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

"Period poverty" — being unable to regularly afford menstrual hygiene products — affects people around the world.

For the millions living in poverty, affording menstrual products is a huge challenge. And it's not just those living in developing countries who struggle. Advocacy group Plan International estimates that 1 in 10 girls in the U.K. — a wealthy, developed nation — are unable to afford sanitary products. In the U.S., 42 million women live at or near the poverty line, and since many public benefit programs consider menstrual products "luxuries," menstrual hygiene is unaffordable.

Countries are battling period poverty in various ways. India recently eliminated its 12% "luxury tax" on sanitary pads and tampons after a widespread campaign put pressure on the government.

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Many parents feel hesitant to bring up the topic of abortion with their kids.

But considering that abortion isn't covered in school sex-ed classes, avoiding it leaves kids to the task of learning on their own from the internet, TV, or billboards — all littered with anti-choice propaganda and misinformation.

Talking to kids about abortion can be hard. Most of us have our own personal feelings about abortion, and many of us have our own experiences with the procedure.

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Beatriz Martinez was exercising at the gym one day when she suddenly felt unusually breathless and a little dizzy and got a pain in her stomach.

She stopped and took a minute to breathe, which made her feel a little better. But the pain was still there. Maybe she had pushed herself too hard and pulled a muscle?

"I thought it was the exercises, a muscle ache," says Beatriz. So, she decided to call it quits for the day and drove home.

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Cigna 2017