• 06/28/2023

Does Chocolate Really Help With Period Cramps?

A pink background with a green tray filled with a varieties of chocolates

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You’ve probably heard about certain sweets relieving menstrual pain, but is there any truth to those claims? A few studies have been floating around about the subject in recent years, but it seems like nobody is super certain. Does chocolate actually help with period cramps?

Where Do the Chocolate Cravings Come From?

Why do so many women crave the same thing when they’re on their period? As it turns out, that insatiable urge to eat loads of chocolate might come from a mixture of culture and familiarity. You’ve probably heard of the stereotype even if you don’t usually eat any. Society accepts it as a comfort food, so its popularity makes sense.

One study from the Journal of Eating Disorders outlines how many women give in to their period cravings because it’s the only time they can engage in stereotypically unfeminine behaviors without judgment. The idea that women simply can’t stay away from chocolate when their time of the month hits is accepted by most people. Many relate it to “irrational” feminine urges. 

Many women’s chocolate cravings might come from the idea that their period is the only time they can indulge themselves and “get away” with it. In reality, eating the foods you crave is a form of self-care. It’s normal and natural — you’re listening to your body’s needs. Eating chocolate as a mindfulness activity can even ease anxiety and lower blood pressure. 

The amount of jokes about women craving chocolate combined with the fact that eating it releases a reward hormone in the brain makes it a go-to for many people. It likely isn’t so much instinctual as it is a learned behavior. It’s basically so normalized that it’s expected at this point. Still, if it relieves period cramps, does it matter?

Does Chocolate Help With Period Cramps?

It seems a bit odd how widely accepted chocolate is as a period pain reliever despite the fact there are virtually no in-depth studies on the topic. Even though there isn’t hard evidence to go off of, many researchers still point to it as a cure for cramps. 

The studies that do pop up usually have a really small sample size, which essentially means that they don’t accurately represent most women. This might be because the National Institutes of Health didn’t require medical research to include women until after 1993, astonishingly. After all, they considered female hormones to be too complex. The United States Federal Drug Administration even barred women of “childbearing potential” from participating in clinical studies in 1977 and only stopped after the 1993 ruling.

Although some time has passed since then, the field of medicine hasn’t caught up with gender equality or inclusivity yet. There’s no “yes” or “no” answer for chocolate helping with period cramps because women weren’t even allowed in trials for over a decade. That being said, there is some science to back up the claim. 

How Does Eating It Affect You?

So, does chocolate help with period cramps? The cocoa in it causes your body to release endorphins, which are a natural pain reliever and sedative. While any type might do the trick, dark chocolate is better because it has a much higher cocoa content than milk chocolate.  

It also contains magnesium, an element that can relax your uterine muscles and help prevent painful contractions. There is no direct connection between it and period pain relief, but science is backing the idea. Researchers already know how different hormones affect your body, so figuring out how they affect you when they’re present in chocolate is pretty simple.

Even though different foods can cause the same reaction in your brain, it’s familiar comfort food. Most people enjoy eating food with chocolate, so its hormone effects are similar for many women. That being said, it might not be worth it to eat chocolate to relieve your pain if you don’t like it since you likely won’t get the same happy hormones as others. 

Will Any Chocolate Food Work?

Technically, any food high in cocoa can help. You can eat foods with dark chocolate or make your own desserts if you want something more creative than a candy bar. For example, a brownie mug cake recipe is super easy to make and tastes divine. You could also try indulging in things like chocolate-covered strawberries, fudge or devil’s food cake. However, there is no pressure to bake anything since a dark chocolate bar will do just fine.

Should You Stick With Chocolate?

Should you stick with chocolate as a method to relieve period cramps? Most women are more sensitive to pain but still have a higher tolerance for it than men. On top of that, they’re often more consistent with their estimates when asked to rate it. Getting a chocolate bar at the store is a lot easier than scheduling a doctor’s visit, but it might be best to rethink that approach. 

Although signs point to chocolate as a pain reliever, there’s no clear answer on the subject. The expectation for women to eat it instead of seeking medical care is far too common. It seems harmless, but you should ask yourself why so many people choose a candy bar over a doctor’s visit to deal with intense cramps. 

Pain and cramping with periods are pretty standard, but it’s concerning if it’s intense or persistent. You may not be aware, but women aren’t supposed to have severe cramping well into adulthood — it’s usually your body’s way of signaling that there’s an underlying issue. For example, Endometriosis impacts about 1 in 10 women globally. It’s a disease that affects the uterine lining, causing severe pain during periods. 

You can indulge in cravings for fudge and brownies while still advocating for your reproductive health. Chocolate won’t fix regular, heavy cramping and will only act as temporary relief at best. On top of that, seeing why you’re dealing with your pain instead of working to ignore it is smart. It’s your body’s way of communicating with you, so it might be best to listen to it. 

Does Chocolate Help With Your Period?

While chocolate may help relieve your symptoms, it only releases particular “happy hormones” in your brain. Other foods can likely do the same thing, so there’s nothing super special about it. That being said, research does back the positive effects it has. Either way, no one will judge you for indulging in cravings to relieve your cramps.

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