How does your sense of taste vary across your menstrual cycle?

My Hormonology

How does your sense of taste vary across your menstrual cycle?

BY GABRIELLE LICHTERMAN

 

  • Key findings: Numerous studies show that your sense of taste changes based on where you are in your menstrual cycle. You tend to prefer lighter doses of sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors in the first half of your cycle (follicular phase) and stronger punches of these flavors in the second half of your cycle (luteal phase).

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OCTOBER 8, 2021—You’ve probably noticed that you prefer certain foods and beverages on some days more than others. For example, one day you might love diving into a sundae dripping with hot fudge, then on another day, a dessert like this seems way too sweet. Or, one day you can’t stop yourself from eating a big bag of overly-salty popcorn. But, then on another day, that same popcorn seems so oversalted, you stop after just one bite.

Well, if you’re a woman with a healthy, regular menstrual cycle, changes in your senses of taste are likely due to the ups and downs of your monthly hormones.

This is actually great news since it means you can plan your meals and beverages based on where you are in your cycle so you can enjoy them even more.

Read on to find out what you can expect from your taste buds in each week of your menstrual cycle and how to sync these changes with your weekly menu…

My Hormonology

Week 1: Preferring lighter flavors

Day 1 (first day of your period) to Day 7
Estrogen starts off at its lowest point and rises throughout this week

Aches and pains from your period may make you want to turn to your favorite comfort foods for relief. However, despiteMy Hormonology this urge to self-medicate with indulgent treats, you’re likely preferring snacks, meals and beverages that have less sugar, salt and other bold seasonings compared to what ate during the second half of your cycle (the luteal phase aka your Week 3 and Week 4).1 For example, you might opt for a delicately-flavored sponge cake or lightly seasoned rice crisps over noshes that have a full-throated seasoned punch, such as a cloyingly sweet fudge brownie topped with fudge icing or heavily salted barbecue-flavored potato chips.

Why the shift to lighter flavors? During Week 1 in your menstrual cycle, estrogen is rising, which increases your taste buds’ sensitivity to flavor. And this sensitivity gets increasingly sharper the higher this hormone climbs. On top of this, as your body creates more estrogen, this hormone makes it easier for flavor to activate reward centers in your brain.

The result: It takes less sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors to feel satisfied. This means a little goes a longer way…and a lot could be too much.

Sync your menu with your menstrual cycle: Add more lightly-flavored comfort foods and beverages to your shopping list, such as bubbly seltzer with a splash of fruit juice, baked low-sodium chips with guacamole, deviled eggs and crackers topped with melted mozzarella and tomato sauce.

Week 2: Sensitivity to taste peaks

Day 8 to ovulation (which is Day 14 in a 28-day cycle)
Estrogen rises till it peaks; testosterone rises and peaks at the end of this week

During your Week 2, which is the week leading up to and including ovulation, your sensitivity to sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors peaks. That’s because estrogen is high and rising—and the higher this hormone goes, the sharper your sense of taste becomes, peaking at ovulation.

This spiking hormone also makes it easier to spark reward centers in the brain, which means that smaller doses of flavor are enough to trigger a big rush of enjoyment from delicious nibbles.

The upside is that right now your tongue is better at detecting subtle flavors and can pick up delicate notes in spices, herbs and other flavorings that you might miss other days of your cycle. And mild hints of flavor can be enough to put a smile on your face.

However, the downside is that foods and beverages loaded in sweet, salty, sour and bitter tastes tend to be less enjoyable than lightly-flavored options.

Another interesting tidbit about your eating habits: During your Week 2, you’re more open to experimenting with unusual foods. That’s a side effect of high estrogen, which revs your desire for adventure and spurs a pleasurable sensation when you try anything new.

Sync your menu with your menstrual cycle: This is an ideal cycle week to try new foods with unfamiliar spices, herbs and other flavors. So, download new recipes, shop the international aisle at the supermarket or ask friends to share their favorite restaurants that you’ve never tried. Just keep in mind that you’ll enjoy complex, subtle flavors more than robust punches of sugar, salt, sourness and bitterness. Some ideas: Fried tofu with peanut sauce, salmon in a ginger glaze, sweet potato gnocchi and angel food cake.

Week 3: Switch to more seasoning

Begins day after ovulation and lasts 8 days
Estrogen and testosterone drop for the first half of this week; estrogen rises during the second half; progesterone rises throughout

A dramatic change happens to your taste experience in the second half of your cycle: You’re now enjoying foods and beverages that are absolutely loaded with sweetness (such as powdered doughnuts, ice cream sundaes and frappa-anythings), salt (such as buttered popcorn, roasted nuts and capers) sourness (such as lemonade, pickles and yogurt) and bitterness (such as dark chocolate, beer and coffee).2

Researchers believe this shift is due to a drop in estrogen that occurs during the first half of your Week 3 and a rise in progesterone that goes on throughout this cycle week. When this hormone change happens, your taste buds become less sensitive, making food seem blander. This means it takes a stronger dose of flavor to detect tastes on the tongue.

This hormone change also means it takes more robust flavor to activate reward centers in the brain.

The end result is that you need a much bigger taste punch to feel satisfied compared to the previous two weeks of your cycle.

Also important to keep in mind: During your Week 2, rising estrogen pushed you to experiment with your palate and try something new, complex or unusual. Now during the second half of your cycle, a drop in estrogen and rise in progesterone has you preferring more comforting, familiar fare.

Sync your menu with your menstrual cycle: Think back to your favorite foods and beverages that you’ve had a hundred times that pack potent flavor and add these to your shopping list. These might include noshes like the salty crunchy cheese puffs you’ve been eating since you were a kid, the makings for deliciously sour Greek yogurt smoothies that you discovered you loved in college or the delightfully bitter 85% cacao chocolate that makes your mouth pucker on earlier days in your cycle.

Week 4: Pile flavor onto your taste buds

Final 6 days of your cycle
Estrogen and progesterone plunge

Like your Week 3, you prefer foods and beverages rich in sugary, salty, sour and bitter flavors over lightly-seasoned options. That’s because estrogen plunges throughout your premenstrual phase. And while progesterone drops, too, it’s still elevated. This hormonal combo dulls taste buds and requires a bigger dose of flavor to rev reward areas of the brain. This leads to needing a potent hit of deliciousness to get a satisfied sensation.

My HormonologyAnother food factor going on in your premenstrual phase: You’re experiencing cravings for indulgent carbohydrate-rich foods, such as pancakes, cookies, stuffed potatoes and nachos.3 The reason? As estrogen plunges, it can drag down your brain’s level of mood-regulating serotonin. Since carbohydrates help boost this chemical back up, you’re getting a biological push to eat more carb-rich foods.

Sync up your menu with your menstrual cycle: You’re enjoying comforting, familiar meals and beverages that are sweet or zingy enough to wake up your snoozy taste buds. You’ll also feel a pull toward carbs. You can combine these food urges to indulge in some boldly seasoned carby treats, such as Pad Thai, chocolate chip waffles and crepes filled with blueberry compote and lemon curd.

What this means for you

Now that you know when you’re enjoying certain flavors on certain days in your menstrual cycle, you can use your cycle to plan your grocery shopping list, pick restaurant meals and indulge in special treats to match the cycle days when you’d most enjoy each food and beverage! Find out more about all the other ways your body varies across your menstrual cycle in my award-winning book, 28 Days: What Your Cycle Reveals About Your Moods, Health & Potential. It’s the book that launched the cycle-syncing movement!

👋 Copy + paste to share with a friend:

Did you know that your sense of taste changes based on where you are in your menstrual cycle? In the first half, you prefer lighter sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors. In the second half, you prefer stronger punches of sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors. Learn more: MyHormonology.com/sense-of-taste-across-menstrual-cycle

 

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SOURCES:
(1) Punam Verma, et al., “Salt preference across different phases of menstrual cycle”, Indian Journal of Physiological Pharmacology, 49 (2005): 99-102
Cheryl A. Frye, Ginger L. Demolar, “Menstrual cycle and sex differences influence salt preference”, Physiology & Behavior, 55 (1994): 193-197
T. Than, E. R. Delay, M. E. Maier, “Sucrose threshold variation during the menstrual cycle”, Physiology & Behavior, 56 (1994): 237–239
Alberti-Fidanza, D. Fruttini, M. Servili, “Gustatory and food habit changes during the menstrual cycle”, International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 68 (1998): 149-153
Deborah J. Bowen, Neil E. Grunberg, “Variations in food preference and consumption across the menstrual cycle”, Physiology & Behavior, 47 (1990): 287-291
Bruna Alves, et al., “Influence of sexual hormones on neural orofacial perception,” Pain Medicine, 18 (2017):1549–1556
Diane Eloy Chaves Barbosa, et al., “Changes in Taste and Food Intake during the Menstrual Cycle”, Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences, 5 (2015): 383
(2) Diane Eloy Chaves Barbosa, et al., “Changes in Taste and Food Intake during the Menstrual Cycle”, Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences, 5 (2015): 383
Alberti-Fidanza, D. Fruttini, M. Servili, “Gustatory and food habit changes during the menstrual cycle”, International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 68 (1998): 149-153
(3) Anna M. Gorczyca, et al., “Changes in macronutrient, micronutrient, and food group intakes throughout the menstrual cycle in healthy, premenopausal women”, European Journal of Nutrition, (2016): 1181-1188

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