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How To Tell What Does It Mean If You Crave Salt – Sunnyvale Eating Disorder Therapist Stop Binge Eating

What Does It Mean If You Crave Salt

“I can’t stop snacking on salt!”

But why? Why salt? Why does a little white powder make your mouth water? What does it mean if you crave salt?

This post will explore:

  • The Chemistry of Salt
  • How Salt Chemistry Makes Salt So Delicious (Hint: Evolutionary Biology!)
  • Picture Yourself Like A Caveman Exercise (or Wild Goat)
  • The Difference Between Normal and Bad Cravings
  • How Situational Triggers Like Stress Set Off Biological Cravings
  • The Confusion Of Nutrient Deficiency
  • What Does It Mean If You Crave Salt

At the bottom of the post you’ll see my answer for the question “What Does It Mean If You Crave Salt”.

I’ll put my answer here to make things convenient.

Part 1) You are lacking sleep or are stressed out.

Part 2) You aren’t eating enough good foods and have a nutrient defiency

Part 3) Your body misinterprets the nutrient defiency craving and think it wants salt.

Now, just what about sodium in diet?

Below you can also watch an informal video of me talking about salt while I prepare my breakfast!

The Chemistry Of Salt

Ok let’s get past the boring stuff real quick.

Along time ago the planet was covered in oceans. Oceans are salty.

Then land started to emerge. The water began to recede. As the land emerged, the water left behind on land began to evaporate. 

As the water evaporated, salt was left behind. So that’s what salt is. Salt is a mineral deposit.

It’s chemical compound formula is NaCL, which stands for sodium and chlorine.

Now obviously I am presenting a pretty basic understanding of salt chemistry. If you want to dive further in depth here’s an article that explores deeper about the function of salt in cells

How Salt Chemistry Makes Salt So Delicious (Hint: Evolutionary Biology!)

More boring stuff here. to make a long story short …

Humans evolve to need salt. Just like humans need water, or air. Or food. Humans also need salt.

Something about those two chemicals – sodium and chlorine to make NaCL – is absolutely essential for survival.

Salt plays a vital role in the regulation of many bodily functions and helps transport oxygen. Salt helps keep the proper ratio of water in the body. Without enough salt your senses would decrease until you were blind and you wouldn’t be able to move your muscles. 

So salt is important. But most importantly … 

We need to get salt from outside sources. Your human body doesn’t produce salt. Your human body produces a lot of other essential nutrients – but not salt.

So … 

We crave salt because we need salt to live. So … what does it mean if you crave salt?

Right Answer – There is a Life and Death biological mechanism at play.

Wrong Answer – If I crave salt I need a chip!

If we didn’t crave salt then we wouldn’t have motivation to eat salt. If no motivation to eat salt, we would die!

Ok, now are you ready for the fun stuff?

Just Picture Yourself As A Caveman (Or Wild Goat)

Just look at these wild goats! 

They are willing to risk life and death in order to lick these salty rocks!

Now do you think these goats are just randomly up on these rocks? No!

No goat would climb that high unless …

The goat had a craving. A craving for salt. A craving that was unquenchable by other means.

So these goats risk life and death to get salt. The alternative is death!

Remember, if you crave salt, a life or death biological mechanism is at play similar to like these goats.

How Situational Triggers Like Stress Set Off Biological Cravings

Now let’s break this down even further.

The goat experiences a craving, right? 

A craving could be:

  • A thirst
  • An itch
  • Dryness 
  • Salivation, or no salivation

Something in the goats body tells the goat’s brain – GO GET SALT.

GO CLIMB THESE WALLS AND GET SALT.

It’s a powerful command. This ‘salt’ command is powerful because it’s a matter of LIFE and DEATH!

Remember, goats and humans both need salt to live!

Now these cravings are normal. You get cravings when you’re thirsty too, right?

These are normal cravings!

The Difference Between Normal and Bad Cravings

physical versus emotional eating

Now you can see in the image above the difference between cravings.

This brings me to the real problem. Fast forward 100,000 years to present day.

Imagine you get really stressed out one day and your mouth goes dry.

Have you ever had that feeling right before a speech? Your mouth locks up and your tongue and mouth can barely move they are so dry?

Or maybe you get a deadline. DUE TOMORROW!

So you work all day in a stressful panic. 

It’s almost as if your boss would kill you if you let down the team! Or that something terrible will happen if you mess up the public speech!

Almost as if you were going to die!

Because your BODY (key word BODY, not mind) your body is like the goat’s body.

Remember the goat? The goat feels something in his or her little fury body.

This feeling (thirst, dryness, etc) then motivates the goat to climb those walls.

Now your body is now feeling this same feeling – but in response to stress.

Stress made you skip meals – and now you crave salt.

Stress made you focus on work for 5 hours straight and ignore your body – and now you crave salt.

These are known as situational triggers. 

And situational triggers are a big part of habits … which is a concept I talk about more in-depth in this piece about habits here.

Then you eat the salt, which temporarily makes you feel better.

So your body thinks you got the nutrients your body needs, but it doesn’t.

Salt was only a temporary solution to make you feel better. Salt tricked you into forming habits because salt is very rewarding.

See how habit loops form below?

habit theory simple

The Confusion Of Nutrient Deficiency

So let’s review. 

You think you want salt.

This is a false craving. But it feels like a normal craving.

So you eat salt.

And then guess what… remember how one of the properties of salt was that salt helps regulate the amount of water we have in our bodies?

Well, salt retains water. So now that you’ve eaten extra salt, you need more water to compensate.

So you feel dehydrated. 

But you’re also stressed out. So you get confused and think your body is telling you to eat more salt!

So you eat more salt, the cycle repeats itself!

This is the problem of nutrient deficiency. You are lacking water, but your body misinterprets the craving and think it wants more salt!

You could also be lacking vitamin C, or protein or good fats. 

Each nutrient deficiency will give your body a craving to GO GET THAT NUTRIENT.

Yet your body (especially if you are sleep deprived or stressed out, more on that below) will misinterpret the craving and just go towards salt!

What Does It Mean If You Crave Salt

Here’s the simple answer.

Part 1) You are lacking sleep or are stressed out.

Part 2) You aren’t eating enough good foods and have a nutrient defiency

Part 3) Your body misinterprets the nutrient defiency craving and think it wants salt.

Do you feel more enlightened after viewing this post? If so share the light!
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@jared_levenson

My aim is to serve and connect in a genuine way :)Please comment or email with topic ideas, questions you have, concerns, anything really. And of course, if you care to share the post, I'd be most appreciative!