All about Salt Cravings
People experience salt cravings for many different reasons. The first thing you should do if you are having salt cravings is to try doing some research and see what the causes might be and if it is anything you should be concerned about or just a normal situation. If you live in the United States, you might be surprised to learn that the average American eats fifteen pounds of salt every year.
Contrary to what some people believe, the fact that your body is craving a food or substance does not mean that your body really needs it. Some people think that salt cravings mean that you are not getting enough vitamins and minerals. This could be a true scenario but it doesn’t develop if you are not eating enough table salt or have simply decided to cut back on table salt for health reasons. That’s because the table salt that most of us eat every day lost all of its minerals in processing before it was boxed.
By far, the most common reason for salt cravings is stress. When we get stressed out, our adrenal gland works all the time. The adrenal gland produces a hormone, called aldosterone, which moderates human sodium levels. If there is not enough aldosterone, the body dumps the sodium into the bloodstream where it is carried out of the body. Then the body has insufficient salt and craves more. The thing to do when this happens is not to eat more salt, but to reduce your stress so that your adrenal gland is not overloaded.
If you feel you absolutely are not going to make it through the day without more salt, substitute sea salt. Sea salt is much better for you and even has the minerals that were processed out of the table salt. The chances are that if you are craving sodium because your levels are low, you are also going to feel very exhausted at the same time. Often this situation results in low blood pressure and fatigue.
The solution is to try to eat a lot of high protein foods that are low in fat. These will strengthen your adrenal gland. Certain vitamins and minerals also help the body to retain salt, and these are vitamins B-1, B-5, E and C, along with manganese. This kind of adrenal gland insufficiency is also known as Addison’s disease. Some extremely rare diseases, such as Bartter Syndrome, which affects the kidneys, can also cause salt cravings. That’s why, if the cravings are not caused because you have cut back on salt, it is good to see a doctor to make sure nothing serious is happening.
If you normally do a lot of exercising, especially endurance events, you may be sweating out too much salt and need to replace some of it. If you have ever observed runners in a marathon or cyclists doing a 200-mile bike ride in a day, you have probably seen people whose shirts were covered with large, white rings and blotches. This is because of the amount of salt that is present in their sweat. If you do participate in endurance events or work out hard for more than an hour a day, it is a good practice to drink a sports performance product that contains extra electrolytes and minerals.
Researchers at the University of Illinois have done studies which indicate that salt cravings, as well as the reason for the overly high amount of salt we eat daily, is because salt is a natural anti-depressant. They are discovering that just as people reach for sugar when they are depressed, that also may be the reason they are reaching for salt. Salt stimulates a pleasure mechanism in the brain and makes us feel better. In that way, salt cravings may be very similar to other addictions. Obviously, much more research will need to be done in this area.