Feeling like you have to have one type of food -- whether it's a burger, chocolate bar or pickle -- is often nothing more than a simple craving. However, some cravings may indicate an underlying health condition. Craving ice, whether it's crushed, in cubes or in chips, is a symptom of pica, a type of compulsive eating. A craving for salty foods can be a symptom of a number of conditions that require medical attention -- but it also might simply be because you have become accustomed to a high-sodium diet.
Pica and Ice
A type of compulsive eating disorder, pica occurs more commonly in young children than in adults, although it presents frequently during pregnancy. A common symptom of pica, also known as pagophagia, is a craving for nonfood substances, including ice, but also commonly chalk, paper, hair and soap. Pica has been linked to zinc and iron anemia deficiency, the latter being a condition where your body does not have enough red blood cells due to a lack of iron.
Zinc and Iron Needs
Zinc is a trace mineral found in cells throughout your body, aiding in immune system support, cell growth and the processing of carbohydrates. It also helps with your sense of smell and taste. Iron is also found throughout your body, and this essential mineral helps you produce red blood cells, as it is needed to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout your body. The dietary reference intake of zinc is 8 to 11 milligrams per day, while for iron, it is 8 to 18 milligrams per day. Both zinc and iron can be found in high-protein foods, such as beef, pork and dark-meat chicken. Nuts, whole grains and legumes are also a good source of iron and zinc, and leafy greens also provide a natural iron-rich source.
Dehydration and Salt Cravings
A craving for salt may be a symptom of dehydration. Your body excretes sodium when you sweat and urinate, potentially leading to low sodium and fluid levels. Salt cravings as a result of mild dehydration can be easily treated by rehydrating, drinking a glass of water or a sports drink. However, severe dehydration requires emergency medical attention. Symptoms of severe dehydration include shock, sunken eyes, confusion, lightheadedness and unconsciousness.
The Habit of Dietary Sodium
Americans generally get too much sodium as a result of eating processed, preserved and canned goods, as well as fast foods, all of which are high in added sodium. Because of this, a habit for salty foods, as well as increased sodium levels, can develop, leading you to crave salt when you receive less than you are used to. A diet high in sodium can lead to a number of health complications, including high blood pressure and an increased risk of osteoporosis in women. The recommended upper intake of sodium per day is 1,500 milligrams for people who have heart disease or kidney trouble, are over 51 or are African American. For all others, the recommended intake is no more than 2,300 milligrams per day.