Today, I’ll explain why many of us reflexively gravitate towards chocolate when it’s that time of the month.
You see, those of us who experience bouts of intense menstrual cramping are typically magnesium deficient. Magnesium has been studied to help combat the break down of prostaglandins (a hormone released roughly around the first day of our period which leads to "period back". It’s role is to constrict blood vessels and contract).
Magnesium plays a role in converting the amino acid tryptophan into seratonin. Seratonin, is that wonderful hormone that plays a vital role in our postivitiy, mood and happiness. Therefore, it’s no wonder why women are chocolate-lovers.
Magnesium can also help regulate cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released in response to stress (yes, that does include exercise. I’ll discuss in a future blog why it’s key to adjust training intensities around menstrual cycles). Adrenaline is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. Adrenaline will increase in production when we are stressed (in this case, we encourage adrenaline production during exercise to help stimulate muscle activation and heart rate).
Let’s keep in mind that our body will intuitively cue us to act in response to signs of “threat”. Threat can be defined as pain or the body feeling unsafe. When we have a craving for chocolate, it may be an underlying magnesium deficiency, our body feels unsafe and will cue a strong craving for well, chocolate.
So what’s my rule of thumb?
Well leading up to your period, you may drastically benefit from boosting your magnesium levels. I am a proponent of boosting it via whole food sources first. However, if you have endometriosis or experience intense menstrual cramping, you may benefit from adding in a supplement, as well as maintaining a higher magnesium rich diet.
So here are my suggestions:
Track your period and get familiar with when you start to exhibit symptoms (bloating, acne, mood changes, fatigue, cravings)
You’ll want to be intentional about increasing your magnesium, therefore the more precise you can be about YOUR symptoms the better. I typically suggest the day before you start having symptoms. Again, if you have more intense menstrual cramping, I would suggest maintaining a diet full of magnesium rich foods. This will be dependent on each person. So play around with it and experiment with it.
Below are some of my favorite whole food sources: Cooked spinach and chard, avocado, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, banana, and yes, chocolate (I suggest at least 70% dark chocolate).
Jot down notes of what you add in and how much and reassess yourself the next month (Did you notice any changes?)
Continue to experiment!
So you see, enjoying chocolate around your period isn’t a “bad” thing at all, rather it’s necessary. Our bodies truly are amazing. They’re intuitively giving us the right cues and signals. We just need to take the time to pause, listen, learn and act.
So grab yourself some dark chocolate, jump in your comfiest sweats, and turn on Netflix.