Some adolescent girls crave sweet foods and candy a few days before each menstrual period. Such cravings are similar to craving carbohydrates when under stress or trying to quit smoking. Researchers found that women with severe premenstrual symptoms felt happier and calmer if their evening meals were high in carbohydrates and low in protein on the days preceding their periods. The women were less depressed, tense, and confused, and felt calmer and more alert than women who kept to their regular diet.
Researchers traced the explanation to serotonin, a brain chemical involved in mood and appetite. Serotonin is controlled by food intake; carbohydrates boost serotonin release while protein has no effect. Nicotine, like carbohydrates, increases brain serotonin, while nicotine withdrawal has the opposite effect.
If your teenager is unusually tense or tearful around the time of her periods, she may feel better if her meals and snacks include more complex carbohydrates such as pasta and grains. She should make a corresponding cut in her intake of animal protein and avoid simple sugars such as in candy and desserts, which often include hefty amounts of fat as well. In this way, she’ll lift her mood and maintain balanced nutrition while avoiding extra, empty calories. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can be reduced by taking 400 mg of calcium 3 times daily every day. Some data also suggest that magnesium (250 mg 1–2 times per day) may decrease PMS.