Our bodies have strange ways of telling us what we need. If we lack for a certain vitamin, we may became irritable, fatigued, or pale. If we are dehydrated and need some water, it often manifests in nausea and headaches. So what does a strange persistent craving for salt mean?
The Health Alliance Plan of Michigan says that craving salt usually does not indicate a sodium deficiency, especially in light of the fact that most Americans eat twice the recommended amount of sodium. In fact, a food craving rarely means much of anything except for a desire for a certain food. However, there are a few cases where a craving for salt in particular can have a greater meaning.
The Science Behind Salt Cravings And What They Mean
The first thing to understand about salt cravings is that they are evolutionarily based. Salt is an essential nutrient. Our bodies need it to promote fluid retention and stay hydrated. Salt used to be hard to find, so our taste buds became hard-wired to enjoy the taste of it. Because humans enjoy salt so much, it has become an extremely popular ingredient in many foods, and we in turn crave salt much like we would crave sugar, ice cream, or pizza. Basically, it tastes good, so we want to eat it.
Medical Conditions And A Craving For Salt
There are instances when a craving for salt transcends mere desire and may indicate a hormonal imbalance. Addison’s Disease, a serious condition that results from an overstressed adrenal gland, often manifests as an excessive salt craving that won’t be satisfied. Salt cravings are not the only symptom of this condition, however. Sufferers will also exhibit fatigue, muscle weakness, and weight loss which may progress to vomiting, diarrhea, low back pain, and eventually unconsciousness. Bartter syndrome is another possible cause of salt craving, though it is rare. And of course, sometimes a craving for salt does indicate low sodium levels. This is less common for most people following a standard Western diet, as most of us are in a state of chronic sodium overload. As salt is an electrolyte, it’s also possible that a salt craving indicates dehydration. In this case, opt for a electrolyte boosting sports drink over a salty snack.
Unless your craving for salt seems excessive, persistent, troubling, or as the byproduct of intense exercise or sweating, then you are likely craving salt simply because it tastes good.
- “Salt craving: A symptom of Addison’s disease?”, Mayo Clinic
- “Salt craving: the psychobiology of pathogenic sodium intake”, Physiol Behav