You know those days that you wake up feeling ravenous, fantasizing about eating a whole jar of Nutella (okay, maybe several jars?)? You may have noticed they're often around the time that your period arrives—but is it "normal" to feel super hungry when you're menstruating (or in the days leading up to it)? According to Dr Shahzadi Harper, founder of The Harper Clinic and Valerie Agyeman RD, women's health dietitian and founder of Flourish Heights, the answer is a resounding "YES!". Phew.
"It's totally normal and extremely common to feel hungry while on your period, as well as in the days leading up to it," says Dr Harper. "Your progesterone hormone is more dominant during this part of your cycle, while your oestrogen levels are declining. This is also why you might feel sleepier and more prone to mood swings."
As for snacking, she's passionate about reminding her patients that they shouldn't feel any guilty or anxiety around wanting to eat more. "I advise my patients to ignore any guilty feelings surrounding food and to just allow themselves the treat they really want, don't overthink it." However, if you find yourself feeling ravenous throughout your entire cycle, it could be down to an overactive thyroid (other symptoms include shaking, not gaining weight and palpitations). “If you’ve also noticed any of these, it’s important to get it checked out."
As for sturdy snack ideas, registered dietician Valerie Agyeman has a whole host of suggestions. "During the luteal "premenstrual" phase, your body prepares for your next period by building and thickening the uterine lining. This phase requires a higher demand of energy coming from nutrients and food to help rebuild the uterine lining," she says. "Women may crave more fat and carbohydrates during this time and later in the phase PMS may kick in too."
Agyeman continues on to say that research indicates there are certain foods which may even help alleviate certain period symptoms, as well as impacting on your energy levels and mood. "Keeping your body nourished with nutrient-dense foods all month long is the way to go," she explains. "Include whole grains, lean protein, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes into your eating routine. Go for snacks like hummus and veggies or whole—grain crackers, popcorn, cottage cheese, an apple with peanut butter, Greek yogurt with honey and berries."
And during that specific I-want-to-eat-the-entire-world-phase? "Yes, it’s okay to reach for a bag of chips and a cookie too if it makes you feel great, and it doesn’t worsen any PMS symptoms, if you're dealing with that.
"Honor your cravings! Restriction and deprivation eventually may lead to overeating, which is followed by guilt and more restriction—it's a cycle," Agyeman continues. "So if you're having a craving, take a step back and ask yourself what you're really hungry for. If what you really want is chocolate for example, then eat the chocolate. If you can eat it mindfully and slow down and really enjoy the flavour and texture, you might enjoy it even more."
Truly, this is music to our ears.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.