Craving salt? 5 weird reasons behind it and how to combat them
Do you find yourself craving salt? Most people are craving sweets, but what happens when you crave salt? What does craving salt mean? Let’s take a look…
Salt, also known as sodium is an essential mineral in the body. Craving salt is an intense desire to consume salty food, and is different from normal hunger. It is controlled by the brain. When it comes to craving salt, there is no single explanation for it and there may be implications.
Here are five reasons why you may be craving salt, what to do about it and the foods to combat it.
Your adrenal glands which sits at the top of your kidneys is responsible for releasing hormones in response to stress. They also produce the hormone that is responsible for regulating the level of salt and fluid in your blood, it helps you to preserve needed salt.
When you are stressed and it becomes prolonged and chronic, your adrenal glands can burn out leading to adrenal fatigue and exhaustion so they are unable to produce adequate amount of hormones. When the levels of your hormone gets too low due to prolonged stress, your kidneys will excrete too much salt and this can lead to you craving salt to help your body restore its balance of salt.
A recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that the response to a stressful situation was dependent on the amount of salt in the body. High levels of salt in the body lowered the stress hormones, the rats recovered faster suggesting that when we are stressed our body craves for salt to help us recover faster.
What to do about it:
a) Get yourself into a regular rhythm. Wake up, go to bed and eat at the same time every day. This will help to reorganise your natural balance and help with balancing your hormones.
b) Address the stress in your life, deal with the root cause.
c) Exercising regularly, deep breathing, massage, meditation or practising yoga can all help you to relax and feel at peace.
d) It is beneficial to sip on bone broth (home made), 1-2 cups daily. It contains minerals and trace minerals in an easily digestible form.
Also check out How to reduce food cravings by reducing stress
2) Sweating excessively
When you sweat excessively probably due to an energetic exercise , it can lead to dehydration. When you are dehydrated, you lose water, salt and electrolytes from your body and this can lead to your craving salt and salty food. A recent study has shown that endurance athletes develop low sodium in their blood due to excessive sweating and it increased their craving salt.
Not drinking enough water can also make you dehydrated leading to you craving salt.
What to do about it:
a) Taking sports drinks during an exercise can help to replenish your sodium because it is rich in sodium and will help to replace electrolytes in your body.
b) Drinking enough fluid throughout the day will prevent you from being dehydrated. A good indicator to help you check if you are properly hydrated is the colour of your urine. If your urine is pale in colour throughout the day then you are properly hydrated. If the colour of your urine drifts into a darker colour and it comes with a smell then you need to be drinking more water.
c) Herbal and fruit tea is also a good alternative to water. It can help you to sustain good levels of hydration throughout the day.
3) Hormonal changes in menstrual cycle
Prior to your menstrual period, changes occur to your sex hormones – oestrogen and progesterone. Your oestrogen level drops and progesterone level increases . The monthly fluctuations of these hormones has been linked to food craving. Oestrogen decreases hunger by directly affecting the appetite centre in the brain, while progesterone stimulates the appetite.
A study in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found that a woman’s hormone has an impact on her craving salt. The researchers found that as women approach ovulation, high oestrogen activated a feel-good feeling in the brain which made them want to eat more salt and during the last half of the menstrual cycle, progesterone increased the appetite for salt to help get more sodium into the body to balance the fluid.
What to do about it
1) Eat whole unprocessed food that is low in sugar, caffeine and alcohol.
2) Include vegetables like kale, broccoli, collard green and spinach which can help balance hormones
3) Make sure you get regular exercise.
4) Addiction to Salt
You may be used to adding salt to your food from childhood and may continue to do this out of habit. This can become addictive and you crave for more of it. Researchers found that neurological systems in the brain can cause an addiction to certain foods like those high in salt and salted food may stimulate the pleasure and reward centre in the brain and have an impact on craving salt.
What to do about it
1) Avoid fast processed food or eating out. 80% of salt consumption comes from fast processed food. You can train your taste buds. Your taste buds have about 100 receptor cells which lives for about 2 weeks and is then replaced. The less salt you consume, the less you are craving salt .
5) Mineral Deficiency
Craving salt may also be caused by a deficiency in minerals. For example, the mineral zinc is essential for the sense of taste and smell. If you are deficient in zinc, you may not adequately taste your food. You may add salt to give it flavour.
You may also crave salt when you have a potassium deficiency. Potassium is the most common electrolyte inside your cells and sodium is the common electrolyte outside your cells. You can lose these electrolytes when you sweat, vomit or have diarrhoea. A deficiency in magnesium can also lead to an increase in craving salt. Magnesium helps in the absorption of other minerals.
Poor nutrition can also cause a mineral deficiency and increase craving salt.
What to do about it
1) It is beneficial to sip on bone broth (home-made) which is rich in minerals and trace minerals in an easily digestible form. 1-2 cups per day is beneficial. Use the bone broth for your cooking as well.
2) Add good quality salt like the Himalayan salt to your vegetables to help increase your mineral and trace mineral intake.
3) Eat a healthy diet with lots of vegetables, some fruit, quality protein and healthy fat. Make sure you include dark green leafy vegetables which is rich in magnesium.
When you are craving salt, your body may need salt but you need to use a healthy good quality salt like the Himalayan salt, which contains natural minerals and trace minerals and not refined table salt. It is better to avoid any kind of processed salt.
If your craving salt is not satisfied by eating something salty, it is better to see your doctor to check if there are any underlying health problems.