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Ack! I need chocolate! The science of PMS food cravings

Ack! I need chocolate! The science of PMS food cravings

Premenstrual food cravings are the punchline of endless jokes. Like most good jokes, they're funny because they're true.

Certain parts of a woman's menstrual cycle do seem to go hand in hand with the desire for chocolate ice cream and potato chips. I hear about this every day from my OBGYN patients.

Researchers have studied food cravings for years; one of the most cited studies dates back to 1953. Scientists – and lots of others – want to know who has food cravings and why, what they crave, when they crave it and how to minimize the cravings. Here's what the research has found.

Craving and eating before a period

Food cravings are just one of the many symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, also known as PMS. PMS is likely caused by hormonal fluctuations and how they affect chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters. Its symptoms are exclusive to the second half of the menstrual cycle. This luteal phase of the cycle starts with the release of the egg at ovulation and ends when a period begins. The symptoms usually resolve around the third or fourth day of menstruation.




Researchers have documented more than 150 different PMS symptoms in studies, ranging from physical to emotional to behavioral to cognitive. Food cravings are up there with the most commonly reported behavioral PMS symptoms, along with mood swings, irritability, anxiety and tension, and sad or depressed mood.

A woman doesn't need an official diagnosis of PMS to report hankering for sweets and chocolates, though. Eighty-five percent of women have some sort of perceptible premenstrual symptoms, while only somewhere in the range of 20% to 40% of all women meet the diagnostic criteria for PMS. Researchers find that cravings can occur during that premenstrual time period in normal, healthy individuals without a diagnosis of PMS or other disorder. In fact, one study showed that 97% of all women had previously experienced food cravings – independent of their menstrual cycle.

Research data confirm women tend to eat more during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, compared to the follicular phase that leads up to ovulation. With or without the diagnosis of PMS, this increased food intake can be as high as 500 extra calories per day.

What foods are women reaching for? Carbs and fats and sweets. No surprise there. The most commonly reported food craving is chocolate, likely because it's a pleasantly sweet combination of carbs and fat.

And although the existence of any craving is similar across women with and without PMS, the craving itself may differ depending on if you have the diagnosis of PMS. In one study, women without PMS increased their intake of energy and fat, while women with PMS showed increase in total energy and all macronutrients.

What causes food cravings?

Researchers aren't exactly sure where these food cravings come from, but there are several leading theories.


One idea is that women are unconsciously using food as a pharmacological therapy. Many studies show that women in their luteal phase crave more carbohydrates compared to during their follicular phase. Eating carbs turns up levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, which contributes to a general sense of well-being and happiness. By increasing carb intake, women may be self-medicating with food to cause that serotonin bump in order to feel better. In one study, when researchers increased serotonin neurotransmission in the brain, either through diet or drugs, people's food intake and mood went back to normal.

Another possible explanation for food cravings suggests that women intentionally turn to food for physical and psychological comfort. Food can play a sensory role, eliminating any uncomfortable feeling of hunger while tasting good and feeling pleasant to eat. Researchers find that "thinking" of a really tasty food is the most common provocation for wanting to consume it and that cravings are not solely hunger driven. Women also usually reported specific triggers for thinking of comforting food, like boredom or stress, further promoting the idea that the comfort of food helps mitigate unpleasant feelings – as one might experience with PMS.

Other researchers suggest that these food cravings are regulated by hormones. Scientists have observed that women tend to eat more when estrogen levels are low and progesterone levels are high – as occurs during the luteal phase. The reverse pattern is seen in rats during the follicular phase, when estrogen levels are high and progesterone levels are low. The fact that progesterone-only forms of contraception like Depo Provera are associated with weight gain, likely due to increased appetite, supports this theory as well.

How can you get rid of monthly cravings?

My general advice to women: be knowledgeable about your own body and how it changes in response to your monthly cycle. Your experience is different than your best friend's. Being in touch with your symptoms can help you acknowledge that they are normal for you at this point in time instead of worrying whether they're weird. If you feel unsure, ask your gynecologist.


Lifestyle changes can help balance and minimize unwanted symptoms related to your menstrual cycle. Things to try include regular exercise, relaxation and stress reduction techniques such as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, massage, self-hypnosis and regular, good sleep.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback may be options. They usually require support of a therapist or counselor to be most effective.

And you can optimize your diet to fight cravings:

  • Choose complex carbohydrates, including whole grains, brown rice, barley, beans and lentils. Choose whole wheat over white flour.
  • Reduce fat, salt and sugar – all of which can leave you craving more.
  • Minimize or avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Eat more calcium-rich foods, including green leafy vegetables and dairy. One study showed women who consumed milk, cheese and yogurt had less abdominal bloating, cramps, appetite and cravings for some foods, possibly because the calcium they contain helped reverse an imbalance of feel-good serotonin. Women who are sensitive to dairy can take a calcium supplement of 1200 mg daily.
  • Try magnesium supplements. This mineral can help reduce water retention and bloating, breast tenderness and mood symptoms.
  • Vitamin B6 (50 mg daily), in addition to magnesium, may have some benefit as well.
  • Vitamin E (150-300 IU daily) may be helpful to reduce cravings.

When food cravings are part of a PMS diagnosis, treatment for premenstrual syndrome in general may help minimize them.

Sara Twogood is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Southern California

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. You can read it here.

Island School Class, circa 1970s.

Parents, do you think your child would be able to survive if they were transported back to the '70s or '80s? Could they live at a time before the digital revolution put a huge chunk of our lives online?

These days, everyone has a phone in their pocket, but before then, if you were in public and needed to call someone, you used a pay phone. Can you remember the last time you stuck 50 cents into one and grabbed the grubby handset?

According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, roughly 100,000 pay phones remain in the U.S., down from 2 million in 1999.

Do you think a 10-year-old kid would have any idea how to use a payphone in 2022? Would they be able to use a Thomas Guide map to find out how to get somewhere? If they stepped into a time warp and wound up in 1975, could they throw a Led Zeppelin album on the record player at a party?


Another big difference between now and life in the '70s and '80s has been public attitudes toward smoking cigarettes. In 1965, 42.4% of Americans smoked and now, it’s just 12.5%. This sea change in public opinion about smoking means there are fewer places where smoking is deemed acceptable.

But in the early '80s, you could smoke on a bus, on a plane, in a movie theater, in restaurants, in the classroom and even in hospitals. How would a child of today react if their third grade teacher lit up a heater in the middle of math class?

Dan Wuori, senior director of early learning at the Hunt Institute, tweeted that his high school had a smoking area “for the kids.” He then asked his followers to share “something you experienced as a kid that would blow your children’s minds.”


A lot of folks responded with stories of how ubiquitous smoking was when they were in school. While others explained that life was perilous for a kid, whether it was the school playground equipment or questionable car seats.

Here are a few responses that’ll show today’s kids just how crazy life used to be in the '70s and '80s.

First of all, let’s talk about smoking.

Want to call someone? Need to get picked up from baseball practice? You can’t text mom or dad, you’ll have to grab a quarter and use a pay phone.

People had little regard for their kids’ safety or health.

You could buy a soda in school.

Things were a lot different before the internet.

Remember pen pals?

A lot of people bemoan the fact that the children of today aren’t as tough as they were a few decades back. But that’s probably because the parents of today are better attuned to their kids’ needs so they don't have to cheat death to make it through the day.

But just imagine how easy parenting would be if all you had to do was throw your kids a bag of Doritos and a Coke for lunch and you never worried about strapping them into a car seat?


This article originally appeared on 06.08.22

Michael B. Jordan speaking at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con International, for "Black Panther", at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.

As long as humans have endeavored to do anything great, there have been those who have tried to take them down. These are the opposite of the creators in life: the bullies, haters and naysayers who only want to bring people down to their level.

But when you have a dream and desire, its easy to tune out the voices of negativity. "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” Theodore Roosevelt once said. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena."

Some folks use the naysayers as fuel to push them to work even harder. Basketball legend Michael Jordan was infamous for letting his thirst for revenge drive him to even greater heights on the court.


Another Michael Jordan, "Black Panther" star, Michael B. Jordan, came face to face with someone who doubted that he could reach his dreams, and he wasn’t shy about letting her know that he remembered. What's Upworthy about the encounter is that he did so with class and confidence.

In 2023, Jordan was on the red carpet for the premiere of "Creed III," a film he starred in and directed. He was interviewed by “The Morning Hustle” radio show host Lore’l, who had recently admitted on the “Undressing Room” podcast that she used to make fun of him in school.

“You know what’s so crazy? I went to school with Michael B. Jordan at a point in life,” Lore’l said. “And to be honest with you, we teased him all the damn time because his name was Michael Jordan. Let’s start there, and he was no Michael Jordan.”

“He also would come to school with a headshot,” she added. “We lived in Newark. That’s the hood. We would make fun of him like, ‘What you gonna do with your stupid headshot?’ And now look at him!”

In addition, her co-host, Eva Marcille, referred to Jordan as “corny.”

Jordan had no problem discussing their past on the red carpet. “We go way back, all the way back to Chad Science [Academy] in Newark,” Lore’l told the actor. Oh yeah, I was the corny kid, right?” Jordan responded with a smirk.

“No, you did not hear me say that! I said we used to make fun of the name,” Lore’l said.

“I heard it,” Jordan said. “I heard it. It’s all good. What’s up?” he responded. “But yeah, [you are] obviously killing things out here…you’re not corny anymore,” Lore’l clarified.

After the exchange went viral, Lore’l admitted that she teased Jordan in school, but they were only classmates for one year.

“So the narrative that I bullied him all throughout high school—this was 7th grade. We were like 12 years old, and everyone made fun of each other,” Lore’l said. “That was school, you know. That was one year. And, again, I’ve never bullied him. That just sounds so outrageous to me.”

Jordan later shared some advice on how to deal with bullies.

"Just stay focused, just stay locked in,” he told a reporter from Complex. “You know, just follow your heart, try to block out the noise and distractions as much as possible and run your race. Don't compare yourself to anybody else. Just keep going."

via Pixabay

A sad-looking Labrador Retriever

The sweet-faced, loveable Labrador Retriever is no longer America’s favorite dog breed. The breed best known for having a heart of gold has been replaced by the smaller, more urban-friendly French Bulldog.

According to the American Kennel Club, for the past 31 years, the Labrador Retriever was America’s favorite dog, but it was eclipsed in 2022 by the Frenchie. The rankings are based on nearly 716,500 dogs newly registered in 2022, of which about 1 in 7 were Frenchies. Around 108,000 French Bulldogs were recorded in the U.S. in 2022, surpassing Labrador Retrievers by over 21,000.


The French Bulldog’s popularity has grown exponentially over the past decade. They were the #14 most popular breed in 2012, and since then, registrations have gone up 1,000%, bringing them to the top of the breed popularity rankings.

The AKC says that the American Hairless Terrier, Gordon Setter, Italian Greyhound and Anatolian Shepherd Dog also grew in popularity between 2021 and 2022.

The French Bulldog was famous among America’s upper class around the turn of the 20th century but then fell out of favor. Their resurgence is partly based on several celebrities who have gone public with their Frenchie love. Leonardo DiCaprio, Megan Thee Stallion, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Reese Witherspoon and Lady Gaga all own French Bulldogs.

The breed earned a lot of attention as show dogs last year when a Frenchie named Winston took second place at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and first in the National Dog Show.

The breed made national news in early 2021 when Gaga’s dog walker was shot in the chest while walking two of her Frenchies in a dog heist. He recovered from his injuries, and the dogs were later returned.

They’ve also become popular because of their unique look and personalities.

“They’re comical, friendly, loving little dogs,” French Bull Dog Club of America spokesperson Patty Sosa told the AP. She said they are city-friendly with modest grooming needs and “they offer a lot in a small package.”

They are also popular with people who live in apartments. According to the AKC, Frenchies don’t bark much and do not require a lot of outdoor exercise.

The French Bulldog stands out among other breeds because it looks like a miniature bulldog but has large, expressive bat-like ears that are its trademark feature. However, their popularity isn’t without controversy. “French bulldogs can be a polarizing topic,” veterinarian Dr. Carrie Stefaniak told the AP.

american kennel club, french bulldog, most popular dog

An adorable French Bulldog

via Pixabay

French Bulldogs have been bred to have abnormally large heads, which means that large litters usually need to be delivered by C-section, an expensive procedure that can be dangerous for the mother. They are also prone to multiple health problems, including skin, ear, and eye infections. Their flat face means they often suffer from respiratory problems and heat intolerance.

Frenchies are also more prone to spine deformations and nerve pain as they age.

Here are the AKC’s top ten most popular dog breeds for 2022.

1 French Bulldogs

2 Labrador Retrievers

3 Golden Retrievers

4 German Shepherd Dogs

5 Poodles

6 Bulldogs

7 Rottweilers

8 Beagles

9 Dachshunds

10 German Shorthaired Pointers


This article originally appeared on 03.17.23

Parenting

Mom creates a stir after refusing to drop her child off at a parent free birthday party

"I loved drop off parties. I didn't want to sit at some kids party."

Photos by Ivan Samkov and Gustavo Fring|Canva

Mom refuses to let kid go to "drop-off" birthday party

There are many Millennial moms that were raised on "Unsolved Mysteries" and "America's Most Wanted" during formative years, which may or may not have influenced the way they parent. It can be hard to think clearly when Robert Stack's voice is echoing in your head every time your child is out of eyesight. The jokes about what is responsible for the average Millennial's parenting style resembling more like a helicopter are endless. But sometimes additional caution is warranted where others may find it unnecessary.

At least that's what many folks on the internet believe after one mom seemingly split parents into two camps with her revelation about children's parties. Liv, who goes by the TikTok handle Liv SAHM, takes to social media to explain that her seven-year-old son was invited to a birthday party but when she went to RSVP, she noticed the invitation said, "drop off only."

The mom explains, "It's at someone's house. I don't know these parents. I don't know that there's actually going to be other adults besides this child's parents."


Liv states that she would not be dropping her young child off alone with strangers. To many parents this seems like a reasonable response. If you don't know the parents or any other adults then how can you ensure your child will be safe. Other parents felt like Liv was completely overreacting with a helicopter parenting style.

"Little kids have been going to peoples birthday parties without clingy parents for decades," one person declares.

"I'm a drop off kinda house. I want the parents to leave that is one less person I have to feed. I don't wanna have to make small talk with other parents," another says.

"That's a big no for me too! And I always try to take my kids to classmates parties because people never show up," someone writes.

"That's so worrisome. I completely agree with you mama bear, same with my son," a commenter says.

"Yeah, that would make me uncomfortable too! It's always a little interesting to me when parents drop off their kids at parties," someone else adds.

@livsahm

No thank you! I don’t feel comfortable with that. #mom #momsoftiktok #momlife #sahm #sahmlife #birthday #birthdayparty #celebration #controversial #parenting #parentingtips #parents #no

There's no right or wrong way to throw a party for a kid because there's no rulebook. Generally parents are accustomed to seeing invitations that say no siblings or the offer of parents staying or leaving. Many commenters pointed out that it seemed odd that the invitation was worded in a way that sounded like parents staying wasn't an option.

Some parents noted that the world has changed since they were children and wouldn't feel safe dropping their kids off either. Others found no issue with it and think fellow parents are overreacting. What do you say, odd or perfectly fine?

Family

Dad shares what happens when you give your child books instead of a smartphone

The key to fostering healthy habits in children is to be wholly present and reject the “pressures of convenience”

via Armando Hart (used with permission)

Armando Hart and his son, Raya.

One of the most pressing dilemmas for parents these days is how much screen time they should allow their children. Research published by the Mayo Clinic shows that excessive screen time can lead to obesity, disrupted sleep, behavioral issues, poor academic performance, exposure to violence and a significant reduction in playtime.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to 1 to 2 hours daily for children over 2. But American children spend far more time in front of screens than that and the situation is only worsening.

Before the pandemic, kids between the ages of 4 and 12 spent an average of 4.4 hours a day looking at screens, but since 2020, the average child’s daily screen time has increased by 1.75 hours.


A father in Long Beach, California, is getting some love for his TikTok video sharing what happens when you give your kid books instead of an iPhone. Armando Hart posted a video showing his 10-year-old son, Raya, reading a book in the back of a car and it’s been seen over 8 million times.

"Give them books instead of phones when they are little and this is the result," the caption reads. "Thank me later."

We’re so blessed with our son Raya. I think he’s read more books than I have.

@lifeinmotion08

We’re so blessed with our son Raya. I think he’s read more books than I have. #Books #Read #Fyp

Hart and his wife started reading to their son every night before bedtime, hoping to instill a love for books. "It was all about leading by example and creating a nurturing environment where reading was celebrated," Hart told Newsweek. These days, Raya is an avid reader who enjoys just about anything.

“My son likes novels, fiction, nonfiction, and realistic fiction,” Hart told Upworthy. “He also likes informative content, such as reading the almanac and other informative magazines. He loves to build, cook from recipes, and make art.”

For Hart, reading is all about creating a sense of balance in his son’s life.

“It's not about being against technology but about fostering a balanced approach that prioritizes meaningful experiences and hands-on learning,” he told Upworthy. “By instilling a love for reading, creativity, and exploration early on, we're equipping Raya with the skills and mindset he needs to thrive in an ever-changing world.”

Hart believes that the screen time discussion isn’t just about technology but a trend that goes deeper. “It speaks to a broader societal problem: our youth's lack of self-esteem, confidence and fundamental values. While screen time may exacerbate these issues, it is not the sole cause,” he told Upworthy.

“In contrast, physical activity, such as exercise, promotes joy and well-being. Spending hours scrolling on a phone can detract from genuine moments of happiness and fulfillment,” he continued. “Therefore, we must address the deeper underlying issues affecting our youth's mental and emotional health rather than solely attributing them to screen time.”

Hart believes the key to fostering healthy habits in children is to be wholly present and reject the “pressures of convenience” that encourage parental complacency.

“We prioritize quality time together, whether exploring nature, sharing meals with the best available foods, or engaging in meaningful conversations. In today's rapidly advancing technological world, staying grounded in our humanity and embodying integrity in everything we do is crucial,” he continued. “This means staying connected to our authentic selves and teaching our son the importance of honesty, kindness, and respect.”