Content warning: in this blog post we discuss binge eating and calorie intake. Please feel free to skip to our previous blog post in this series if you are dealing with an eating disorder.
The change in estrogen and progesterone levels throughout the menstrual cycle interferes with insulin activity that can lead to irregular blood sugar levels. Because insulin responsiveness is modified by sex hormones, insulin sensitivity is lower in the luteal phase than in the follicular. The frequency of hyperglycemia—high blood sugar—increases during the luteal phase.
Estradiol—a form of estrogen—has been associated with higher carb intake and progesterone has been associated with the craving of sweetened beverages. Progesterone is higher during your luteal phase. This could be a reason you’re reaching for those sweet treats in the days leading up to your period. Estrogen is higher after your period and peaks at ovulation. If you’re craving carbs, this could be a factor.
What about binge eating?
Well wouldn’t you know, high progesterone levels are more often associated with binge eating. So, you’re not a monster for desiring all those extra calories—good or bad. Although, it is much less likely you’ll binge healthy foods over unhealthy ones. It should also be noted that while progesterone may be the hormone you want to blame, low levels of estrogen in correlation with those higher levels of progesterone are the key factors to look out for. Their inverse levels together are what increase your chances of binge eating.
Okay, so what if you’re just hungrier than normal?
If you’re not binge eating but just seem to be adding more snacks to your day proceeding menstruation, there is another reason that could be happening. Some studies have revealed a slight rise in RMR—resting metabolic rate, or the calories you burn at rest each day—that happens during the luteal phase. This could be the trigger for your intense need for extra calories. Don’t take this as an opportunity to add an extra couple hundred calories to your day though. Most studies revealed the rise was very small—around 2-8%. In some individuals there was no increase seen.
If you suffer from PMS, this could be another factor
Some studies have shown that PMS sufferers might be more likely to consume carbs and sweets in their luteal phase. Serotonin levels in your brain can become intensified with carbohydrate intake. This is why you feel amazing after eating your favorite pasta dish. But serotonin doesn’t just regulate glucose and estradiol levels, it also affects insulin resistance and blood glucose levels and can stimulate or intensify PMS symptoms. Yikes! PMS is already such a bummer, why exacerbate it?
To make matters worse, consistently giving into our cravings for sweets and carbs can increase our changes of insulin resistance, diabetes, and even PCOS.
What can you do to combat the glucose cycle?
We’ll focus on our top 3 tips.
Eat more consciously. Opt for whole, non-processed foods whenever possible. Increase your fiber intake—think eating your fruits and veggies instead of drinking them. And yes, this also means drastically reducing your sugar intake. But hey, fruit is nature’s candy! ;)
Bonus: If you already suffer from painful periods, eating this way can help alleviate those symptoms!
Gain a better understanding of what’s happening with your hormones. We’re not just talking about estrogen and progesterone, or even testosterone—yes, menstruators have that too! Insulin has a big effect on what happens in our bodies and can have an influence on hormonal imbalances.
- Add The Daily to your supplement routine. We’ve created a multivitamin that provides key nutrients, powerful antioxidants, healthy blood sugar levels, and helps relieve mental stress. It can help with mood swings, skin, and hormonal balance.
It’s true that glucose levels fluctuate throughout our day and our lives but there are signs that point toward deeper issues that need to be addressed—hormonal imbalance for instance. Extremely high—or low—levels need to be taken seriously and discussed with your medical professional. It’s time we reframe the stereotype surrounding menstrual cycles and getting hangry back to where it belongs, from “normal” to “common.”