How do I cure my salt crav­ing?

New Zealand’s favourite well­be­ing ex­pert, Dr Libby an­swers read­ers’ ques­tions about liv­ing a health­ier life.

The Tribune (NZ) - - WELL-BEING - The ad­vice con­tained in this col­umn is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for di­rect, per­son­alised ad­vice from a health pro­fes­sional.

I crave salt. I try not to eat it as I have read we need to cut it out. Can you please help my co­nun­drum? Thanks, Ann.

Hi Ann, the gen­eral di­etary ad­vice is to be aware of salt or sodium in­take be­cause the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion al­ready con­sumes more than enough through pro­cessed foods.

If you fol­low a diet con­sist­ing of mainly home-cooked food us­ing real food, then it is pos­si­ble that you are crav­ing salt be­cause you are sim­ply not get­ting enough. Real foods like fruits, veg­eta­bles, lentils, meats, eggs, nuts and seeds are very low in sodium, so you may need to use ad­di­tional salt on your food if you are not eat­ing pack­aged or pro­cessed foods. It is im­por­tant to note that stom­ach acid, which is es­sen­tial for great di­ges­tion, is hy­drochlo­ric acid – HCl. The Cl part of HCl is chlo­ride, some of which is de­rived from sodium chlo­ride.

Salt crav­ings can also be a sign of other fac­tors that need ad­dress­ing. It can in­di­cate a cal­cium de­fi­ciency so if you eat a diet low in cal­cium this needs to be cor­rected and you may find that your de­sire for salt falls away. Salt crav­ings can also be an in­di­ca­tor of what is known as ‘‘adrenal fa­tigue’’, where cor­ti­sol lev­els are typ­i­cally low.

If you have ex­pe­ri­enced longterm stress and have no­ticed that you have trou­ble wak­ing up in the morn­ing, body stiff­ness, deep, un­re­lent­ing fa­tigue, or light head­ed­ness then you might want to have your cor­ti­sol lev­els in­ves­ti­gated.

Cor­ti­sol is a hor­mone made by the adrenal glands, which is re­leased when we ex­pe­ri­ence chronic stress. In the right amount it acts as an an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory and helps us to feel alert – both good things.

Af­ter pe­ri­ods of long term stress and high cor­ti­sol pro­duc­tion how­ever, for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons the adrenal glands can run out of re­sources, such as vi­ta­min C, needed to pro­duce ap­pro­pri­ate cor­ti­sol lev­els. Low cor­ti­sol can then re­sult, leav­ing peo­ple feel­ing flat and tired.

You may like to dis­cuss your diet and/or have your cor­ti­sol lev­els tested by an ex­pe­ri­enced health pro­fes­sional to de­ter­mine if your salt crav­ings are part of a big­ger health pic­ture. Ques­tion: I eat a ve­gan diet and Iwant to keep eat­ing thisway. But my hair is fall­ing out and I am wor­ried about this as I am only 17. Could my lifestyle be af­fect­ing my hair loss? Thanks, Court­ney.

Hi Court­ney, iron, zinc, vi­ta­min B12 and pro­tein are the key nu­tri­ents to be mind­ful of when eat­ing a ve­gan diet. All of them are es­sen­tial for healthy growth and main­te­nance of hair.

You may wish to in­clude more of the fol­low­ing iron con­tain­ing foods: dates, leafy green veg­eta­bles and lentils.

Ve­gan sources of zinc in­clude seeds, par­tic­u­larly sun­flower

seeds. Vi­ta­min B12 is only found in foods of an­i­mal ori­gin, how­ever your gut bac­te­ria make vi­ta­min B12. Re­search sug­gests the vi­ta­min B12 made by gut bac­te­ria will last up to five years af­ter some­one be­comes ve­gan. For some peo­ple though, this ap­pears to fall short sooner than five years, af­ter which it must be sup­ple­mented.

You can ob­tain ad­e­quate pro­tein eat­ing a ve­gan diet through the daily in­clu­sion of foods such as lentils, chick­peas, nuts, seeds, quinoa, buck­wheat, brown rice and plenty of green leafy veg­eta­bles. If your iron, zinc and/or vi­ta­min B12 lev­els are low enough to cause hair loss you may need to use sup­ple­ments to bring them back up to nor­mal. Sup­ple­ments are best pre­scribed by an ex­pe­ri­enced nutri­tion pro­fes­sional to en­sure your own per­sonal needs are met.

A con­stant de­sire for salty food may in­di­cate other things go­ing on in your body.

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