You’re eating a bowl of pretzels, until suddenly you lean back and, just like George Costanza, exclaim, “These pretzels are making me thirsty!” You reach for your favorite beverage to quench your thirst and then go back to munching on your pretzels. But then you begin to wonder, why do pretzels make you so thirsty?
It all has to do with osmotic thirst
The main reason why you get thirsty after eating pretzels is because of a little thing called osmotic thirst. It sounds scary, but it really isn’t.
Osmotic balance refers to the balance between the amount of water in your cells and the amount of water outside your cells. When you eat pretzels (or other types of salty food), the concentration of salts and minerals in your blood increase, which in turn causes the water surrounding your cells to become saltier. This disrupts your osmotic balance, and your body compensate by drawing water from inside your cells.
But now your cells need water, so your brain sends a signal from its “thirst center” that it needs more water. Now you’re reaching for that glass of water to restore your osmotic balance.
Is osmotic thirst dangerous?
No. Osmotic thirst is a completely normal response that every healthy person experiences after eating pretzels, chips, or other foods with salt. In fact, osmotic thirst is a good thing, because it’s a sign that your body is doing exactly what it should.
Is this what causes me to be thirsty after exercising?
Also no. The thirst you experience after a workout is called hypovolemic thirst. This occurs when the volume of your blood decreases due to fluid loss, and you lose fluid by sweating. Pretzels don’t make you lose fluid; they make you thirsty because of the disruption in your osmotic balance.
So, the bottom line? Whenever you want to enjoy some of Uncle Henry’s best handmade pretzels, make sure you have a refreshing drink by your side!