Salty foods are often highly palatable, but salt cravings can be about more than just taste. They may be a signal that the body is experiencing chronic stress, which taxes the adrenal glands by constantly calling on them to produce more cortisol.
“When people crave salt, it’s often either that their blood pressure is low or they have some adrenal dysfunction,” explains integrative physician Frank Lipman, MD. “Often when those hormones are off, there’s a craving for salt.” (For more on managing cortisol and adrenal health, see “How to Balance Your Cortisol Levels Naturally.”)
Salt is a mineral we lose when we sweat, so we might also crave it after an intense workout or a sauna. Pediatrician Jan Chozen Bays, MD, once saw a 1-year-old child who was “so floppy that he was unable to sit up.” His parents had just driven through 100-degree heat, hydrating him with distilled water, which is stripped of minerals, including sodium.
Upon hearing this, Chozen Bays went to the cafeteria and returned with a bag of chips. Immediately, the boy sat up, grabbed the chips, and started eating. “He had ‘heard’ his cells calling out for sodium chloride (salt), and as soon as he saw it, he responded,” she explains in her book Mindful Eating.
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