Why do we experience cravings across our cycle?

PCOS and menstruation

Firstly, if you’re not familiar PCOS is a common endocrine disorder that affects how an individual’s ovaries work, impacting a range of hormones. The characteristics include; irregular periods, excess androgens (known as male hormones) resulting in excess facial and body hair, and polycystic ovaries. To be diagnosed, you must meet at least 2 of the aforementioned criteria.

Whilst the symptoms vary between individuals they can include; excess hair growth, weight gain, thinning hair on the head, acne, difficulty getting pregnant and most relevant to this article, irregular periods. Insulin resistance occurs commonly in those with PCOS, and it’s the increased levels of insulin that are related to irregular periods.

Why do we experience cravings before our periods?

Before reading further, if you’re not familiar with the different phases of the menstrual cycle, you may want to take a quick read of our article here.

As we go through the menstrual cycle our bodies and nutritional needs change. During the luteal (later) phase, when our progesterone and oestrogen are increased, so does our resting metabolic rate. This results in increased calories burnt in the second half of our cycle following ovulation.

As our bodies adapt for changes in metabolic rate during this time, we often see a natural increase in hunger and thus food intake. In particular, foods higher in carbohydrates and fats appear to be more common. An interesting side note here is it’s been found to be the most frequently craved food amongst people with ovaries.

In relation to our hormones, progesterone is the hormone believed to increase appetite, whilst oestrogen is believed to suppress it. Which helps to explain the observed changes throughout the luteal phase. Additionally, during the luteal phase, insulin sensitivity may lower, as a result, we may require increased levels to lower blood sugars. As a result, PMS symptoms, in particular, food cravings may increase during this time.

It is completely normal and valid to experience food cravings throughout your cycle. Denying yourself these cravings can result in binging later on. Tuning into your body and allowing yourself to enjoy all foods can help to remove the shame and stress surrounding food, resulting in less binging.


In general, everyone will experience different symptoms throughout their cycle, however food cravings are commonly cited. Hopefully, if this is something you experience, understanding the why behind the way you feel, can help you in taking action to ease your symptoms. If you’d like to know more about nutrition around your cycle check out our article here. Additionally, our nutritionists are always here to support you with your nutritional needs.

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