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This week I’ve had lots of clients report in with real salt cravings. Sometimes crisps, sometimes just anything salty so I thought I’d give you the inside scoop into salt cravings and where they come from and what you can do about them!
The general population consumes over and above the salt or sodium intake due to a high intake of processed foods which is why the general dietary advice is to be mindful of one’s salt intake.
Having said that, if your diet consists of mainly home-cooked, whole foods, then it might be that your salt cravings are due to you not getting enough salt in your diet.
Whole foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, lentils, fish and meats are naturally low in sodium, so adding a touch of good quality salt to your food in the cooking process can be a good thing, especially if your diet is low on the packaged food front.
The body needs salt for so many processed in the body. In order to digest our food properly, we need stomach acid which is also known as hydrochloric acid – HCL. The Cl part of the HCl is chloride, some of which is made from sodium chloride aka salt.
Like with hunger, it’s important not to just ignore these cravings or try to use willpower to overcome them. There are a number of other factors which salt cravings can be a sign of but here are two of the most common ones I find:
When the body is low in calcium, it can crave salt, so making sure your diet is rich in calcium rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens), sardines, milk, cheese, yoghurt ,nuts and seeds. You may find that your desire for salt falls away as your calcium intake is increased.
If you notice you have trouble waking up in the morning, you feel deep unrelenting fatigue that is not relieved by sleep, suffer from body stiffness, get light headed on standing or find it difficult to concentrate or cope with stress, it may be that your body is telling you that is has been over-worked and it needs some TLC.
Your adrenal glands are positioned in the body on top of the kidneys and they play a critical, life-saving role in the body. One of their many functions is to supply the body with stress hormones, especially cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone made by the adrenal glands, which is released when we experience stress. In the right amount it acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps us to feel alert so in the right amounts cortisol is a good thing.
When you are under too much stress over a prolonged time, however, your adrenal glands can become tapped out, leading to adrenal fatigue or exhaustion or any of the previously mentioned symptoms, in which case you may need to rest. You might want to have your cortisol levels investigated as they may be low which will only confirm that your body needs aome TLC to get it back to good health again.
The adrenals also produce the hormone aldosterone that balances sodium and potassium levels—critical for proper cell function—so if you are stressed, consuming enough salt will help ease the burden on your already taxed adrenals. Your body is craving these foods for a reason. Listen to it and add good quality sea salt or Himalayan salt to your diet.
Jess’s tip: add 0.5-1 teaspoons of sea salt to a glass of water and drink it when you first wake up.
If stress prolongs and cortisol levels are in circulation for too long, the adrenal glands can run out of resources which are required to produce adequate cortisol levels. One example is vitamins C, a vitamin which is needed in abundance at times of stress and often isn’t supplied in adequate amounts in the diet. This resultant low cortisol can leave people feeling flat and tired, and when I mean tired I don’t just mean a little bit sleepy, I mean wiped out and continuously tired until the body gets the attention and resources it needs to bounce back.
Jess’s tip: I would recommend getting your cortisol levels tested by an experienced health professional (like me) and get your diet discussed to see if these salt cravings are part of a bigger health picture and identify if your body is trying to tell you that something isn’t quite right.
Do you get salt cravings and has my advice helped? Share your thoughts and comments below in the comments section.
All the healthy best,