Salt Cravings: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Tips

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salt cravingsSalt. Many of us love the tasty flavor of salty food, but when it becomes a constant craving, it could be an indicator of a serious health condition. Too much can cause detrimental effects on our organs, while too little can also result in health problems. Learn how to curve salt cravings and the importance of maintaining a healthy balance of this element.

The body requires a certain amount of sodium to carry out proper nerve and muscle function, as well as maintaining a balance of fluids. Our bodies have a normal process of managing sodium levels. Our kidneys store it for when the level dips, and secretes it through our urine when our level exceeds the need. Excessive amounts of sodium will mobilize in our bloodstream, adding pressure to the functioning of the kidneys, arteries, and heart.

What Do Salt Cravings Indicate?

A salt craving refers to the desire for foods high in sodium chloride. Most cases involve the use of table salt addition to meals; however, it also can be linked to other compounds with the taste of salt. Salt cravings extend beyond the act of adding salt to flavor bland foods. Usually, craving salt means dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, or a health disease or disorder. These are the main salt cravings causes.

1. Dehydration

We lose a great deal of our body fluid through urination, diarrhea, sweat, and vomit. This includes a loss of electrolytes that we require to nourish our cells. The sodium levels in our blood drops with dehydration. It should be noted that by hydrating with water during extreme endurance activities, it can also give the same effect as it may thin the sodium in the blood.

2. Kidney Disease

Damage or injury to your kidneys can hinder the regulation process of maintaining the correct balance of electrolytes and water in our body. Kidney disease can allow too much sodium to collect, and may result in high blood pressure, edema, heart failure, and fluid build-up in the lungs.

3. Addison’s Disease

The adrenal glands are located directly above the kidney, and are responsible for releasing adrenal hormones that regulate electrolytes. Addison’s disease prevents aldosterone hormone production. Without adequate hormones, the sodium levels can be affected.

4. Pregnancy

Researchers have not found a direct link to salt cravings some pregnant women may have. It may be due to possible dehydration cases in early pregnancy, or the increased nutrients required for the fetus.

Salt Cravings Symptoms with Other Symptoms

The craving you may experience can be a lone symptom, or be accompanied by other symptoms that coincide with health conditions that promote salt cravings.

  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Excessive thirst
  • Muscle weakness or spasms
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sores on inner mouth cheeks
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating

With the signs of dehydration, there are a few key symptoms that accompany a craving for salt that require immediate medical attention:

  • Fainting
  • High fever
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Severe dizziness

Salt Cravings Treatment

As with all symptoms, the cause of a salt craving symptom requires treatment.

1. Dehydration

Replenish lost fluids with fluids. This can be done by increasing your water intake based on your physical activity and environment, such as living in dry or high altitude climates. Sports drinks such as Gatorade can help replenish lost electrolytes.

2. Kidney Disease

Acute and chronic kidney disease will require you to follow a low-sodium diet to control blood pressure and prevent excess fluid intake.

3. Addison’s Disease

This is usually treated with hormone replacement therapy to balance the hormone levels. A rehydrating solution may be needed to replenish your sodium and potassium loss.

4. Pregnancy

The old wives’ tale of eating for two is no longer encouraged, nor is eating whatever you want during a pregnancy. Having a diet high in sodium can cause dehydration and high blood pressure, both of which can have a detrimental effect on the baby and the expectant mother. Salt cravings need to be curbed with healthy replacement foods.

As many of the health conditions with a salt craving symptom call for varying levels of sodium, it is important to know the recommended amount for a healthy body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests a daily diet of 1,500 to 2,400 milligrams of sodium. This is equivalent of half to one teaspoon of regular table salt.

How to Stop Salt Cravings

Salt cravings can extend beyond reaching for your favorite bag of potato chips. You can curb your cravings by lifestyle changes and avoiding foods and drinks with high sodium additives. By not using the salt shaker is one step, but there are foods and beverages that are packaged with other salt compounds than just sodium chloride. You may not even realize the extra sodium you are consuming as some of these products do not offer a salty taste. These include:

  • Processed meats
  • Canned soups and vegetables
  • Frozen dinners
  • Cooking sauces
  • Instant noodles
  • Vegetable juice

It may sound easier than it will be to lower your sodium intake. A few tweaks to our salt habits and by consuming alternative spices, we can change our outlook on the taste of salt. Our taste buds are an amazing tool you can train to help with salt cravings. Each taste bud contains 100 receptor cells that are biologically replaced every two weeks. By starting today, you may be able to say goodbye to your salt cravings soon.

What to Eat When Craving Salt?

During the time you start reducing your salt intake, consume food that helps to remove excess salt from your system such as raw almonds, bananas, spinach, and milk. Replace table salt with the following items:

Black pepper – For best taste results, use fresh ground pepper.

Garlic – Boost the flavor of dishes simply by adding freshly sliced or chopped garlic.

Ginger – Chop fresh ginger root into matchstick strips to add to stir fry and shred for sauces.

Citrus — Use the juice or zest of fresh citrus fruits to add flavor to meat, vegetables, and sauces.

Vinegar – Dishes come to life with the different selections of white, red wine, and apple cider vinegar.

Salt water – You have still use table salt on vegetables and some fruit by mixing three tablespoons of water and half a teaspoon of salt to create a dipping sauce.

Cottage cheese – As cottage cheese contains sodium, it is a healthy way to satisfy your salt craving without consuming a large salt intake.

Salt cravings are a normal response to our taste buds’ love of salty foods. While we require a certain amount of sodium for vital body functions, we must be careful to not overload on our salt intake to avoid serious health conditions. There are critical symptoms that may accompany your salt cravings that indicate a need for treatment and medical advice may be required. If you find you are craving salty foods, you may need to take measures to curb the cravings by making lifestyle changes.

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