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why mood changes during your period mood cycle what to eat on your period and mental health

Understanding you period mood cycle: How to eat right and feel bright on your periods

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The menstrual cycle can bring fluctuations in your mood state. The changes in the levels of your reproductive hormone, oestrogen, contributes to how joyful you feel during the month. Though 90% of women [1] worldwide experience a variety of symptoms including mood swings, a regular menstrual cycle is a sign of a healthy female body. These mood fluctuations are often accompanied by food cravings. And if you are trying to eat healthy, being on your periods can take you off track. Read to find the link between periods and mental health and what to eat on your period to uplift your mood.

Emotional rollercoaster: Why mood changes during period

Oestrogen is intimately involved with your happiness brain chemical, serotonin. Oestrogen promotes the production [2] of serotonin. Menstrual cycle brings about changes in oestrogen levels, which helps explain mood changes as well. And since oestrogen facilitates the availability of serotonin for a longer time [1], low oestrogen can limit serotonin’s ability to perform its functions.

The menstrual cycle comprises of 2 phases [3]:

  • The first half of your cycle is called the follicular phase. You are more likely to be in a good mood as oestrogen peaks mid-cycle, just before the egg is released (ovulation). Around this time, you might find yourself happier, more energetic and positive. 
  • After ovulation, the downhill trend of oestrogen begins and continues in the second phase, called the luteal phase. The low levels of oestrogens impact your mood, making you feel low. At the end of this phase, menstrual bleeding starts. Oestrogen levels remain low, continuing to impact your mood.

Can 5-HTP fast-track a happy mood?

Serotonin is produced from its building block, tryptophan, found in protein-rich foods (like tofu, beef, dairy). Tryptophan enters the brain, is converted to 5-HTP, and finally serotonin. Oestrogen is involved in the process of tryptophan’s conversion to 5-HTP [4]. A small study of women with period symptoms was conducted where serotonin production was decreased by removal of tryptophan from the diet. It was found that the symptoms worsened [6], implying the important role of serotonin in mood management. 

With your oestrogen levels going on a rollercoaster ride during your menstrual cycle, a smarter way to boost your serotonin levels is to take its direct precursor 5-HTP. This is available as a supplement and is a safe and effective way to increase serotonin, without oestrogen’s involvement. 

5-HTP has been shown to uplift mood even in serious conditions like depression. A review of 13 studies found that when depressed individuals were supplemented with 5-HTP, their depression scores dropped, and their mood improved [5]. brain feed’s 100mg 5-HTP is extracted and isolated from Ghanian Griffonia Simplicifolia seeds. 98% of the tablet is comprised of 5-HTP making it the smallest, nutrient-dense tablet available

Comfort food overload: Where do period cravings come from?

The exact mechanism of craving is yet to be established. However, there are many plausible explanations. Oestrogen’s role in regulating hunger may come into play. High oestrogen levels are related to improved feeling of fullness post meal and suppression of hunger [7].

Chocolate and other sweet foods are commonly craved during this time. Imagine feeling the discomfort of periods and a low mood. A rich bar of chocolate seems like just the thing to make you feel better, which makes you gravitate towards it. Chocolate also contains compounds that release feel-good chemicals and provide a pain-relieving effect, making chocolate one of the most sought after craved foods. Some of the compounds released by chocolate can evoke a release of positive brain chemicals, including those that can have a pain-relieving effect, which can add to the feel-good reaction [8].

How to fix your mood & conquer period cravings?

Periods are a monthly occurrence. The best way to deal with them is to learn how to manage the symptoms effectively. The following eating pattern can help your feel happier and eat right for a better period experience:

    • Eat balanced meals at appropriate times: skipping meals can lead to giving into food cravings.
    • Have brain feed’s 5-HTP supplement with breakfast on days you need a quick serotonin boost.
    • Stay adequately hydrated with sugar-free drinks like water, herbal teas and fresh juices to limit sugary drinks cravings.
    • Include the following in most main meals: 
      • Whole grains: Whole grain bread, brown rice and pasta, quinoa etc contain fiber (keeps you fuller for longer) and are rich in nutrients like vitamin B6 and magnesium, shown to relieve period symptoms. In a study where nurses with period symptoms consumed 4 servings of wholegrains per day, found an improvement in their symptoms for the better [9]
      • Protein: Foods like beef, tofu, dairy, eggs are rich in protein, which keeps you fuller for longer, thus helping reduce cravings. Protein rich foods like milk and enriched tofu have the added bonus of increasing your calcium intake, which has shown to decrease period symptoms [10].
    • Snack right: 
      • Fruits can give you added nutrients and can help relieve some sweet cravings.
      • The right kind of chocolate can make you happy and also be healthy for you. Opt for 85% dark chocolate, which has shown to improve mood when regularly consumed in small amounts (30g) [11]
      • Nuts and seeds like pistachios, sunflower seeds and peanuts can provide you with Vitamin B6 and zinc, both of which have shown to improve low mood associated with periods [12][13]. Getting them roasted and slightly salted can help fulfil those savoury cravings too. Win-win!

References

  1. Gao, M. et al. (2022). Global and regional prevalence and burden for premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder: A study protocol for systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 101(1), e28528.
  2. Hernández-Hernández, O. T. et al. (2019). Role of Estradiol in the Expression of Genes Involved in Serotonin Neurotransmission: Implications for Female Depression. Current neuropharmacology17(5), 459–471.
  3. Reed BG, Carr BR. The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation. [Updated 2018 Aug 5]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Blackman MR, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-.
  4. Hiroi, R., & Handa, R. J. (2013). Estrogen receptor-β regulates human tryptophan hydroxylase-2 through an estrogen response element in the 5' untranslated region. Journal of neurochemistry127(4), 487–495.
  5. Javelle, F. et al. (2019). Effects of 5-hydroxytryptophan on distinct types of depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition Reviews.
  6. Menkes, D. B., Coates, D. C., & Fawcett, J. P. (1994). Acute tryptophan depletion aggravates premenstrual syndrome. Journal of affective disorders32(1), 37–44.
  7. Harvard T.H Chan (2021). Cravings. [online] The Nutrition Source.
  8. Garbarino, S. et al. (2022). Cyrcadian Rhythm, Mood, and Temporal Patterns of Eating Chocolate: A Scoping Review of Physiology, Findings, and Future Directions. Nutrients, 14(15), 3113.
  9. Esmaeilpour, M., Ghasemian, S., & Alizadeh, M. (2019). Diets enriched with whole grains reduce premenstrual syndrome scores in nurses: an open-label parallel randomised controlled trial. The British journal of nutrition121(9), 992–1001.
  10. Arab, A. et al. (2020). Beneficial Role of Calcium in Premenstrual Syndrome: A Systematic Review of Current Literature. International journal of preventive medicine, 11, 156.
  11. Shin, J. et al. (2022). Consumption of 85% cocoa dark chocolate improves mood in association with gut microbial changes in healthy adults: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, [online] 99, p.108854.
  12. Ahmadi, M. et al. (2022). The Effect of Zinc Supplementation on the Improvement of Premenstrual Symptoms in Female University Students: a Randomized Clinical Trial Study. Biological trace element research, 10.1007/s12011-022-03175-w. Advance online publication.
  13. Sayehmiri, K. et al. (2016). Effects of vitamin B6 on premenstrual syndrome: A systematic review and meta- Analysis. Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science.

 

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