How Do Hormonal Changes Affect Food Cravings?

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

A food craving is a strong urge to eat a particular food

A food craving can be described as a strong urge to eat a particular food or group of foods, even when you're stomach isn't necessarily growling. Women have cravings more often, and stronger cravings, than men.The causes of these cravings can be linked to female processes, such as pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), or they may just be a side effect of stress. Read on to learn more about your cravings.

PMS and Food Cravings

Right before your menstruation, levels of your body's hormones fluctuate; specifically, progesterone and estrogen often experience a disturbance in their balance. Estrogen levels drop, causing levels of serotonin (i,e; your natural mood booster) to fall as well. Progesterone can drop, too, which causes lack of energy and appetite because it's the hormone in control of your blood sugar levels. When you face mood swings and low energy, you might begin to crave sugar and refined carbohydrates. This is why chocolate is so appealing to some women during PMS.

However, nutritionists warn against giving in to these cravings. Eating such foods could worsen your PMS symptoms and send you on a crash when your sugar high dissipates. This will start an unhealthy cycle.

Pregnancy and Food Cravings

Just as during PMS, food cravings during pregnancy can be traced back to progesterone levels and blood sugar. However, it becomes a bit more complicated when considering that there are two bodies involved. A pregnant woman may experience low blood sugar because she is producing more blood to supply to the fetus. In addition, one of the effects of progesterone is that it makes you sleepy. Because pregnant women produce ten times more of this hormone than other women, you can imagine they get very sleepy! These feelings of fatigue can spark sugar cravings.

Pregnant women also experience food cravings as part of a built-in survival mechanism that most of them don't even know is at work. Many times, when an expectant mother craves a particular food, it signals a nutritional deficiency. For example, if you were to crave pickles during pregnancy, the chances are that you're deficient in sodium. These missing nutrients are usually caused by an increase in blood levels or poor diet.

Stress and Food Cravings

A particularly stressful situation causes you to crave carbohydrates and sugar

When you enter a particularly stressful situation, be it physical or emotional, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone affects all your body's systems to confront the stress or to run away. This stress causes to crave carbohydrates and sugar, which are foods that provide quick “fuel” for blood system.

More Information about Hormones

Estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol are also at the helm of many other changes that your body experiences. Click on the following link to find out more about symptoms of hormonal imbalance.

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