Salt Cravings: Why Do People Have Them?

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salt cravings
Ananya Bhattacharjee
Writer. Musician. Mother. Reading, music and travelling are all time favourites. Been into ‘writing’ from the last 10 years and have become an everlasting love since I started.

Ever had the urge to eat a large bag of chips, popcorn, or French fries at most times? This is what salt craving feels like, and it is hard to resist!

Many people are of the view that a food or a taste craving occurs because the body is deficient in that element or food item.

However, this is not the case. Many cravings are related to unhealthy foods and certain health situations.  

Salt cravings are very much common and are usually caused by factors like boredom or stress. In some cases, craving salt can occur because of a medical condition or sodium deficiency in the body. Here, we bring to you seven causes of salt cravings: 

Stress

Stress causes salt cravings. When stress levels in the body rise, many people crave for their favourite foods for comfort. And the foods that people most want are often the ones high in fat, sugar, or salt.

A recent article based on a study and published in the Journal of Health Psychology stated a strong connection between stress levels, food cravings and a higher BMI.

Less Sleep

People who sleep less crave for snacks with high ‘satisfaction levels’ like salty and crunchy foods. A study published in the journal Sleep stated that people who sleep less find it hard to resist cravings of their favourite unhealthy foods. 

Boredom

This is one of the common cause of craving salt. Eating salty food because of boredom is similar to stress eating. Eating salty snacks and meals out of boredom is emotional eating behaviour.

When a person has such cravings, they should look for foods with crunch and flavour like raw fruits or vegetables. These foods will keep the salt intake to a minimum amount while calming the craving desire for crunchy foods.

Excessive Sweating

Sweat contains salt. When a person sweats, the sodium level in their body decreases. Light sweating is nothing to worry, as the sodium levels in the body do not drop significantly with regular sweating and can be replenished by water.

Endurance athletes and people who work in hot environments are required to consume more salt, to replace the loss of sodium in their body. When a person loses a significant amount of sodium, their body starts craving salt.

A recent study found out that people working in hot environments for 10 hours can lose up to 15 grams of salt, though this number may vary from person to person.

For people who exercise a lot and those who spend hours in hot environments, they should take electrolyte-enhanced drinks or sports drinks. These drinks contain an adequate amount of sodium and other electrolytes to replenish the body.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) 

A woman experiences lots of changes during her menstrual period, both physical and emotional. These changes are known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Food cravings, mostly salt cravings, are a common symptom during PMS. These cravings are caused due to hormonal fluctuations.

salt cravings

Addison’s Disease

A failure of the adrenal glands to create hormones may lead to salt cravings. Addison’s disease, or adrenal insufficiency as it is also known, occurs when the adrenal glands do not make adequate hormones.

The hormones created by this gland regulate stress and blood pressure levels. A lack of this hormone would lead to low blood pressure and sudden craving salt.

Addison’s disease may be caused by autoimmune disorders, tuberculosis, HIV, pituitary gland problems and from stopping long-term steroid medications. Addison’s disease requires urgent medical care to replace the hormones which the adrenal glands are not creating.

Bartter Syndrome

This is a genetic condition present during birth. People with Bartter syndrome fail to reabsorb sodium in their kidneys. This leads to a rapid loss of sodium in their urine and also a loss of potassium and calcium.

Due to the low sodium levels in the body, people with Bartter syndrome experience salt cravings.

The Bartter syndrome is generally diagnosed in an infant or childhood period through urine and blood tests. The syndrome can be managed with potassium, salt and magnesium supplements.

Cystic Fibrosis

This is a hereditary disease affecting the lungs and digestive system. It is a life-threatening condition and the people affected have a shorter-than-normal life span. The disease causes the body to use too much salt, leading to a loss of salt and water. This causes the body to produce thicker mucus which may clog the lungs and affect the pancreas.

salt cravings caused due to cystic fibrosis

Salt cravings are mostly food cravings caused by stress, fatigue, boredom, or PMS. However, longer than usual, salt cravings can be an indication of medical conditions. As such, people with frequent salt cravings should undergo a check-up.