including cravings.

Serotonin acts as a mood stabilizer and appetite controller, with levels fluctuating throughout the menstrual cycle. Research links lower serotonin levels to PMS symptoms. Carbohydrates indirectly increase serotonin by allowing amino acids like tryptophan to reach the brain. During your period, lower serotonin levels may lead to cravings for carb- or sugar-rich foods, such as pasta or cake.

Is it okay to indulge?

Absolutely! It’s not just okay; it’s crucial to pay attention to your body before your period.

Some cravings might have a purpose, indicating that your body needs more calories or certain nutrients.If, for example, you’re really craving a juicy burger during a super-heavy period, your body might be wanting some extra iron found in red meat.

And here’s the thing: resisting those cravings might make you think about them even more.

This doesn’t mean you should overindulge every day, but if your body is urging you to eat something different before your period, don’t feel guilty about having a bit more than usual.

Listening to your body and understanding its needs is essential.

Are my cravings causing me to feel worse?

Eating too much of certain foods during your period might make you feel unwell. For instance:

  • Sugary or fatty foods: A study found that these can make PMS symptoms more intense.
  • Salty foods: Chips and other salty snacks might cause bloating.
  • Caffeine: Coffee and soda can lead to muscle cramps, making period cramps worse.
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol may make period cramps more painful, according to a study.

So, if your favorite treats make your cramps worse, you could enjoy them but in limited amounts, or you might want to wait until your period is done to enjoy them.

What healthier choices can I make?

If you’re craving a snack but don’t have it or don’t want to feel worse after eating it, you can try swapping it for healthier substitutes:

  • For food like cheesecake, go for unprocessed fats in full-fat yogurt, whole milk, or avocados.
  • If you’re into carb-rich treats, choose snacks rich in tryptophan, like turkey, fish, egg whites, peanuts, or pumpkin seeds.
  • Instead of sugary treats, grab snacks with natural sugar, like apples, bananas, or grapes. Some studies suggest fruit may help with PMS symptoms.


Don’t worry, you’re not alone in raiding your snack stash before your period. Instead of feeling guilty about your cravings, just listen to your body and give it what it needs. If that’s pizza and ice cream once a month, go for it!


Helton, B. (February 22, 2023). Crave carbs and sugar during your period? Try a food swap to indulge your cravings without making PMS worse. Business Insider.


Henderson, A. (n.d.). Why do you get cravings on your period? Always.https://www.always.co.uk/en-gb/tips-and-advice-for-women/pms-and-menstrual-cramps/cravings-before-and-during-period/

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