If you’re 45-plus and craving chocolate or a bag of potato chips lately, don’t blame your lack of willpower. Your hormones and biological clock are at play. Menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle. So, it is given that your hormones would be out of whack at this time. This constant upheaval of your hormones can pave the way for food cravings. If you find it hard to wait till lunch or dinner time to eat something, menopause could be the one to blame! These unwanted cravings can make it difficult to maintain a healthy body weight throughout menopause as well.
To understand more about cravings during menopause, Health Shots got in touch with Dr Amrita Razdan Kaul, Senior Consultant – Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Asian Hospital, Faridabad.
Why do women have food cravings during menopause?
Menopause or menopausal transition are hormone-driven conditions. During the perimenopausal period (before menopause), your hormones may fluctuate and make you feel hungry. A 2014 study conducted by the Canadian Institute of Health Research found that the menopausal transition can cause an increase in hunger. The women included in the study also noticed a rise in their psychological desire to eat more.
In a more scientific sense, your brain has receptors for the main hormones that control menstruation – estrogen, and progesterone. High levels of estrogen help dampen appetite, making you feel full and satisfied after eating. During menopause, estrogen declines which cause your appetite to increase. Additionally, it also affects leptin and serotonin balance in your brain, leading to food cravings and increasing appetite, explains Dr Kaul.
Common food cravings during menopause
Have you been eyeing the salty and sugary snacks stacked in the corner of your kitchen cabinet? Well, you are not alone. A lot of women get food cravings during menopause. But if you are wondering why you crave only sugary snacks and fast foods, here’s everything you need to know.
One of the most prevalent symptoms of menopause is lethargy. When you feel tired, your body tends to look for food for energy and uses sugar and carbohydrates as energy sources. Studies have shown that this could make you have uncontrollable sugar cravings on days when you feel exhausted and depleted.
As mentioned above, estrogen levels play a pivotal role here. Dr Kaul explains that the estradiol form of estrogen helps regulate metabolism and body weight. It is usually linked to cravings for carbohydrate-rich food and progesterone is linked to the consumption of sugary food. Hence, the fall of estrogen and the comparative rise of progesterone can lead you to crave sweets and sugary snacks.
It could be the estrogen and progesterone imbalance triggering it. Lack of estrogen causes the release of hunger hormones like ghrelin, especially with low blood sugars. A changed endocrine system increases cortisol levels, which promotes the emotional eating of comfort foods, especially fast food. Insulin metabolism is also altered and hence glucose breakdown is affected leading to more sugar cravings.
What can women do to control these cravings?
Indulging in some sugary and salty delights once in a while is not a problem. If you are not able to control those food cravings, you can try out these simple yet effective tips suggested by the expert:
Have small and frequent meals to avoid hunger-induced cravings.
1. Follow regular eating patterns that help you keep you on track.
2. Include fibre-rich foods like lentils, leafy greens, celery, and oatmeal in your diet. Studies have shown that it helps boost satiety and curb cravings.
3. Your diet should include more high-quality protein and diary products.
4. Drinking a lot of water may also help. Since hunger and thirst produce the same sensation, staying hydrated may help decrease food cravings.
5. If you have been stressing over these unwanted cravings, don’t because it will only add to the problem! Reducing stress may help fight these cravings. You can include meditation in your regimen.
6. Instead of treating yourself to unhealthy snacks, try non-food rewards every time you eat healthily.
7. Try to steer clear of trigger foods in the house.
8. Have you tried chewing gum? Turns out, it helps curb hunger pangs by making you feel full.
9. Check with your doctor in case you have vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and take medicines.
10. Did you know a lack of sleep leads to unwanted food cravings? Make sure you are getting adequate sleep every day.
While these tips may help, check with your health provider to know in case of any complications.