The reasons for food cravings are complex and interesting. A craving may be physiological or even psychological.
This bulletin concerns biochemical reasons for salt cravings. Future bulletins will address other common cravings, such as those for sugar, chocolate, carbohydrates, fat, dairy products or meat.
Several principles apply in regard to food cravings. The first is that in our experience, cravings occur for definite reasons. They are not accidental or random. Often knowing a person's cravings offers clues as to the condition of their body chemistry. A corollary is that correction of the biochemical reason for a craving generally results in a lessening of that craving.
A second principle is that the same craving can occur for very different reasons. For example, both slow and fast oxidizers may crave salt, but for different reasons. Therefore, it is helpful to determine the metabolic type and specific imbalances in order to explain a food craving.
A third principle is that the body always attempts to become balanced and whole. The attempt can be temporary and ill-advised, but may be the best that can be done under the circumstances.
Today's table salt is a refined, "junk food" product. It contains mainly sodium and chloride. It is extensively refined, stripped of all its other naturally-occurring minerals. These are sold separately and the residue is sold as salt. It may be bleached white and aluminum added to keep it from caking.
Processed foods and fast foods often contain excessive amounts of this type of salt. This includes fast-food burgers, sandwiches, fries, tacos, chips and baked goods, just to name a few. One meal may contain enough salt for a week. Chinese and other spicy foods are often laced with a related product, monosodium glutamate or MSG. Salt and MSG are commonly used to disguise the lack of real taste in poor quality food.
We recommend avoiding ALL refined salt products. Their consumption may lead to mineral deficiencies, imbalances, allergic reactions and aluminum excess. One reason for salt craving may be a real need for the trace minerals contained in natural salt. Eating refined salt, of course, does little to satisfy this need.
Use only unrefined sea salt, such as Celtic Salt or other brands available in health food stores. These can be good sources of trace minerals. They usually do not cause the adverse affects associated with eating refined salt such as swelling, high blood pressure, headaches and allergic reactions.
In slow oxidizers, the hair sodium level tends to be low due to a deficient level of the adrenal hormone, aldosterone. This hormone causes the retention of sodium at the level of the kidneys. Low aldosterone increases sodium excretion through the urine.
Sodium is a key element in maintaining fluid balance, blood pressure and joint health. Sodium chloride is changed into hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Eating extra salt may help alleviate symptoms of low sodium including low blood pressure, fatigue, feeling cold in the winter and low hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach. The effect, however, is temporary unless adrenal gland activity is enhanced as well.
In fast oxidizers, the hair sodium level tends to be high. However, these individuals may also crave salt. Fast oxidizers are accustomed to a high sodium level. Eating salt may enhance the oxidation rate, or be an attempt to maintain the sodium level, especially as the adrenal glands weaken.
One manifestation of this weakness is a low hair sodium/potassium ratio. Although eating salt will not correct this ratio, it is possible that the inverted ratio could contribute to some cases of salt craving.
True fast oxidizers also have a more acid metabolism. This is because a faster oxidation rate produces more acidic end-products of metabolism such as lactic acid. Eating salt may help balance the pH by alkalinizing the blood.
Note that salt does not have an alkalinizing effect on everyone. The minerals in salt have an alkaline reaction in the body. However, if the salt enhances the oxidation rate, for example, salt might have an acidifying effect on the blood.
Balancing the pH: As stated above, the mineral content and the effects of salt on body chemistry can change the pH of the tissues and the blood. Some nutritional authorities assert that salt is used in cooking to help balance the pH of certain foods, such as grains.
Biological Transmutation: Dr. C. L. Kervan, a French researcher, found that living organisms may transmute sodium into potassium.
Dr. Kervan's research involved oil rig workers in the Sahara desert. They craved salt and ate quite a bit. However, with careful measurement, they were found to perspire and urinate less sodium and much more potassium than they ingested.
Furthermore, Dr. Kervan found the sodium/potassium transmutation absorbs heat, cooling the body. This may explain a salt craving if one is an athlete, or working or living in a hot climate.
Many repeatable experiments appear to validate the truth of biological transmutation of the elements. Dr. Kervan's book, Biological Transmutations, is highly recommended.
Salt substitutes vary widely. Some are mainly salt with a few spices added. Others contain no sodium whatsoever, substituting potassium or other compounds for the sodium.
Unrefined sea salt is often safe and a good choice. If salt is not tolerated well, a substitute made with potassium or spices may work.
In summary, salt craving can be complex and may be healthful, providing one satisfies it with the real item.