When was the last time you awoke with a headache, felt bloated as a beached whale, barked at your husband for saying, “Good morning, darling,” and kicked your sweet, adorable cat named Kitten, meowing for its morning meal all in the first 20 minutes of your day? Hopefully this scenario only occurs once a month at the most.
A nurse friend of mine once told me, “PMS is what men have all the time.” Yes, she is still a friend. Most women will agree when the monthly cycle rages, watch out! Among other symptoms, irritability and sweet cravings are probably the most significant. How many women say, “At that time of
the month, I would kill for chocolate.” Many! Other women who have a family history of diabetes probably are even more susceptible to these unwelcomed viscitudes, mood swings or “highs and lows.”
Many of you have heard of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, which is basically PMS specially prior to the menstrual cycle/. If this is so, why does it occur and what can I do about it? Glad you asked!
To explain the process of PMS one must examine the cause of hypoglycemia. The simplified process:
Starch (examples: bread, pasta, cereal, rice, etc.) when eaten, converts to sugar traveling through your bloodstream, then insulin (released from the pancreas) transports the sugar out of the bloodstream into the cell to produce energy.
Your energy level rises while your blood sugar level gradually falls. If the blood sugar level falls too low, those symptoms (headache, fatigue, irritability, sweet cravings) will occur. But, normally when it is time to eat a meal, eating starch along with protein will raise the sugar level and symptoms disappear. We, men and women, all know how much better we feel after we’ve eaten a meal following the occurrence of these symptoms, particularly when we have waited too long to eat.
Herein lies the difference between functional hypoglycemia and PMS.
Prior to a woman’s menstrual cycle, there is a surge or rise insulin levels. This means even more insulin is available to transport the sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cell therefore causing a radical or severe drop in the blood sugar setting off the cravings for sweets and the well-known irritability which have other names but will go unmentioned in a family newspaper.
So now you know why it occurs – what can you do about it? OK, men, what’s it worth to you? Just kidding.
Ladies, ten days prior to menstruation eat three high fiber, high starch meals daily, along with a small mid-morning and late afternoon starch snack. Be consistent with the times of your meals and concentrate on having more whole grains and legumes (beans and peas) at your meals. These foods wil help maintain a higher blood sugar level. The key is to prevent the sugar level from dropping too low and too quickly.
Try this for two consistent monthly cycles. Your chocolate cravings should diminish – I mean who needs an excuse to eat chocolate anyway.
– Freddy Kaye, Ph. D. is a clinical nutritionist in private practice and the faculty nutritionist at Tallahassee Memorial Regional Medical Center teaching resident physicians diet therapy.