Food Cravings Rise, Tempers Flare

Temporary Hypoglycemic Attacks Trigger Prementrual Syndrome

"It's almost like being pregnant," a 25-year-old woman says. "I get these outlandish cravings for sweet foods. It's then that I know I'm approaching my period and begin to prepare myself mentally and physically for the ride on that roller coaster."

A recently divorced physician reminisces about the premenstrual battles and furies that always preceded his wife's menses.

"If I knew then what I know now, we probably would not have reached the impassable hurdle. Just about 10 or 12 days before her menstrual flow would begin, she suffered from sudden rages, unprecedented spurts of depression, and unbearable fits of jealousy and anger."

"I knew that her hormones were raging, but the classical medical knowledge of the time was that 'it's the price for being female' and that nothing can help. Of course, she loaded herself with the entire armamentarium of calming drugs that I would prescribe, but the condition only worsened."

"That happened 10 years ago, and I have never forgiven myself for not having gone beyond the regimens of analgesics and psychiatry. Yes, we had her in psychiatric treatment for three years. One of my colleagues suggested a lobotomy. Today, a brain operation for premenstrual syndrome might seem barbaric, but there were many well-meaning doctors in accordance with the idea."

Food cravings and unusual outbreaks of temper affect many women within the premenstrual interval. Their desire for sweets, or high-carbohydrate foods, intensifies for solid biological reasons. So do the emotional rages that flare from hypoglycemic changes in the blood levels.

Normally, blood sugar rises after food intake and then drops dramatically between meals. If no food is taken, the blood sugar level continues to fall until the lowest safe point is reached.

At this point, adrenaline, the hormone, mobilizes some of the sugar stored in the body and releases it into the bloodstream, causing blood sugar levels to rise once more. (Note: Most people eat again before the danger point is reached, so adrenaline is not released.)

Here is where the trouble begins in women who are particularly vulnerable to sudden changes in the blood sugar/insulin interplay:

Prior to menstruation (the second half of the menstrual cycle), changes in hormone levels alter sugar tolerance, raising the levels of the danger line. Blood sugar, therefore, does not have to drop far to reach hypoglycemic levels.

The adrenaline-control mechanism is triggered sooner than normal if no food is taken and the individual begins to crave sugar food, warning that a hypoglycemic episode is imminent.

Hypoglycemia is, of course, a very complex matter. It can cause central nervous system disruption that results in agitated breathing, dizziness, loss of motor controls, and excessive rapid heartbeat..

The symptoms vary in people. Some have isolated attacks as described earlier. Others lose control and become temporarily bedridden. For many, it manifests itself in extreme shifts of temper and disposition.

The physician's wife, cited above, reacted to her sudden drop in blood sugar by uncontrollable swings of temper.

Many of these problems can be avoided by a regimen of vitamin supplements and by the use of a well-balanced diet.

Women who feel nauseated or weary during their premenstrual time often pass up eating, or acquiring proper nutrients, and consequently intensify the depletion of the glucose (blood sugar) supply.

The Doctor Jekyll-Mr. Hyde syndrome should be prepared for in women who are subject to extreme mood changes. It can be guarded against by avoiding foods that contribute to imbalance. Coffee, alcohol, sugars, sweets, and foods containing additives are implicated.

Because the premenstrual syndrome brings extraordinary changes and patterns in an individual's functioning, meetings, events, chores, and particularly stressful situations should be modified.

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