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Contradicting Medical Advice on Daily Salt Intake: Know the Truth!
We have all been told to lower our daily salt intake. It is true that many foods, specifically processed and junk foods have a lot of sodium in them. While we should be cutting out or at least minimising these processed foods, we should not be cutting out salt completely. Medical experts have gotten it all wrong. Not only is it wrong to assume that one particular diet works for everyone, but studies have shown that sodium is not, in fact, the evil substance the medical community has made it out to be.
Your body needs sodium to function properly, and cutting out too much or all of it is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in the name of being healthy. In fact, one of the most common causes of too little sodium is when people who drink too much water or do not replenish their electrolytes after exercise. The result is them feeling absolutely miserable and sick instead of healthy.
Even in terms of toting low salt intake for weight loss, the weight that is actually lost is water. While no one wants to be bloated, your body getting rid of too much water leaves you dehydrated. The key is to get enough salt, not too much, and not too little. Although, there are a group of people that should take high salt diets like the whole low carb, keto, Aktin, Paleo people.
Hyponatremia is the condition where there is not enough sodium in your blood. In very severe cases, it can be fatal, but the symptoms show up very early and are very unpleasant, so it's rare for hyponatremia to become so severe.
Symptoms Of Hyponatremia:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle spasms
- Changes in personality
- In severe cases, seizures and coma
Some causes are as simple as mentioned with people who drink water excessively or forget to eat before a workout or after. For athletes who exercise intensely or for long periods of time, a sports drink can be very helpful in replacing lost electrolytes.
Other Causes Of Hyponatremia Are:
- Not getting enough salt from your diet
- Disorders of the thyroid gland
- Disorders of the adrenal glands
- Certain medications such as diuretics, antidepressants or seizure medication
- Illnesses that cause dehydration like pneumonia or urinary tract infection
- Liver problems
- Heart problems
- Kidney problems
- Certain Cancers
As you can see, there are many causes for hyponatremia. The situation can be worsened if salt is cut out of the diet.
What Does Sodium Do
Contrary to what we may have been lead to believe, sodium is important for the correct functioning of our bodies. We need enough sodium so that we can be healthy. It's not that doctors do not know that our bodies need sodium/salt, but rather that they believe that we need far less than we actually do.
The Role Of Sodium In The Body:
- Regulates blood pressure
- Regulates the amount of fluid in your cells
- Ensures proper contraction of muscles
- Regulation of your blood sugar levels
- Supports the adrenal glands
- Ensures healthy neuron function in your brain, which helps you to be able to think clearly and for your nerves to function properly.
- Transportation of nutrients to and from cells
- Proper acid-base balance in the body so that your pH is regulated
A Low Salt Diet Causes:
- An increased risk of diabetes due to insulin resistance
- Cholesterol problems
- Risk for heart attack increases as does the risk of dying from a heart attack
- Sleep problems
- Frequent muscle cramps
High Salt Diet Benefits (6 g of Salt Per Day):
- Increased metabolism which enables you to lose excess weight and maintain a healthy weight
- Less bloating because your fluids are regulated better
- You are better hydrated because salt attracts fluids into your cells
- Better stress response and sleep
Salt Intake And Blood Pressure
This is one of the biggest reasons we have been told to cut down on our sodium intake. The American Heart Association recommends that we consume no more than 2300 mg per day. For those suffering from high blood pressure, they recommend no more than 1500 mg per day. This equates to only a teaspoon per day, or for those with hypertension, half a teaspoon per day.
There have been numerous studies, including the PURE study which found that eating less than 2500-3000 mg of sodium per day actually increases the risk of heart disease and hypertension which is the opposite of what the AHA recommends to lower the risk for these conditions. Bear in mind that if you do suffer from high blood pressure already, that it is likely that you do not need any more sodium or could be getting too much already.
You should be in this case limiting pre-made processed foods. Or better look at your potassium intake. Read more about Potassium here.
Salt And Potassium Relationship
Potassium and sodium work together in the body. Just like sodium, potassium also regulates blood pressure, the amount of fluid in your cells and balances your electrolytes, one of which is sodium. If you consume enough potassium, 4700 mg per day is the RDA (meaning the minimum requirement to avoid deficiency), you will have a much healthier sodium level in your body.
The PURE study (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology study) tested 157,543 people from 18 countries and concluded that consuming more than 6 g of sodium does, in fact, appear to increase blood pressure, but found that when people consumed more potassium they had better blood pressure levels despite their sodium levels. Dr. Mercola has a nice summary of the study and weighs in on it. You can check it out here.
5000 mg of potassium regulates your sodium level so well that you do not have to worry so much about your sodium intake. In fact, in our desire to be healthier, we often go for the low sodium processed foods. But just as with low-fat products, other unhealthy things are added to improve the taste such as MSG. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a common substance added to foods to make them taste better. But MSG increases the risk of Lou Gehrig's disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and eye damage aside from simply triggering allergic reactions in some people.
Fatigue, headaches, and obesity are also major side effects of MSG. You should rather be using a healthy form of salt on healthy food as opposed to only half a teaspoon of salt a day, buying foods that trick us into thinking they're healthier or are dangerously high in sodium and sugar. A healthy whole food diet is the best way to increase your nutrient intake including potassium.
Swiss chard, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes and acorn squash have some of the highest potassium contents. They also do not contain all the sodium and sugar that processed foods do. This leaves you free to season your healthy foods to taste without needing to worry about destroying your health.
Types Of Salt
The quality of your salt matters. Salt contains two very important nutrients that your body gets from your diet, sodium, and chloride. It is true that table salt does also include this, but the problem is that table salt is often refined. It's bleached and heated to high temperatures which remove some of the healthier trace minerals that salt contains. It's also higher in sodium than healthier forms of salt.
The sodium levels of table salt are so high (97%) that your body can struggle to get rid of the excess. This causes the problems commonly associated with too much sodium such as high blood pressure. Another problem with table salt is that it often contains preservatives that are not very healthy. One of the worst is aluminum hydroxide which can increase your risk for Alzheimer's.
One benefit of table salt is that it often has added iodine, but the iodine needs to be stabilized and so there are chemicals and substances that are added to do this I recommend that you stop using table salt. You can use much healthier forms of salt that provide trace nutrients like calcium, magnesium and potassium and less sodium. This means that you can put enough on your food to really enhance the flavor without getting too much sodium in and can benefit from the trace minerals in the salt too.
Real Recommendation On Salt Intake
The amount of salt you need differs from person to person. One example is if you follow a low carb (carbohydrate) diet, such as a ketogenic diet or the paleo diet, you do need a higher intake of salt. A low carb diet causes your kidneys to excrete more sodium and so does the bloating that came with a high carb diet. But it does mean that you need more salt so that you do not become deficient in sodium.
Athletes also tend to need more salt. Other things that might affect how much salt you need are certain illnesses and certain medications. Your body needs a lot more salt when you’re stressed because salt is necessary for your stress hormones to work properly .The recommended salt intake is currently set at a maximum of 2300 mg of sodium, which is about a teaspoon of salt.
But most people respond well to anything between 2500 mg and 6000 mg of sodium per day, keeping your potassium around 5grams a day. Doctors recommend 2-3 grams. But the right amount of high-quality salt is the double that. It's around 6 grams. I eat 6 -7 grams per day. You have to test it for yourself, if you feel bloated, then lower the amount and if you feel energized, go for it.
If you are really worried about your levels, you can get your sodium levels checked through a blood test. 2.5 grams per day is the minimum that your body needs and you can go as high as up to 7 grams per day.
Himalayan Pink Salt:The High-Quality Salt
In addition to table salt, there are other types of salt available. Table salt is mined from underground salt deposits, sea salt is evaporated from sea water or saltwater lakes and rock salt comes from rocky areas under the sea, above and below ground, but are usually solid when mined. Natural salts that are unprocessed offer the best benefits.
Himalayan pink salt is the best type of salt on the market. The pink color is caused by the healthy mineral content. It's one of the most nutrient-rich salts and contains 84 different trace elements that benefit your health. Some of the most notable trace elements Himalayan pink salt contains is calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
I won't say that it is high in nutrients, it has just trace minerals, but worth adding to your diet. Not only do you get the sodium and chloride that you need, but it does not overburden your body like table salt does with sodium. Your body is better able to maintain balance and get rid of any excess electrolytes, like sodium. It also helps to replenish electrolytes when needed.
Iodine Concern While Consuming Himalyan Salt
It is my duty to give you all the complete picture and that was the reason I started writing because I was fed up getting incomplete information. Iodine is one example. We should know that, The one thing that most brands of table salt have that Himalayan and most sea salts do not is added iodine. Iodine was added to table salt in the 1920's because people were developing goiters, which looks like a bulge in the neck and is a result of iodine deficiency.
Switching to Himalayan salt may mean that you need to use a supplement. Iodine can be obtained from foods like raw dairy products, eggs, seafood, sea vegetables and vegetables grown in soil containing iodine. But it can be hard to get enough iodine especially if we live busy lives or travel a lot. We generally need around 150 mcg per day, but pregnant and breastfeeding women need more.
Iodine is important for good thyroid function and a deficiency can lead to problems losing and maintaining a healthy weight among other things.
Craving Salty Foods
A craving for salty foods is a craving you should never ignore. Because sodium is necessary for good hydration levels and even helps with anxiety and stress response, it may be your body telling you that it needs sodium. Adrenal fatigue is quite common among those who do not eat enough salt, especially for those on a low carb diet.
As mentioned before, those on a low carb diet need to eat more salt because their bodies excrete more sodium. Sodium and your other electrolytes play an important role in making sure that your stress hormones function as they should and that your adrenal glands are healthy.
An imbalance in these hormones or chronic stress can cause adrenal fatigue. Salt eases stress and can help restore balance to these hormones and in doing that, it helps to heal your adrenal glands. You'll then be able to handle stress better, have a stronger immune system and more energy.
My Final Words On Table Salt
There are times when a high salt intake is not the best thing for you. If you are already overweight or struggling with high blood pressure, this would be the case.
- High blood pressure: A high salt diet does add more sodium that can make it hard to control your blood pressure. Make sure that you are eating enough potassium in your diet to maintain a good sodium balance.
- Overweight or obesity: Your risk factors for many health issues rise when you are overweight or obese. This includes heart disease and high blood pressure. Many overweight people already struggle with high blood pressure. Rather stick to a lower salt intake.
- After giving birth: Here in Germany they do not know what my mom knew. Just after the delivery, my body swelled up because I was eating too much hospital salty food. When I told my mom the same, she told me to eliminate the salt and I was far better.
When my little girl was born, everyone told me to avoid salt for the first year of her life. But I always added high-quality pink salt to her food. You must all be wondering why your doctor does not tell you the same. The problem is that they stick to the knowledge they learned in the medical school and very few doctors actually update their knowledge and remember one information, does not fit to all. In medical training, especially in the past, nutrition is barely covered which has added to the problem.
The Salt That I Use
Himalayan pink salt (80%) Lite (20%) because of its potassium content. Find it here on Amazon. In India, you can find something called Tata lite salt. Don't use this salt if you have The problem with lite salt is that the manufacturer does not write who should avoid this salt. There is a case study where a women case of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and diabetic nephropathy took lite salt and developed Hyperkalemia, meaning too much potassium
The Right Approach (Conclusion)
- Switch to Himalayan salt, keeping in mind that you need to get your iodine either from natural food sources or a supplement instead. For Iodine supplement look if it comes from kelp as a source.
- If you are on low carb diet, definitely increase your salt intake. Take Himalayan pink unrefined salt and Lite salt, which is high in potassium. Keep sipping it the whole day.
- If you eat lots of processed food, a very high carb diet, are obese or have other health problems like diabetes, hypertension, still, then check your sodium consumption because you are already getting enough
- Also, check your potassium levels, one cannot check that, but it is good to have an estimate. When the tests were done in the USA, 97% of people were low on potassium. Your potassium and sodium ratio is important for healthy heart