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Wellness Center

Salty Feeling with No Salt?

02/02/2010

Question:

I am a smoker (menthol) and I usually drink coffee all day. Occasionally I will drink iced tea. Towards evening every night my lips start burning like there is liquid salt on them, even when I have eaten a low salt/no salt diet throughout the day. Licking them doesn`t make them better or worse, only moist. Usually after a couple of glasses of water, the burning goes away. Is this a sign that my body is requiring water, in the very beginning stage of dehydration? Or is there something else possibly going on?

Answer:

Thanks for your question.  It is possible that your lips feel like they are burning from a combination of menthol from the cigarettes and dehydration.  I am not sure how much water (plain water, not coffee or tea) that you consume throughout the day, but it sounds like when you drink water, the "salty sensation" goes away.

Both coffee and tea can be dehydrating as caffeine has a diuretic effect (meaning, it makes you urinate more and lose body water).  Obviously, stopping smoking would be best for your overall health, but for now, I suggest you increase your water intake to at least 4-6 cups of water/day.  Cutting back on tea and coffee or switching to decaf may also help.

Good luck!

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Response by:

Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Adjunct Faculty
University of Cincinnati