Salt Craving- What Might Be Causing It?

Salt Craving- What Might Be Causing It?

You probably know how hard it can be to resist salt cravings if you love eating a large serving of popcorn, chips, or French fries. Salt consumption is extremely common in the United States, yet the cravings continue to persist.

According to some people, food cravings are a sign of a deficiency in the body, however, this may not be true. Most of the time, a food craving is tied to the consumption of unhealthy food with little or no nutritional value.

Salt cravings are extremely common and usually a result of excessive stress or boredom. Occasionally, these cravings may also trace back to a sodium deficiency or a medical condition.

Do you find yourself craving for salt more often? Keep reading to find out why!

Excessive Stress

Food cravings often occur when you are under a lot of stress. In such circumstances, it is common to crave for foods that are high in sugar, fat, or salt. Salt can become your comfort food, particularly when you are going through a tough time.

While salt can be your comfort food, remember that it can decrease the overall health of human body. A research published in the Journal of Health Psychology explains a significant relationship between food cravings and chronic stress and emphasizes how it is related to a high body mass index (BMI).

Another similar study has explained the link between stress and food cravings. It has stated that stress can trigger the release of a hormone named ghrelin which consequently causes an increase in hunger. This can eventually lead to excessive weight gain and create problems for you.

RELATED: What does stress do to your body?

Insufficient Sleep

People who do not get sufficient sleep are also more likely to crave for snacks such as crunchy foods with lots of salt. Such types of food tend to increase their level of satisfaction

A research in the journal named Sleep that people who remain sleep-deprived find it extremely difficult to resist food cravings. This also results in unhealthy dietary habits and obesity.  Lack of sleep is also indicative of other health problems. So,  people who suffer from disturbed sleep patterns might want to discuss it with their doctors.

Sleep problems combined with a busy schedule is often the culprit leading to unusual salt craving. However, it is recommended to consult a health professional in order to get a proper diagnosis and a plan for management.

Boredom

It is quite possible to crave for an unusual amount of salt due to an emotional eating behavior. However, it is important to differentiate if a salt craving is due to hunger or boredom. For this purpose, look out for hunger cues.

True hunger cues tend to occur when your body is demanding for food. You might be suffering from such type of hunger cues if you have not eaten for several hours.

Watch out for the following signs to know if you are hungry:

  • Wanting to eat any food, not craving for a specific one
  • Noisy grumbling in the stomach
  • Yearning to eat that gets stronger with time

If you are suffering from any of these signs, it might be the perfect time to treat yourself to a healthy meal or a light snack. Food rich in salt and fat is not nutritious, however.

Instead, you should be looking for something with flavor and crunch, raw vegetables and fruits for example. Choosing these food items can limit the salt intake and calm your desire for eating crunchy, unhealthy food.

Sweating

Sweat generally consists of salt. This means that if you tend to sweat more, you are likely to lose sodium.

For most of you, light sweating cannot cause much trouble. Your sodium levels do not get affected because of day to day sweating. Only water is required to replace the fluid loss after an intensive workout.

Athletes and people who work in extremely hot climates may require more levels of salt. This is to replace what has been lost as a result of prolonged sweating.

When you lose an excessive amount of sodium through sweating, your body tends to crave for salt. A research has explained that people who work in warmer climates for straight ten hours lose more than 15 grams of salt.

For people who sweat a lot, salt cravings can be reduced by consuming a sports drink and electrolyte-enhanced beverages. These drinks will successfully replenish the lost salt and prevent you from consuming unhealthy food.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a condition which causes women to experience a number of emotional and physical changes.

Food cravings, particularly for food with high salt content, are commonly observed under such circumstances. These food cravings can be attributed to the hormonal changes that a woman is going through.

If you are suffering from salt cravings due to PMS, it is advised to try the following remedies:

  • Vitamin B6 and Calcium: A research conducted in 2016 found that women consuming 500 mg of calcium with 40 mg of vitamin B6 suffer from a reduced intensity of symptoms related to PMS as compared to those consuming vitamin B6 alone.
  • Herbs and Acupuncture: A scientific review has established that herbal medication tagged with acupuncture techniques can reduce the PMS symptoms and the consequent salt cravings.
  • Chasteberry: This particular herb may alleviate some symptoms related to PMS. However, chasteberry is not recommended for women who are taking hormonal supplements and birth control pills, or suffer from a hormone-sensitive disorder.
  • Oral Contraceptives: Also known as birth control pills, these contraceptives can reduce PMS symptoms as per a research. However, a doctor must be consulted as some of these medications may have side effects.

Addison’s disease

Addison’s disease, also known as adrenal insufficiency, is a condition in which the adrenal glands are unable to produce enough hormones. This may often be the underlying reason for your unusual salt cravings.

Adrenal hormones are usually responsible for controlling the body response towards stress. They also have a significant role in managing blood pressure.

How can you know if it is Addison’s disease that is actually making you crave for salt?

Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Long-term fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Low appetite
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Dizziness/ fainting
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Irregular menstruation

It is also important to know what is causing Addison’s disease in you. This disease can be caused due to a number of reasons such as:

  • An autoimmune disease
  • AIDS
  • Tuberculosis
  • Problems with pituitary gland
  • Bacterial infections
  • Withdrawing from long-term use of steroids

Addison’s disease requires immediate medical attention otherwise, it might lead to adrenal crisis.

RELATED: Eating Disorders- Types, Symptoms and Treatment explained

Bartter Syndrome

Barter syndrome is a hereditary disease. People suffering from this condition are unable to reabsorb sodium in their urinary system. As a result, a lot of salt is lost along with calcium and potassium as well.

Because too much salt is being lost every minute, salt cravings often occur in such people. In addition to salt cravings, the following symptoms also occur in the patients with Bartter syndrome:

  • Constipation
  • Frequent urination
  • Low blood pressure
  • Kidney stones
  • Muscle cramps
  • General weakness

Outlook

Salt cravings are usually due to fatigue, stress, PMS, or boredom. However, it can also be an indication of an underlying medical condition. If you are unable to spot an obvious reason for salt craving, talk to a doctor to ensure you are not suffering from a hidden medical condition.

 

 

Nancy holds a Pharmacy degree from University of Michigan and Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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