Cravings for salt can occur when you're used to eating a lot of salty foods and then try to cut back on your salt consumption, simply because your body is used to having a lot of salt. Salt cravings can also be the result of a range of medical conditions, some more serious than others. Here are some of the reasons why you crave salty foods.
Your Body Needs Salt
Your body consists of over 60% water. Salt is one of the electrolytes that helps your body maintain an appropriate balance of fluids.
You need to eat about one teaspoon of salt each day to maintain healthy salt levels in your body. You get much of your daily salt requirement from salty foods. Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure.
Common Reasons for Salt Cravings
You may find yourself craving salty foods when you try to cut these foods out of your diet for health reasons. That's because your body is accustomed to salt, and these sorts of salt cravings will go away eventually when you lose the taste for salty foods.
Natural salt contains a number of trace minerals not found in table salt. If you're craving salt but don't have any additional medical symptoms, your salt cravings could be the result of a trace mineral deficiency. Eating salty foods temporarily relieves cravings of this type, but they come back when your body fails to absorb any trace minerals from the salty foods you eat.
Salt cravings can also be the result of mild dehydration. When you sweat, you lose salt from your body. If you have salt cravings after exercise or after sweating on a hot day, you've probably lost too many electrolytes. Drink Gatorade, or another electrolyte-rich beverage, to replace the electrolytes in your body.
Medical Reasons for Salt Cravings
Salt cravings can be a symptom of a serious medical condition. Salt cravings are often associated with adrenal disorders, such as Addison's Disease and Adrenal Cortex Disease. Other causes include hypoadrenocorticism and hypoparathyroidism. If your salt cravings are accompanied by other physical symptoms or if they seem to come on suddenly and strongly, consult your doctor to rule out underlying medical conditions.
Your doctor will consider your personal and family medical history when making a diagnosis, and he'll run blood tests to determine if your salt cravings are the result of adrenal dysfunction or another medical condition. Your doctor may also perform urine tests, and, if you're a woman, he'll check for pregnancy, since pregnant women often have cravings for salt and other foods.
Complications of Salt Cravings
Salt cravings can easily lead to over-consumption of salt and salty foods. While your body needs a small amount of salt to function properly, eating too much salt can lead to dizziness, excessive thirst and dry mouth. If you eat too much salt for a long period of time, you could succumb to high blood pressure and develop a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.