Hormonal shifts that occur every month in women during reproductive years can cause physical symptoms and changes in mood, both prior to and during the menstrual period. Doctors now take premenstrual syndrome, or P-M-S, very seriously. P-M-S usually starts a week to ten days before a woman’s period. It can trigger increased appetite and food cravings, such as for salty or sugary foods, especially chocolate. It’s believed that a craving for sweets may be linked to the body’s desire to raise levels of the hormone serotonin, which drop prior to menstruation. However, the mood swings and depression that accompany P-M-S might be caused or aggravated when women increase their sugar intake. Research conducted at Texas A&M University shows that depression and fatigue that accompany P-M-S often vanish when sugar and caffeine are removed from the diet. Research at M-I-T noted that eating substances high in fats and sugars also triggered P-M-S symptoms. You may find that avoiding sugar and caffeine, while also eating a low-fat, high-complex carbohydrate diet may help. If your problem is getting cramps during your cycle, some doctors– such as the prominent physician Dr. Andrew Weil– recommend cutting out dairy products, meat, oils, and fried foods. Many women, he says, notice a dramatic improvement in how they feel.