How Low-Salt Diets Give Fuel to Addictions

The Salty Truth: How Eating Salt Can Keep Your Reward System in Normal Mode

Marla Szwast
Unpopular Health Stories
5 min readAug 19, 2018

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Photo by Emmy Smith on Unsplash

Our body has an amazing built-in salt thermostat. When we need more salt we crave it and when we don’t need more, we don’t want it. Without enough salt, we die.

Sugar is a different beast. Your body does not need any sugar. The cravings for sugar are not powered by biology but by psychological or physiological needs. (Physiological being a response to low blood sugar caused by previous sugar overload.)

“It’s time to set the record straight about the health-protecting, lifesaving nature of salt cravings — and drop the guilt for good.” — Dr. James DiNicolantonio, The Salt Fix.

Dr. James DiNicolantonio explains that salt itself is not addictive, but there is a connection between salt and addiction. This connection is that being salt deprived makes you more vulnerable to addictive substances, including sugar.

The worst that can happen if you gorge on salt and eat too much is that your kidneys will not absorb it all. In other words, you won’t use it. Salt craving is a sign of needing more salt. Not having enough salt causes an imbalance in your body's fluid-salt-electrolyte system.

There are certain actions and behaviors that create more need for more salt. For example, caffeine increases sodium excretion and so those who drink a lot of caffeine need to consume more salt. Another activity that causes you to dump sodium is exercise, for every hour of exercise, you lose 2g of salt.

This is why sportspeople consume Gatorade and other electrolyte drinks. The problem with those drinks is the other garbage they contain. Wouldn’t it be simpler to throw a little salt and lemon in your water after a workout? Or eat a few olives before the workout?

Despite all of this established science low-salt diets are still frequently prescribed by doctors.

“The origin of the myth all goes back to the moment we stopped looking at salt as an essential, life-giving force —…

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Marla Szwast
Unpopular Health Stories

A mom who writes, in the cracks of time, between educating, chauffeuring and feeding half a dozen kids. Top writer in Parenting.