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.

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Well Being

This 21-year-old superhero has an amazing idea to help save people who get periods.

Many Americans don’t have access to tampons and pads. Claire Coder is fixing that.

Anyone who has ever gotten their period at an inopportune time knows the scramble to find a menstrual product.

There's the “sneakily ask all co-workers for a tampon” move. Or the frantic search for a quarter to use at one of those vending machine-style boxes in some restrooms. (Though, let's be honest, they're rarely stocked.)

Entrepreneur Claire Coder found herself in this very predicament at a cisgender male-dominated business event in 2016. There weren’t exactly a bunch of people rushing to help when her period arrived, so she had to come up with a reason to leave the event early.

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Though I've had it since I was 10 years old, it took me almost a decade to realize that my period was not normal.

I always noticed that my cramps were very intense prior to my period. I also cycled through extreme mood swings, felt lightheaded, lacked energy, and experienced symptoms of depression. Not the passing, mope-around-in-your-bed-eating-ice-cream emotional slump — this was depression that affected my everyday life. It made me feel like a completely different person. Leading up to my period, my normally confident, capable self gave way to an intensely anxious, harshly self-critical version of me that I hardly recognized.

But as someone who's suffered from depression, anxiety, and IBS throughout my whole life, I thought it was normal. My high school nurse said it was just PMS and stress, and my mother agreed. During my first year of college, I noticed that my symptoms grew even worse. They began affecting my schoolwork and attentiveness. I often felt like I wasn’t really able to respond to my surroundings due to my lack of energy.

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Family

Too often, you'll see something like this in an ad for tampons.


Photo via iStock.

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