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If you suddenly find yourself grabbing for potato chips and other salty foods, there could be something going on in your body besides simply wanting something savory to snack on. Salt cravings can arise for many different reasons, from dehydration to stress and PMS.В
вЂњIn general, salt is an addictive flavor, and we are engineered as humans to crave it as it is necessary for survival,вЂќ says Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian who works in her own New York City-based private practice and is also the nutritionist for Daily Harvest, a nutritious frozen-meal delivery service. вЂњSo when we don't have enough, our body will push out real symptoms in order for us to seek it out.вЂќ
Here are the details on some of the most common culprits behind salt cravings:01 of 07
Dehydration is a fairly common reason for many kinds of food cravings, including salt. Stephanie Greunke, a registered dietitian, explains that dehydration-related salt cravings can pop up for various reasons. There's the obvious-like maybe you're not drinking enough fluids, but there are also less obvious reasons, such as if you're dealing with a stomach bug or some other illness that's causing you to vomit. Morning sickness can be another culprit among pregnant moms, she adds.В
вЂњOften times thirst is masked by hunger,вЂќ explains Amanda A. Kostro Miller, a Chicago-based registered dietitian. вЂњAlso, salt and salty foods stimulate thirst, so if you're craving something salty, your body may actually be begging for some water.вЂќ02 of 07
You've been working out intensely.
As you sweat, the amount of salt in your body gradually depletes. So a hard spin class or run that has you dripping with sweat can decrease the level of salt in your body to a point where it needs to be replenished. The body's natural response to this sodium loss may lead you to crave salt, especially if you're working out in a humid environment or for a period that lasts an hour or longer, Shapiro explains.
But you'll want to keep in mind that there is a difference between sodium loss through working out and dehydration, which we discussed above. вЂњThis is different than dehydration because you have enough water, you just need to up your sodium intake,вЂќ Shapiro says.В03 of 07
You're under a lot of stress.
When you're under a lot of pressure, your body doesn't just react mentally and emotionally, but physically too, and this can include cravings for salty foods.В
вЂњNext time you are craving salty foods, stop and assess your stress levels,вЂќ Kostro Miller recommends.В
You're dealing with an underlying health condition.
Salt cravings are common in life and often don't signal anything too serious going on in your body, but certain medical conditions can leave you with more salt cravings than usual. In a group of kidney disorders called Bartter Syndrome, the kidneys don't function properly, leading to an imbalance of sodium, chloride, and potassium in the body. Kostro Miller says this can result in abnormally low sodium levels, which can contribute to those salt cravings as the body works to restore proper sodium levels in the body.В
Another health condition that could leave you craving salty foods is Addison's disease, which is a form of adrenal insufficiency. In this illness, the body fails to make enough cortisol, which is an essential hormone that helps the body with crucial functions like stress response and blood pressure regulation.В
вЂњThis can cause you to crave salt, as eating and increasing salt levels will increase blood pressure to normal levels,вЂќ Shapiro says. The National Institute of Health reports that some individuals with adrenal insufficiency need to consume a high sodium diet.В05 of 07
You're experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
LaylaBirdВ / Getty Images
If you notice salt cravings creeping in during the week or so before your period, you're not alone-many women experience food cravings during this time.В
вЂњCraving salt during PMS is a real thing due to hormonal shifts and fluctuations,вЂќ Shapiro explains.В
Cleveland Clinic recommends cutting down on salt and increasing water intake during this time if you're experiencing bloating, swollen hands, or tenderness in the breasts.06 of 07
Your diet is already heavy in salt.
вЂњSometimes our cravings are just a product of our dietary behaviors,вЂќ Kostro Miller says. вЂњIf you're craving salty food, look at your current diet to see if it consists of a lot of processed and fast food.вЂќ
Greunke adds that salt cravings can be habitual. вЂњIf your palate is used to saltier foods, you'll crave higher amounts of salt than someone who usually eats a lower-sodium diet,вЂќ she says. вЂњYou may also find yourself picking up the salt shaker to season your food before you even take a bite to try it."
Sound familiar? Try laying off the salt for a bit and see if the cravings are still present.В07 of 07
Your body is wired that way.
Our bodies need salt to function correctly. Sodium is a component of salt that helps us maintain fluid levels, proper cardiac function, and a whole lot more. Registered dietitian Michele Sidorenkov explains that back in the days when foraging was a primary method of obtaining food, it was hard to find sources of sodium in the wild (and still is). She explains: вЂњWhen we find salt, our body is wired to light up and signal us to eat more because it is so vital for our survival.вЂќ
These days, most of us are no longer foraging for food and can quickly head to a supermarket where endless sources of sodium await at our fingertips, вЂњbut our bodies are still wired to crave it,вЂќ Sidorenkov explains.В
Next up: 9 foods that are secretly dehydrating you.