The Reason Chocolate Helps Relieve Period Cramps

We've all fought that battle on the couch with the stubborn period cramp or even the PMS troopers. They're an army of irritants that won't stop grinding your gears and preventing you from being able to go about your day as normal. When it seems like a losing battle, and you're about to surrender, you remember your knight in shining armor: chocolate! 

It's important to know you're not alone in this. According to a PLoS One study, almost 50% of American women crave chocolate right before their period starts. Food cravings are a perfectly normal aspect of PMS and menstruation. A study published in The FASEB Journal revealed that period cravings are the result of fluctuating hormones. 

Always asserts that you're craving sweets or high-carb food because your body is attempting to boost serotonin levels to fight back against mood swings and other PMS-related symptoms. There are a variety of foods you should eat to help ease period cramps. Chocolate, and more specifically dark chocolate, is high on that list. 

Indulge in some nutrient-rich dark chocolate to improve your mood

For starters, dark chocolate is rich in magnesium. According to the USDA, a 1 oz piece of 70% to 85% dark chocolate has 64.6 mg of magnesium, while a single 100g bar contains 228 mg. Magnesium is a superstar when it comes to fighting period cramps. Speaking to PopSugar, Dr. Ruth Arumala, DO, MPH, NCMP, a certified OBGYN, confirmed: "Magnesium causes relaxation of the uterine smooth muscle, which decreases prostaglandin-mediated lower back and pelvic pain during menses."

In fact, Dr. Lara Briden, a naturopathic doctor, told Well And Good that she's crowned magnesium as the "miracle mineral for periods." Magnesium's benefits don't end at easing period cramps either. Dr. Briden added, "Magnesium calms the nervous system, so it's great for the headaches and mood symptoms of PMS." Dark chocolate can be a much-needed mood booster when you're on your period. A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology noted that dark chocolate can trigger the release of endorphins, feel-good chemicals that help regulate mood swings and bring back your lost appetite. 

Dark chocolate also interacts with the dopamine and serotonin systems for an added boost of much-needed joy. Fellow OBGYN Dr. Alyssa Dweck shared another benefit of dark chocolate with Pure Wow: "The flavanol compounds found in dark chocolate are rich in antioxidants and can increase NO (nitric oxide) production in blood vessels, leading to vasodilation. Dilation of blood vessels may help with cramps." 

Milk chocolate is not the best option for easing period cramps

A study published in the International Journal of Physiology comparing the effectiveness of dark and milk chocolate in easing severe period pains in women found that dark chocolate was significantly more effective. While milk chocolate also contains the period cramp fighter, magnesium, the amount you get is much less than dark chocolate, clocking in at just 27.7 mg per 1.55 oz bar, according to the USDA.

Milk chocolate unsurprisingly has more sugar too, with 22.7g for a 1.55 oz bar, whereas 1 oz of dark chocolate only contains 6.8g. Excessive sugar consumption during your period could make your menstrual cramps more severe. As Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, a consultant reproductive endocrinologist, informed Punch: "Excess sugar can cause inflammation because it can increase cramping and heavy flow." 

He further explained, "This is because the inflammation will be contracting all the muscles and increasing the blood flow thus leading to heavy bleeding." Remember that moderation is key. If you want to have some milk chocolate on your period to honor your cravings, go for it and enjoy yourself, but don't overdo it. Stick to an amount that makes you feel satiated and happy rather than risking exacerbating your discomfort.