This Is Why You Crave Salt When You're Dehydrated

Whether you have a sweet tooth or are more of a savory snacker, we all crave salt from time to time. That's when we go for a handful of chips or sprinkle the shaker lavishly over our meals. The funny part is that we often don't know why, we just feel an urge to consume more salt.

Salt is a natural part of the human diet. Sodium is an electrolyte that keeps our fluids balanced, ensures that our hearts and blood vessels work properly and that our nerves conduct adequately to transmit impulses throughout the body (via Everyday Health). Quite frankly, without it, we'd die.

We've all heard the warnings about how too much salt can cause high blood pressure. It's also true that our body often craves what it needs. Registered dietitian Crystal Savoy tells Eating Well, "A food craving is a sign from the body that you're missing something-whether that be balanced, adequate nutrition, or a particular nutrient."

Sometimes that doesn't make sense to us right away. One example is that we crave salt when we're dehydrated which seems like a contradiction but here's why that happens.

What happens when your body is dehydrated

Your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of electrolytes including sodium which is found in salt. When you get dehydrated, you lose that steady fluid equilibrium.

"We need 2,300 milligrams — or one teaspoon — of salt a day," explains Dr. Pooja Amy Shah, MD (via Well+Good). "It's one of the most important components in our bodies."

The craving of salty food is an innate body protection mechanism. Ironically when we need to drink more water, we crave salt. Though this may seem like an opposing urge, when eat salt, when naturally want liquid soon after because the salt makes is thirsty.

"Often times thirst is masked by hunger," Amanda A. Kostro Miller, registered dietitian, tells Byrdie. "Also, salt and salty foods stimulate thirst, so if you're craving something salty, your body may actually be begging for some water."

It's a case of the body knows what it needs.

Tips to stay hydrated

However it's not always easy to spot dehydration but there are some signs. Early signs of dehydration include headache, dizziness, fast heart rate, muscle cramps, and moodiness (via Healthline). You may also notice sweaty yet cold skin, less trips to the bathroom and craving salty foods.

It's easier to become dehydrated than you might think. First off, when we're busy or under stress, we can easily neglect our bodily needs until they make themselves known in the form of symptoms. And even then, sometimes we can miss the cues.

During hot weather, we simply need more to drink, so think preemptively and make sure you drink frequently when the temperatures rise (via Medline Plus). If you do extreme exercising, you need extra fluids.The more you sweat, the more sodium you lose. Finally, anytime you have a stomach bug, flu or even morning sickness, you'll need to replenish fluids lost.