Chocolate, Coffee, PMS, & PMDD

by Dr. Daniel J. Heller October 14, 2011

Have you noticed that news comes in waves? Within the past few weeks, both chocolate and caffeine have been in the news for their apparent health benefits: regular chocolate consumption seems to have a remarkable ability to protect against heart disease, and caffeinated coffee appears to help fend off depression in women.

What’s especially interesting to us is the relationship of chocolate and caffeine to PMS and PMDD, though they are related in somewhat different ways. Premenstrual chocolate cravings are familiar to many women, and no one knows exactly why they occur. However, if just a little hits the spot, you’re healthier for having it. On the other hand, overindulging in a sugary, fatty confection can hit the waistline, and the complexion, hard. We don’t think that eating a moderate amount of chocolate has a direct effect on premenstrual symptoms one way or another.

Caffeine, on the other hand, is widely recognized to be a PMS trigger, and caffeine avoidance is usually one of the first self-help steps recommended in popular press articles on finding relief from premenstrual syndrome. This caffeine can come from coffee, decaf coffee (yes, there’s still some caffeine left in decaf), tea, and—oh no—chocolate. 

Why should caffeine make PMS and PMDD symptoms worse? For one thing, there is no doubt that caffeine, especially when taken to excess, causes anxiety; anxiety causes stress; and stress and anxiety are two of the signature symptoms of PMS and PMDD.  Also, stress actually causes PMS. Caffeine isn’t great for blood sugar, either: it makes your glucose spike higher, and fall further, and that is a recipe for stress, and stress…see where we’re going?

These findings about coffee, women, and depression are fascinating, though we can’t figure out why something that makes anxiety and PMS worse would make depression better. Maybe future research will shed light on those questions, but for the moment we have more faith in the chocolate study. It’s a type of research called a meta-analysis, which is an extensive study of very high-quality studies, making it highly credible. It is pretty clear that, for whatever reason, chocolate is good for your heart.

The coffee study is also a good study, but suggests that the more coffee a woman drinks, the less depressed she’ll be. This just doesn’t sound right, not least because anxiety and depression go together. Drinking over two cups of coffee per day is associated with other problems, and any stimulant needs to be treated with a healthy dose of respect. If you’re concerned about PMS and PMDD symptoms, steer clear of coffee altogether. And enjoy your chocolate.

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About The PMS Comfort Blog

The PMS Comfort Blog is our informal way of keeping you up to date on women’s health issues that we think are important; timely; underappreciated; useful; or just interesting. And, we’ll admit, sometimes we can’t resist poking some good-natured fun at the way the mainstream media portrays health, natural health, and women’s health issues. As always, we’d love to hear from you and are interested in knowing what you think and feel about these or other topics. Leave a comment for us, we’ll always respond. And, if there’s a women’s health topic that’s of interest to you, or that you find confusing, let us know! We want this blog to be helpful to you.

 

Dr. Daniel Heller is the primary author of this blog, the developer of our PMS Natural Relief Programs, and the founder of www.pmscomfort.com. He is a holistic naturopathic doctor in Northern California with over 16 years experience helping thousands of women recover from PMS, PMDD, as well as helping women, children, and families find natural answers to all manner of health challenges.

 

PMS Comfort is here to support you with detailed, practical knowledge presented in a balanced manner you can trust. We are committed to educating, informing, and empowering womenregarding PMS, PMDD, and women’s health, and to providing natural relief for premenstrual symptoms.

 

 

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