A Doctor Explains What Causes Your Salt Cravings

© Pixabay

Salt isn’t “bad” per se, says integrative medicine physician Pooja Amy Shah, MD. “It’s one of the most important components in our bodies,” she says. Sodium, the primary component of salt, helps maintain healthy fluid levels in your body, ensures proper muscle function, and transmit nerve impulses throughout the body. There’s even a theory that we’re hard-wired to like salty foods because they often contain important minerals for growth and development.

The problem, Dr. Shah says, is that most people already get too much salt (more than the recommended 2,300 milligrams per day) because many foods in the American diet are loaded with it. Many of those foods don’t necessarily taste salty because of the other ingredients used, she says—leading people to seek out even more salt to satisfy the cravings that come up. Salt in excess, of course, can lead to bloating, dehydration, and in some people, increased blood pressure.

Plus, Dr. Shah adds that when you’re craving salt, it’s often your body telling you something else that may have nothing to do with food. This matters because once you understand what’s behind that seemingly-urgent need, Dr. Shah says you can be a bit more intentional about choosing whether or not to indulge. Here are some of the most common culprits of salt cravings, and what to do about them.

1. Stress

“Typically when someone is stressed, they start craving something comforting,” Dr. Shah explains. Why? You want to feel better. “Comforting foods tend to be high in fat, sugar, and salt,” she says. (for example, mac and cheese.) So next time you’re craving that bag of tortilla chips, it’s worth it to check in with your mood first—and consider whether other stress-reducing activities (like a quick workout or calling your friend) could help instead.

2. Poor sleep

Science has shown that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to make poorer food choices than those who do. Dr. Shah explains that one reason for this is because their cortisol (often called the stress hormone) is elevated when a person is tired, which puts stress on the body—leading them to crave oh-so-comforting, salty foods. “Lack of sleep [also] increases the ghrelin, which is known as the hunger hormone,” she adds. Getting your cortisol levels under control—which getting good sleep helps with a lot—helps keep that hunger hormone from being overactive.

3. You crave what you already eat

“Salt cravings are linked to habit,” Dr. Shah says. If you’re eating a high-sodium diet, she says your body is likely to crave salt more since that’s what it’s used to getting. “If you want to crave salty foods less, try cutting processed and packaged foods out of your diet for a month,” she says. It can help your body get used to eating less salt, and thus crave them less.

4. Excess sweating

Dr. Shah says there’s also a connection between salt and sweating, because sweat contains salt and when someone sweats, their sodium levels decrease. In this case, she says, the craving is your body communicating to you that your sodium levels need to be replenished. “We need 2,300 milligrams—or one teaspoon—of salt a day,” Dr. Shah says. The majority of Americans get far more than that, but if you are doing extreme exercise—like marathon training—be mindful of potentially low sodium levels that could come of it.

5. A thyroid or kidney disorder

Generally, salt cravings are pretty benign. But if they’re accompanied by other symptoms, Dr. Shah says you should definitely visit your doctor to rule out something more serious. For example, Addison’s disease (a condition where your adrenal glands produce too little cortisol) can cause salt cravings. Typically, the signs of Addison’s disease—which also include fatigue, abdominal pain, skin pigment getting darker, and muscle and joint pain—occur gradually over time. Again, if you’re experiencing more serious symptoms along with your salt cravings, see a doctor.

Facebook
Twitter
WhatsApp
Pinterest
Reddit
Delicious
LinkedIn
Facebook
Twitter
WhatsApp

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

READ NEXT

6 Types of Psychotic Disorders

Psychotic disorders are a group of mental health conditions that change your sense of reality. They make it hard to know what’s real and what isn’t. When you have these

16 Negative Effects of Caffeine on Your Body

Caffeine is used every day by millions of people to increase wakefulness and improve concentration. Up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy

Why Are My Feet Always Cold?

Many people will experience cold feet at some point in their lives and there are many causes of this issue. Changes in temperature or lifestyle choices are some of the

10 Healthy Habits Cardiologists Wish You to Follow

Heart disease is the biggest killer in the United States, more than all cancers combined. As you know, prevention includes quitting smoking, lowering cholesterol, controlling high blood pressure, maintaining a

Clear Signs You’re Having an Allergic Reaction

As you know, your immune system guards your body against harmful bacteria and viruses. In certain cases, your immune system will also defend against substances that normally don’t pose a

7 Signs You’re Emotionally Healthy

Sure, abs are sexy, but there’s a much better indicator of a healthy person than a hot physique: mental wellness. Emotional health has nothing to do with a person’s workout

7 Superfoods That Keep You Hydrated All Day Long

Cucumber Water content: 96.7% This summer veggie—which has the highest water content of any solid food—is perfect in salads, or sliced up and served with some hummus, says Keri Gans,