Sure, we should all “get enough sleep,” “drink more water,” and “not subsist on cake frosting alone,” but when PMS symptoms kick in, all I really want to do is reach for the nearest sugary snack and stuff it in my mouth. But can sugar actually make your periods worse?

Sugar is linked to early periods
Premature puberty has been on the rise in the United States — and scientists think sugar is the culprit. Using data the followed over 5,500 girls 9-14 years old, researchers found that girls who drank more than 1.5 servings of sugary drinks got their first periods almost three months earlier than girls who consumed less sugar.

Sugary foods = higher blood sugar
Makes sense. But is that so bad? Well, for your PMS symptoms, yes. Simply put, sugar causes inflammation, and inflammation makes everything worse. When you eat high-sugar foods, your body releases prostaglandins and other inflammatory chemicals. The former is the chemical partially responsible for cramps when it gets released into the bloodstream. But all inflammatory chemicals, when overproduced, can lead to fluid retention, headaches, insomnia, and aches and pains — basically, all of the PMS symptoms you’re trying to avoid.

Don’t ignore hunger signals
Cravings during menstruation are a response to low blood sugar — don’t ignore them! But instead of satiating them with sugar, which can make you feel even worse and kick off a cycle of blood sugar spikes and drops, go for healthy fuel like protein and complex carbs.

Feed your body oats, not chocolate

This goes back to satisfying cravings the right way. Sorry, but sometimes when your body is screaming “give me chocolate,” it’s actually saying “give me magnesium” — which cocoa beans happen to have plenty of. But in chocolate form, that comes with plenty of sugar, too — so stick to healthier magnesium-rich foods like oats and green veggies. The magnesium can help ease PMS symptoms, helping with cramping, constipation, headaches, and sore breasts.

Change your diet two weeks before your period
Mid-period isn’t the best time to address sugar cravings… for one, it’s hard to go vegetable shopping when you’re elbow deep in a jar of Nutella. Start eliminating processed foods, caffeine, and refined carbs (aka that cake frosting) in the two weeks leading up to your period. That’ll help keep those blood sugar levels stable and stave off sugar cravings when PMS hits.

Diana Vilibert is a freelance writer and copywriter living in Brooklyn, NY. She loves flea markets, martinis, to-do lists, traveling, and wearing leggings as pants. You can see more of her writing at www.dianavilibert.com and follow her on Twitter at @dianavilibert.