Symptoms A-Z

Salt Craving Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your salt craving symptoms, including 3 causes & common questions.

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Salt Craving Symptoms

Salt is a vital part of the diet. You cannot survive without it. Humans are strongly driven to seek out salt and make sure enough is available, even though our modern diets of processed food tend to contain very high amounts of salt, in fact, nine out of 10 Americans consume too much [1]. Yet it isn't normal to be eating plenty of salt each day and still constantly crave it.

Salt is something of a stimulant, because it raises the blood pressure, and you like the taste because normally salt is good for you. Some researchers believe you can become addicted to it if you get used to eating very high amounts.

However, a sudden and intense salt craving that you didn't have before can be a sign of serious illness or imbalance. It is a reason to consult the medical provider.

Salt is also referred to as sodium chloride, NaCl, or common table salt. Excessive salt craving is also called "salt hunger" [2].

Salt craving characteristics, all of which are symptoms of sodium/salt deficiency:

Duration:

  • Sometimes you can develop a taste and a tolerance for greater and greater amounts of salt, until you are eating so much that it can be harmful.
  • Depression can result from long-term salt hunger [3].

Who is most often affected by salt craving symptoms? If a mother consumes a high-salt diet while pregnant, her child may also want larger amounts of salt in his or her diet once he or she reaches about three years of age.

Where in the world are these salt craving symptoms most common?

  • In underdeveloped or "third world" areas, where extra salt may be only sporadically available.
  • In hot climates where people normally have to do heavy work in high temperatures.

When are salt craving symptoms most likely to occur?

  • While doing heavy work, or training for a sport, in a hot environment that causes profuse sweating.

Are salt craving symptoms serious?

  • Craving salt is actually normal if you have been working hard and sweating in hot weather.
  • Overeating salt can lead to chemical and nutritional imbalances, as well as to high blood pressure.
  • The symptom of excessive salt craving can be a symptom of other illnesses, some of which are serious, and should be brought to the attention of the medical provider.

Salt Craving Causes

Many conditions can have salt craving as a symptom. The most common are those involving adrenal gland fatigue and an imbalance of salt and water intake, as well as rare hereditary disorders.

Most common salt craving cause type:

  • Insufficient production of adrenal gland hormones, because this stimulates the production of cortisol from the adrenals [4]. This is caused by:

  • Chronic stress.

  • Any chronic inflammatory condition.

Less common salt craving cause types:

  • Salt and water imbalance which can be caused by:

  • Drinking too much water.

  • Salt "addiction," which means that you become accustomed to eating more and more salt and may begin. increasing it in order to get the same taste.

Rare and unusual salt craving cause types:

  • A metabolic disorder where too much sodium is lost through the kidneys.
  • A mitochondrial disorder within the cells, which affects metabolism. This condition is hereditary.

3 Possible Salt Craving Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced salt craving. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Adrenal insufficiency

The adrenal gland's outer layer produces hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone, which control many important functions of the body such as blood sugar and blood pressure regulation, and urine production. In adrenal insufficiency, not enough of these hormones are produced, leading to symptoms such as fatigue and weakness, appetite and weight loss, nausea, and vomiting.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: depressed mood, anxiety, abdominal pain (stomach ache), loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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Dehydration

Dehydration means the body does not have enough water to carry out its normal processes.

Most susceptible to serious dehydration are young children with fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. In adults, some medications increase urination and can lead to dehydration. Anyone exercising vigorously, especially in hot weather, can quickly become dehydrated.

Symptoms include extreme thirst; dry mouth; infrequent, dark-colored urine; dizziness; and confusion. Young children may have sunken eyes, cheeks, and soft spot on top of the skull.

Severe dehydration is a serious medical emergency that can lead to heat stroke, kidney damage, seizures, coma, and death. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through blood tests and urine tests.

Mild dehydration can be treated simply by drinking extra water, or water with electrolytes such as sports drinks. More serious cases may be hospitalized for intravenous fluids.

It's important for anyone who is outside in hot weather, or who is ill, to drink extra fluids even before feeling thirsty as thirst is not always a reliable guide.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, dizziness, vomiting or diarrhea, racing heart beat, being severely ill

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Premenstrual syndrome

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a condition that can produce emotional and physical symptoms in women in the days leading up to their menstrual cycle. Common symptoms include bloating, cramping, headaches, irritability, fatigue, and sleep and appetite changes. These symptoms...

Salt Craving Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • You intentionally drink a great deal of water but develop a headache along with nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. You must get treatment before this progresses to seizure and coma as it can lead to death due to too much dilution of salt and other electrolytes.
  • You have a sudden and intense craving for salt that is never satisfied. Withdrawing salt at this point can cause a life-threatening chemical imbalance in the body.

Schedule an appointment for:

  • High blood pressure in the presence of increased salt craving [5].

Salt craving remedies that you can try at home:

  • Learn the salt content of foods, especially processed foods, and avoid those that are very high.
  • Become accustomed to adding less and less salt to foods, and to looking for more natural foods that don't have so much salt.
  • Find the balance between consuming an appropriate amount of salt and drinking the right amount of water.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Salt Craving

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • Are you currently taking Etomidate?
  • Are you currently taking medroxyprogesterone?
  • Do you have a blood pressure cuff that you could use to take your blood pressure?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your salt craving

Salt Craving Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced salt craving have also experienced:

  • 10% Fatigue
  • 5% Headache
  • 4% Nausea

People who have experienced salt craving were most often matched with:

  • 54% Dehydration
  • 36% Adrenal Insufficiency
  • 9% Premenstrual Syndrome

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Salt Craving Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your salt craving

References

  1. Effects of Excess Sodium Infographic. American Heart Association. AHA Link.
  2. Hurley SW, Johnson AK. The Biopsychology of Salt Hunger and Sodium Deficiency. Pflugers Archiv: European Journal of Psychology. 2015;467(3):445-456. NCBI Link.
  3. Morris MJ, Na ES, Johnson AK. Salt Craving: The Psychobiology of Pathogenic Sodium Intake. Physiology & Behavior. 2008;94(5):709-721. NCBI Link.
  4. Corrigan EK. Adrenal Insufficiency (Addison's Disease). Pituitary Network Association. Pituitary Network Association Link.
  5. Most Americans Should Consume Less Sodium. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated June 11, 2018. CDC Link.

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.