Health

Red flag warning sign when you eat could be symptom of silent killer


It is quite common for people to have a preference for salty or sweet foods. However, a specific craving that is unusual for you could be a sign of a rare and deadly health disorder.

Doctors have warned that extreme cravings for all things salty, such as crisps and pickles, could be a sign of something called Addison’s disease.

In a case study, published in the journal Pediatrics Child Health, medical experts detailed the diagnosis of a girl from Toronto in Canada.

The 15-year-old was admitted to hospital after months of inexplicable symptoms.

These included severe dizzy spells, fatigue, dehydration and insatiable cravings for salty snacks.

When medics spotted dark spots under her tongue and the fact her skin was unusually tanned, they realised that her adrenal glands had stopped working.

These glands, which are found at the top of the kidneys, are needed to produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress and other essential functions.

This led to a diagnosis of Addison’s disease, a rare disorder that affects one in 100,000 people.

It occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones, leading to nausea, abdominal pain, weight loss, dark spots on the skin and even salt cravings.

According to the NHS, the disease can be treated with hormone replacement therapy which the affected person will need for the rest of their lives.

However, if left untreated the condition can prove fatal.

As well as disrupting the balance of hormones in the body, the disease can impact sodium and potassium levels, which regulate blood pressure, muscle and kidney function and cell nutrients.

Healthy sodium levels range from 136 to 145 millimoles per litre (mmol/L), which is needed to regulate the amount of water in and around cells and for generating electrical signals between nerves, enabling communication between the brain and the rest of the body.

On arrival at hospital, the Canadian patient’s sodium level was about 130mmol/L, despite eating jars of pickles at a time, handfuls of chips and dousing her meals in salt, the Mail Online reports.

It is thought around 80 percent of Addison’s disease patients experience salt cravings because the disease causes them to lose an excess amount of sodium through their urine.

In contrast, her potassium levels were at the high end of the spectrum at five mmol/L.

Having too much potassium disrupts crucial electrical impulses that regulate the heartbeat and can lead to a life-threatening irregular heart rhythm

The patient also had an unquenchable thirst despite drinking three litres of water every day.

Increased thirst is listed by the NHS as a symptom of Addison’s due to the way the disease interferes with how the body regulates water levels.

In between 70 and 90 percent of cases Addison’s disease is caused by a problem with the immune system, which causes it to attack the outer layer of the adrenal gland (the adrenal cortex).

Other potential causes include conditions that can damage the adrenal glands, such as tuberculosis (TB), although this is uncommon in the UK.

The NHS states that early-stage symptoms of Addison’s disease are similar to other more common health conditions, such as clinical depression or flu.

Symptoms can include:

  • Lack of energy or motivation (fatigue)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Low mood
  • Loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss
  • Increased thirst.

Over time, these problems may become more severe and you may experience further symptoms, such as dizziness, fainting, cramps and exhaustion.

You may also develop small areas of darkened skin, or darkened lips or gums.

The NHS says: “Although these symptoms are not always caused by Addison’s disease, you should see a GP so they can be investigated.”



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