What does it really mean when you crave salt?

When salty cravings hit, they hit hard. You can be minding your own business when — bam — suddenly the only thing you can think of is which convenience store is closest so you can stock up on chips and beef jerky. These cravings can seem totally random, but the good news is they're completely normal. 

Cravings, in general, can be caused by a variety of things, and craving salt in particular isn't inherently a bad thing. Integrative medicine physician Pooja Amy Shah, M.D., told Well+Good"It's one of the most important components in our bodies." Its main component, sodium, is crucial in helping maintain your body's fluid levels and muscle function. But what does it really mean when you crave salt?

Craving salt? You could be dehydrated

Whether it's because you work out a lot, it's hot outside, or you're just a naturally dewy person, excessive sweating can cause your body to crave salty snacks. This happens because, as Dr. Shah points out, sweat contains salt, and the act of sweating causes your sodium levels to go down. It's your body's way of telling you that you need to drink water ASAP

In addition to craving salt, other symptoms like clammy skin, dizziness, headaches, muscle cramping, and others can signify that you're dehydrated (via Healthline). If you're feeling all of these things, down a class or two of water as quickly as you can and replenish your fluids. 

Salt cravings could mean you're stressed

When people get stressed out, oftentimes they turn to comfort food to quell themselves. And usually, these foods are high in fat, sugar, or salt, according to Medical News Today. So if you find yourself suddenly wanting to reach for something salty when you get stressed, it might be your body's natural reaction to help calm you down. There was also a study that found a link between stress levels and the hormone that increases hunger, called ghrelin. 

In addition to these two things, there are a variety of other reasons why you're suddenly craving salt, and they could mean that you're pregnant, you're PMSing, or you could have certain diseases. If you're truly nervous about potentially having a serious medical problem, or you find yourself craving salt all the time, it's always a smart idea to talk to your doctor.