Women often experience numerous challenges during their period. These range from mood swings to food cravings to hormonal imbalances. One of the most pressing changes that most women cannot get a grip on is the food cravings. These may occur before and during menstruation. Different women have varying food desires. For example, some will crave sweet stuff like chocolate or spicy foods like chicken wings or others, bitter or sour foods. But what do these cravings mean? Let us evaluate the real reason and meaning behind why you are craving salt before period.
Can You Crave Salt Before Your Period?
Yes, you can. Some women expect a salt craving to be an actual salt desire. This means the urge to have a pinch of plain salt once in a while. However, a salt craving does not mean that your food urge is limited to salt expressly.
Please note that having a craving for salt means an intense urge to consume anything with salt. For example, it could be a bag of chips or any other salty food. At first thought, such cravings could be considered typical, especially during menstruation and pregnancy.
That said, science looks at these cravings in-depth and acknowledges that each food desire signals something about your body. Of course, without such knowledge, it is pretty easy to overlook these urges. It should go without saying that you need to know that each craving tells you something about your body, which is why you should always take note of any change. Considering this, what does a salt and spicy food craving mean? Let us find out!
What Craving Salt Right Before Period Means
Experts acknowledge that a salt craving before the period does not necessarily have to be linked to your cycle. Instead, you could be getting this urge because of something much different. Below are the reasons compiled by experts explaining why you crave salt before that time of the month:
Believe it or not, you might be craving that bag of potato chips because you are dehydrated. Dehydration refers to the state in which your body lacks the water content required to perform its body functions smoothly. Your dehydration rate may differ depending on the amount of water missing from your body. You could, therefore, be mildly, moderately, or severely dehydrated (6).
In most cases, dehydration is caused by excessive sweating, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, or urinating a lot, mainly with individuals taking diuretics (6). That said, it may also occur when you are held up and forget to drink water or do not realize you are thirsty. In that case, you get dehydrated, which contributes to the increased urge to eat something salty or spicy.
Most people can hardly tell if they are dehydrated, especially if they do not consistently drink water. For this reason, you are urged to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of dehydration so that you can address it before it becomes severe. According to WebMD, the mild signs and symptoms of dehydration include (6):
- Dry, cool skin
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Dark yellow pee
- Muscle cramps
- Not urinating very much
If you have severe dehydration, you may experience the following signs and symptoms (6):
- Very dry skin
- Very dark yellow urine or not urinating
- Rapid breathing
- Sunken eyes
- Rapid heartbeat
- Lack of energy, confusion, sleepiness, or irritability
To avoid dehydration, you are advised to drink water constantly. One tip recommended for those people who keep forgetting to hydrate is to carry a water bottle. With this in mind, even if a salt craving does not signify PMS, experts state that it is essential to drink enough water during menstruation.
According to WebMD, you cannot escape salt intake during PMS because almost every other food has sodium content (1). The disadvantage with the sodium content is that it may lead to uncomfortable bloating and excessive water retention from PMS (1). So, in light of this, you are advised to hydrate as much as you can.
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Another reason behind a salt craving before your period is increased stress levels. We can all agree that stress is inevitable, given that stressors surround us left, right, and center. Note that there are several stress relief interventions that we can adopt to help limit our stress levels.
Some women unfortunately may not be familiar with them or may overlook their efficacy. As a result, they end up piling on their stress levels, which results in stressful eating. Also, if this happens right before your period, you may mistake this for a period craving, yet this is not the case.
Let us face it. When you are stress eating the last thing you will be thinking of snacking on is healthy foods like celery sticks. Instead of that, you will be thinking of fatty, crunchy and salty snacks like crisps. Experts acknowledge that these foods will make you feel better briefly, but later make you feel guilty and possibly worse (2).
Rather than stress eating, experts recommend you look for new outlets for relieving your stress. For example, you can try meditation or yoga instead of stress or emotional eating. Also, be sure to talk to your physician and nutritionist for more insight on effective stress-relieving techniques.
Your uncontrollable salt cravings before PMS may be originating from your poor sleeping patterns. These patterns include more than just getting enough quality rest. According to experts, sleep deprivation has a profound impact on appetitive regions within your brain. These include the human frontal cortex and insula cortex, responsible for making food desirability choices (4).
These changes increase your desire to consume weight gain, promoting high-calorie foods like salty foods like a bag of chips (4). This might explain why sleep deprivation is also linked to other health problems such as obesity. However, you can avoid such issues by making sure you get enough and quality sleep.
Talk to your doctor if you are struggling with various sleeping disorders. They will offer a clearer diagnosis on whether it is a sleeping disorder and how you can also treat it. Never take any medication or start a program to address sleeping disorders without seeking help from a health professional.
The other reason your desires for salt and spicy foods may spike before your cycle is because of boredom. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people eat when they are bored or tired, thinking that food will help boost their moods (3).
As you may have guessed, you are hardly likely to choose healthy foods in such a scenario. Like a thief in the night, you will most likely grab that bag of fries or crisps. Knowing this, you can put an end to this unhealthy eating pattern by keeping yourself busy.
Look for something you can do that draws your attention away from unhealthy eating. For example, you can choose to draw, dance, play basketball, or take a brisk walk. If not, you can always substitute these unhealthy salt cravings with healthy ones. For instance, instead of taking that bag of potato chips, opt for some carrot or celery sticks.
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The other reason behind salt craving right before PMS could be Addison’s disease. According to Medical News Today, Addison’s disease is also referred to as adrenal insufficiency. It occurs when the outer layer of the adrenal glands are damaged (5).
It may also be caused by factors such as (5):
- A hemorrhage
- A genetic defect that makes the adrenal glands not fully develop
- Adrenalectomy (the surgical removal of the adrenal glands)
- An infection like HIV
- Cancer that has metastasized the adrenal glands
If this craving does truly depict this disease, you may also experience other signs and symptoms, including:
- Stomach pain
- Long-term fatigue
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Low appetite and unexplained weight loss
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Depression or irritability
- Absent or irregular menstrual periods
Make sure you seek medical attention if you have salt cravings and report any or most of these signs and symptoms. Your health professional will recommend the best treatment plan to help manage the symptoms.
The Bottom Line
Cravings in women before that time of the month are common. However, some are not just food desires but rather messages sent by your body. For instance, craving salt before your period lets you know that you are stressed, bored, dehydrated, lack enough sleep or have Addison’s disease. That said, do not overlook any uncontrollable food urge but instead discuss it over with a health professional.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 8 Diet Dos and Don’ts to Ease PMS (2011, webmd.com)
- Eating Healthfully During Stressful Times (2011, webmd.com)
- Improving Your Eating Habits (2020, cdc.gov)
- The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain (2014, ncbi. nlm.nih.gov)
- What causes Addison’s disease? (2017, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What is Dehydration? What Causes It? (2021, webmd.com)