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Extreme Hunger Before Period
pix123 posted:
I always know my period is coming in the next 3-5 days because I become insatiably hungry. After looking this up online, I know that I am not the only one.

I have read a theory about serotonin levels changing and stimulating hunger... but wanted to know what the OB/GYN community had to share about what may cause it. My other question in follow up is how can I prevent it, or provide relief - I have tried eating filling foods, but still feel hunger, even a little "shakey" as if I hadn't eaten all day.

I am 41 now, and have had this since at least my 20's.
It was never an issue before, but as my metabolism changes, I feel that I am gaining weight due to this particular harbinger of cycles.

I look forward to some educated insight!

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Jane Harrison Hohner, RN, RNP responded:
Dear pix: The earliest work on premenstrual food consumption as being a type of "self medication" for down moods was done in the late 1980's. The women were housed in a research unit and it was confirmed that consumption of carbs and sweets went up during the premenstrual week. This was followed by rat studies where samples of rodent brain tissue were found to have higher levels of serotonin when the rats were given the human female "PMS" diet. Amazingly this was all done before the first popular serotonin drug (Prozac) was on the market.

So what can a woman with this information? Obviously she could elect to take a low dose serotonin drug in the week before flow.

One commercial product ("PMS Escape") a powdered drink mix, found that anger, depression and carbohydrate craving was lessened compared to a placebo drink. The improvement was statistically significant within 1.5 to 3 hours after drinking the product (Sayagh, 1995).

In terms of diet one could try to decrease simple sugar intake and emphasize complex carbohydrates. Some women will increase intake of foods containing tryptophan (building block of serotonin) or tryosine containing foods (purported to blunt appetite). Lean protein can help buffer blood sugar to avert "shaky" feelings.

If you develop those dreadful 40's menstrual cycles you could elect to go on a very low dose birth control pill. In stopping ovulation, PMS symptoms tend to abate.

Lastly, the declining metabolic levels associated with aging happen to most all of us (dang!). Plus we tend to use less calories (no more dancing at 3 am). The best strategy to keep a young woman's metabolism is exercise--cardio and/or resistance training. While cardio has been found to be best in relieving PMS symptoms, any form of exercise is good.