Think Twice Before Lowering Your Sodium Intake!
Salt is essential for life and sodium is a crucial electrolyte. Sodium plays a crucial role in metabolic function and the human body can´t live without it.
The body runs on the energy manufactured by the sodium/potassium pump, the action of moving sodium and potassium across cell membranes, to generate cellular energy or ATP which is synthesized in our cells mitochondria. Every function relies on the balance and adequate supply of these two minerals. Whole foods do not contain enough sodium to support optimal health in the amounts that they are typically consumed, therefore it´s wise to supplement.
Body fluid is approximately 72% water and 28% mineral salts. Sodium is major component of lymph, blood plasma and amniotic fluid. Water is held both intracelluarly and extracelluarly. Sodium binds to water and that maintains the pressure of intracellular and extracellular fluid. Natural, unrefined, mineral rich salt is the key to maintaining the harmonious balance of this water, the result being good health.
On average, the body requires approximately 1500 - 2000 milligrams of sodium per day, the amount found in 3-4 tsp - 1 tsp of salt. While it is harmful to consume too much refined salt, which given the sodium content of refined foods is easy to do, it is not that easy to consume too much natural unrefined salt, especially when (and ideally), all processed foods are eliminated from the diet. A few of the highest whole food sources to include are carrots & celery (50 mg per stalk), beets (65 mg per one), spinach (125 per cup) and meat (65 - 75mg per serving).
Low Sodium = Dehydration
When salt depleted the body first reduces the amount excreted in urine. It then increases the amount of water lost, so that the percentage of salt in the blood remains higher. This causes dehydration. When you drink more water to compensate for the dehydration, this water will not hydrate the body. Your body will continue to excrete water to balance the sodium in the blood at a high rate causing further dehydration. When the body is salt deficient, the body is dehydrated. The first thing that a patient receives intravenously upon admittance to the hospital in conditions of dehydration is a water/saline solution.
In conditions of heat, exercise, diarrhea, and sweat lost through illness or menopause, sodium requirements are much higher — and potentially be as high as 10 grams in certain instances, such as exercising for long periods or working outdoors in hot temperatures.
Good Salt VS. Bad Salt
All salt is not equal. Refined salt or table salt, and unrefined salt are as different as refined flour and whole grain. Table salt is detrimental to health, while natural unrefined salt is life supportive. When salt is deficient, weakness and sickness follow. Diets comprised of processed food typically contain more than adequate amounts, albeit the wrong kind. Ocean fish will die quickly when placed in refined salt and water. Sodium chloride in its adulterated form from the refinery is poisonous to them.
Salt rock is mined from the earth and dried in kilns at a temperature of 1200 degrees Farenheit, altering the salt´s chemical structure. The human body treats refined salt as a foreign substance and neutralizes it by surrounding it with a water ratio of 23 grams per 1 gram of sodium chloride. It takes 23x the amount of water to neutralize processed salt! The water is taken from our healthy plump hydrated cells - often killing the healthy cells in the process. This process takes — or steals — energy from the body.
The excretion of refined salt along with any number of additives — fluoride, anti-caking agents,potassium iodide, aluminum, bleaching agents, etc — are stressors to the kidneys. The kidneys play a key role in the regulation of blood pressure and therefore this additional stress — not to salt, but rather to impaired kidney function developed over time — may raise blood pressure and places additional stress on the heart.
Refined salt looks great, and won´t stick or retain moisture in a salt shaker, however 82 of the 84 mineral elements have been extracted. The same chemical additives which prevent the refined salt from absorbing water, while it is in the box and salt shaker, prevent refined salt from being properly absorbed. Refined salt is added to most preserved, packaged, pickled and processed foods and when consumed regularly it is quite easy to get too much of the wrong salt.
What About the Advice to Lower Salt Intake for Health?
In the countries where they do not refine their salt, heart disease and arthritis are extremely rare. Their salt is obtained from the ocean and dried by the sun. This natural sea salt contains 80 trace minerals, electrolytes and is easily assimilated. Other cultures use Himalayan salt which contains all 84 trace minerals. The trace minerals and electrolytes are necessary for all bodily functions — ie: enzyme function, immune function, digestion.
Cardiovascular Disease and Blood Pressure
An eight-year study of a New York City hypertensive population found those on low-salt diets had more than four times as many heart attacks as those on normal-sodium diets. The salt hypothesis that claims that it raises blood pressure has never been proven and to the contrary there have been over a dozen studies that disprove it. Salt has been proven to affect blood pressure by only a couple of diastolic points and caution with regards to quantity applies for people who are sodium sensitive — ie: in the case of congestive heart failure. Keep in mind that almost all studies have been done where the subjects have been ingesting refined salt.
A recent study in 2011 with 4,000 healthy Europeans demonstrated a 5x higher cardiovascular mortality rate in the low salt group compared to the high salt group — demonstrating that the less salt you eat, the more likely you are to die of heart disease. Low sodium diets have shown to increase LDL, triglycerides, insulin resistance and cause hyponatremia.
Insulin Resistance, Type II Diabetes and Energy
When excess salt is lost from the body, or the body is deficient in salt, due to low dietary intake, the brain will not crave salt. Sugar cravings occur when the blood sugar is low and when both the cells of the body and especially the cells of the brain are unable to receive adequate sugar. The brain utilizes 4 - 5 grams of carbohydrate per hour and the organs and all other bodily functions between 10 - 15 grams. Without the right kind of salt, the body is unable to extract the sugar from the carbohydrates, regardless how much carbohydrate has been eaten. This is due in part to the fact that the carbohydrate has not been digested properly — salt is integral in the creation of digestive and other enzymes. Therefore, low salt intake can contribute to insulin resistance which in many, over time and without remediation progresses to type II diabetes. New research shows that Alzheimers, dementia and memory problems are linked to the deterioration of brain cells due to insulin resistance and their eventual demise. Type 3 diabetes is the title that has been proposed for Alzheimer´s disease resulting from insulin resistance in the brain.
Your Adrenals Need Salt
Sodium and potassium levels are regulated by the adrenal hormones. The hormone aldosterone controls the body´s ability to hold onto sodium, so when the adrenals are generating adequate aldosterone, we retain enough sodium. Lower aldosterone = lower sodium. And since water always follows salt the body becomes dehydrated, with a reduced blood volume, leading to weakness, dizziness, fatigue, low blood pressure and related issues. Chronic dehydration leads to chronic illness, fatigue and stress to the body in perpetuity until we break the cycle with the addition of unrefined salt to correct the imbalance and give the adrenal glands an opportunity to heal.
As a BodyMind nutritionist, the observation is that 99% of clients have mild to severe insulin resistance. Symptoms of insulin resistance vary in quantity and severity. The most common being lack of energy, regardless of the quantity and type of food eaten; poor sleep, and difficulty with memory and mental sharpness. One of the most important corrective measures is to introduce unrefined salt to the diet. A regular healthy intake of salt begins to correct the resistance, aiding in the healing and repair of each cell, fostering improved electrical communication between the cells. Energy levels often increase in as little as 24 hours along with insulin sensitivity.
Other Benefits of Natural Unrefined Salt?
Following are a list of the most important reasons why to ensure a healthy intake of unrefined salt in the diet on a daily basis. It is not, however, an exhaustive list.
How to Identify Natural Healthy Salt
Some sea salt is naturally harvested and sun dried, while others are refined, heated and treated. The general rule of thumb is that if the salt is completely white and pours easily out of a salt shaker it has been treated. Unrefined sea salt is grey-ish, or speckled. Himalayan salt is pink in colour and is always unrefined. Other choices include brands like Redmond´s Real Salt and some kosher salt that is easy to identify as long as it is not pure white. It is unusual to find natural salt at the grocery store and so you´ll need to visit a health or nutrition store. A final note — since unrefined salt does not have added iodine, be sure to add seaweed and seafood to your diet on a daily basis, or see that your multivitamin contains iodine.
This is just one of dozens of scientifically based applications used by BodyMind nutritionists designed to improve your health and wellness. Imagine what an entire program structured over 90 days to six months will do for your wellbeing! For more information on how to get started on your wellness program contact contact Elissa Michaud, Certified BodyMind Nutritionist today.
The information contained in this article is not medical advice. Always consult your physician.
No Benefit to Reducing Salt Intake
Low Salt Increases Insulin Resistance
Low salt intake does not translate into a higher risk of hypertension or CVD complications. Lower sodium excretion associated with higher CVD mortality.
Low salt leads to increased risk of CVD
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Sodium Potassium and ATP Generation