Updated 21 July 2016

Is your PMS causing your food cravings?

No idea where your PMS food cravings originate from? We uncover the reasons for bizarre sugar cravings during menstruation.


Cravings, cravings, cravings! Anything from chocolate to fizzy drinks to fried chips or burgers – these cravings are not random or just happen out of the blue – they are symptoms of the monthly premenstrual syndrome (PMS) many women have to deal with, so hang in there, you’re not alone. 

Chantal Stewart, Health24's resident gynaecologist, however emphasises that there are no documented medical results showing that certain types of food worsen women’s PMS symptoms.

Test: Am I eating to control PMS?

"There isn't really any medical evidence for certain types of foods affecting PMS and how this may work. In general, carbohydrates should not be eaten in excess as they cause surges in sugar and then cravings when the sugar levels drop. "

Dispelling the myths around food and PMS symptoms

Where do PMS symptoms come from? This puzzling question remains largely unanswered. According to Health24's resident dietitian Ria Catiscas, symptoms are mainly due to hormone fluctuations (oestrogen and progesterone) rather than diet and nutrition.

"However, there is some evidence that optimal blood glucose control can contribute to the alleviation of certain symptoms. This can be achieved by the optimal regulation of insulin and serotonin levels.”

Hormonal changes during the premenstrual period may affect a woman’s mood and cause her to crave carbohydrates like greasy fries, chocolates and salty snacks. 

carbohydrates, refined carbs, fatty foods

(Image: iStock)

The following foods should be avoided or limited as much as possible:

- Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries

- French fries and other fried foods

- Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages

- Red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausages)

- Margarine, shortening and lard

Read: Dairy packs PMS punch

The imbalance of serotonin levels leaves one with carbohydrate cravings, usually for high-carb foods like white flour (rolls in burgers) and potatoes (French fries) that may cause poor blood glucose control. There is, however, no evidence of any effects red meat, lard and margarine may have on your PMS symptoms.

Stewart explains that with a drop of serotonin levels women will often crave carbohydrates to boost sugar levels.

"However, when sugar levels subsequently drop again, mood will drop as well, so this is not recommended. This is varies very much from person to person, so there is no ‘one rule fits all’.”

green veg, food, salad

(Image: iStock)

Thus care must be taken not to say that the type of food a woman consumes affects the severity of her period more than her overall health.

The best advice to women who suffer from PMS is therefore to maintain a healthy diet that emphasises green vegetables instead of carbs. 

For any questions contact one of our Health24 experts The Dietitians or GynaeDoc.

Read more:

Severe PMS lasts longer than thought

Manage the PMS blues

Natural approach to PMS


The Association of UK Dietitians.