If your nicotine cravings are strongest after your period, you're not alone, according to a new study that says that women looking to quit smoking should take into account their menstrual cycle and start the process just after ovulation.
"Our data reveal that incontrollable urges to smoke are stronger at the beginning of the follicular phase that begins after menstruation," says Adrianna Mendrek of the University of Montreal.
"Hormonal decreases of estrogen and progesterone possibly deepen the withdrawal syndrome and increase activity of neural circuits associated with craving."
Mendrek says to minimize withdrawal symptoms the mid-luteal phase is the best time to quit.
At this point, she says, increased levels of estrogen and progesterone after ovulation could relax the cravings.
In her study that was published in Psychiatry Journal, Mendrek worked with a participant group of 34 women and men who smoked more than 15 cigarettes a day.
Data was collected using questionnaires and MRI brain scans of participants while they looked at photos that would trigger their cravings and photos that would normally not do so.
Female participants were scanned at the beginning of the follicular phase when cravings were expected to be highest, and during the mid-luteal phase when Mendrek expected cravings to ease off.
No fundamental difference was observed between the male and female participants concerning neuronal circuits, however, electrical activity patterns in the female cortex were various and appeared to be driven by the menstrual cycle.
Scientists like Mendrek have taken an interest in gender differences concerning nicotine dependency because past research has indicated women succumb more easily to the drug and have a harder time quitting than men.