Does Chocolate Help Cramps? Science Behind This Sweet Self-Medication


If you tend to get painful muscle cramps during your period or after exercise, you may have wondered if indulging in chocolate could offer symptom relief. Chocolate’s sweet taste and creamy texture make it an appealing potential remedy for various aches and pains. But does it actually help alleviate cramping?

Read on to learn what science says about chocolate’s effects on cramps.

Chocolate For Cramp Relief

More than 50% of menstruating women suffer from dysmenorrhea, or painful menstrual cramps. Muscle cramps can also afflict athletes during or after physical activity.

Chocolate For Cramp Relief

The exact causes are unknown but may involve hormone fluctuations, inflammation, and muscle spasms. Though not medically recommended, some people report that chocolate lessens their cramping discomfort. 

Chocolate contains several compounds with properties that may reduce pain perception. These include magnesium, antioxidants, serotonin, and endorphins. However, chocolate also contains fat and sugar which can overwhelm any benefits.

Most experts view chocolate as more of an indulgent treat than a helpful therapy for cramps. But a little bit of dark chocolate within a healthy diet may offer a dash of relief by way of its unique active compounds.

Active Compounds In Chocolate

Here’s a look at the key components in chocolate thought to potentially have anti-cramping effects:


An essential dietary mineral that aids muscle and nerve function. It relaxes muscles and acts as a mild pain reliever.


Chocolate, especially dark varieties, contains flavonoid antioxidants that may reduce inflammation.


A neurotransmitter present in chocolate enhances mood and promotes relaxation. 


Endorphins are “feel-good” brain chemicals whose release may be stimulated by chocolate’s sugar and fat.


Chocolate’s special stimulant has mild pain-reducing capabilities as a cannabinoid receptor activator.

So in small amounts, chocolate provides useful compounds that act upon pain pathways in the body and brain. But regular consumption also delivers unhealthy fats and excess calories that can worsen cramps. Overall, chocolate is no substitute for proven cramp relief methods.

Does Chocolate Help Menstrual Cramps?

About 90% of menstruating women indicated they crave chocolate during their period. Cravings are often for milk chocolate. But is it an effective therapy for menstrual cramps? Study results are mixed:

  • A survey study in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing found that chocolate provided more cramp relief than other common remedies.
  • A Turkish study in the journal BMC Women’s Health observed reduced menstrual pain and distress after chocolate ingestion. But the effects were short-lived.
  • Several studies found no difference in menstrual pain between women given chocolate versus a placebo.

Overall, limited evidence suggests a slight, temporary decrease in self-reported menstrual pain after chocolate consumption.

However, experts believe any effects are more likely due to chocolate acting as a pleasurable distraction and comfort food rather than having direct biological effects. More research is needed on potential mechanisms.

Does Chocolate Help Exercise Cramps? 

Exercise-associated muscle cramping (EAMC) is common among athletes. But there is limited research specifically on chocolate for exercise cramps:

– One study giving athletes cocoa supplements for 5 days noted substantially fewer cramps compared to a placebo. Researchers suggested flavonoid antioxidants in cocoa may offer protection.

– Another small study found reduced post-exercise muscle soreness in athletes consuming dark chocolate. But the results were modest.

– Overall, there is minimal evidence that chocolate could relieve or prevent exercise cramps. More study is required before recommending it to athletes.

Tips For Using Chocolate For Cramps

While chocolate is no cure-all for cramps, incorporating a little dark chocolate with high cocoa and low sugar content may provide minimal temporary symptom relief during your period or after a workout. Here are some tips:

  • Choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa to get more beneficial antioxidants and less fat and sugar.
  • Consume only 1-2 small squares (about 1 oz or 30g total) at a time. More provides excess calories without added benefit.
  • Pair chocolate with a banana. The potassium and magnesium in this combo may amplify cramp relief.
  • Avoid chocolate right before bedtime. Theobromine may interfere with sleep quality.
  • Don’t replace medically recommended cramp treatments with chocolate. See your doctor if the cramps are severe.

More Effective, Proven Ways To Relieve Cramps

While the evidence for chocolate’s direct cramp relief is weak, don’t despair. Many other proven, safe, and effective therapies exist to alleviate muscle cramps:


Heating pads, hot water bottles, warm baths, or wraps/compresses can relax tense muscles and increase blood flow.


Gentle abdominal and lower back massage can help relax the muscles that spasm during menstrual cramps.

OTC Pain Relievers

Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) are very effective for cramps when taken as directed. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) also helps.


Light exercise like walking, yoga, or stretching boosts blood flow and releases endorphins that reduce cramping.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water and electrolyte-rich sports drinks to prevent painful cramping caused by dehydration. 


Evidence supports magnesium, calcium, vitamin B1, omega-3s, and ginger supplements for relieving muscle cramps from menstruation or exercise.

Improve Fitness

For exercise cramps, strengthening muscles, proper conditioning, and warming up/cooling down may help prevent cramps.

Prescription Medications

For severe menstrual cramps, birth control pills or other prescription meds may be necessary to reduce pain.

Be sure to consult your doctor if cramping is frequent, severe, or interferes with daily activities. Don’t hesitate to seek medical treatment for reliable, lasting cramp relief beyond temporary comfort from chocolate.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do I crave chocolate on my period?

Chocolate cravings may stem from dropping magnesium levels before your period or the mood boost chocolate can provide. Cravings also result from learned cultural practices and chocolate’s palatability.

2. Does chocolate actually help with cramps?

Chocolate may provide very modest short-term relief for muscle cramps thanks to compounds like magnesium, antioxidants, and endorphins. But effects are often minimal and any benefits are easily outweighed by chocolate’s high fat and sugar content.

3. Is dark or milk chocolate better for cramps? 

Dark chocolate has higher concentrations of potentially beneficial compounds like magnesium and antioxidants compared to milk chocolate. But even dark chocolate provides minimal clinically proven relief from muscle cramps.

4. Can Chocolate Make Menstrual Cramps Worse?

Chocolate contains fat and caffeine that may exacerbate cramping for some women. The sugar spike and subsequent crash it causes can also make PMS symptoms and mood swings more severe.

5. Can Chocolate Make Menstrual Cramps Worse?

Chocolate contains fat and caffeine that may exacerbate cramping for some women. The sugar spike and subsequent crash it causes can also make PMS symptoms and mood swings more severe.


Chocolate is frequently reached for as a comforting food to counteract painful menstrual cramps and exercise cramps. Compounds like magnesium, endorphins, and antioxidants provide a theoretical basis for why chocolate may offer some relief. However, studies suggest any cramp-reducing effects from chocolate are modest and temporary at best.

Practitioners emphasize proven treatments like heat, massage, OTC pain relievers, hydration, and magnesium supplements over unsubstantiated cures like chocolate. A small amount of dark chocolate can serve as an adjunctive treatment within a healthy diet, but it should not replace medically recommended cramp therapies.

Consult your doctor if cramping is severe or persistent. With the right lifestyle habits and treatment, you can minimize muscle cramps and feel your best every day of the month.

Dr. Jun Ren is a dedicated and experienced registered dietitian and nutritionist who is committed to helping people achieve their health goals through personalized nutrition plans. With a passion for promoting healthy eating habits and preventing chronic diseases, Dr. Ren has been able to assist numerous clients in improving their overall quality of life.

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