What causes salt craving?

Salt craving is a compelling or extreme desire to consume salt or salty foods. Craving for salt is a common symptom of Addison’s disease (decreased production of hormones by the adrenal glands), dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances. It can also be seen in rare kidney disorders. Craving for salt results from a decrease in sodium in the body from either an inability to retain salt, such as with Addison’s disease, or the loss of sodium, such as occurs with excessive sweating and fluid loss or dehydration. Salt craving is common during pregnancy.

To make the increased salt ingestion more palatable, salt may be "chased" with lemon juice. Increased thirst for iced liquids is often reported.


Common causes of salt craving

Salt craving may have common causes including:

  • Addison’s disease (decreased production of hormones by the adrenal glands)
  • Dehydration (loss of body fluids and electrolytes, which can be life threatening when severe and untreated)
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Pregnancy

Serious or life-threatening causes of salt craving

In some cases, salt craving may be a symptom of severe dehydration characterized by loss of body fluids and electrolytes, which can be life threatening when untreated and should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of salt craving

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your salt craving including:

  • When do you feel a salt craving?
  • How long have you felt a craving for salt?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?
  • Do you have Addison’s disease?

What are the potential complications of salt craving?

Because salt craving can be due to serious dehydration, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Acute renal (kidney) failure
  • Coma
  • Shock

References:

  1. Addison’s disease. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001416/.
  2. Adrenal insufficiency and Addison’s disease. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service. http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/addison/addison.htm.
  3. Bope ET, Kellerman RD (Eds.) Conn’s Current Therapy. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2013.
INTRODUCTION

What is salt craving?

Salt craving is a compelling or extreme desire to consume salt or salty foods. Craving for salt results from a decrease in sodium in the body either from inability to retain salt or the excess loss of sodium from the body. Salt craving is common during pregnancy. Craving for salt is also a common symptom of Addison’s disease (decreased production of hormones by the adrenal glands), dehydration,... Read more about salt cravingintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with salt craving?

Salt craving may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the need for salt intake may also involve other body systems.

Dehydration symptoms that may occur along with salt craving

Salt craving may accompany symptoms related to dehydration including:

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Metabolic System