The Importance of Salt in Your Diet
Have you ever heard of hyponatremia? This is a fancy way of saying that one has low sodium levels in their blood. Did you know that this is fairly common? Over 3 to 6 million cases require medical treatment yearly (Springer, Gabler & LoVecchio, 2016). But how can this be? We are told to avoid salt. Has anyone ever really questioned why?
The FDA states that “the average daily sodium intake for Americans is 3,400 milligrams per day, an excessive amount that raises blood pressure and poses health risks. In general, Americans should limit daily sodium consumption to 2,300 milligrams, but this is an upper safe limit, not a recommended daily allowance.“
Should we really keep it that low? Did you know that your blood is supposed to be similar to seawater – comprised of calcium, magnesium, chloride, and sodium? Where are we supposed to get these in nature if not for REAL salt? (Real = with color)
Let us think about this in-depth for a moment. When you get sick and go to the hospital, what is the first thing they pop into your veins? Saline solution, right? When we get a sinus infection, a good therapy is to irrigate our sinuses with a saline solution. When your eye gets something in it, what do you put in it? Saline solution, right? When you get a sore throat, what do you do? Gargle with saltwater!
Well, to be clear, the saline solution is basically salt water. It is sodium chloride (NaCl, table salt) in water. It is used to flush wounds and skin abrasions, rinse contact lenses, and various other health purposes.
Almost all bodily fluids are salty—blood, sweat, tears, saliva, etc. Let me put this bluntly: salt is essential for life; your body does not make it, your body does not store it, and without it, our bodies become chemically unbalanced, our muscles and nervous system cease to function correctly, and eventually, we die. If it were so bad for us, I really doubt the first thing we would do is turn to it for help when we are sick. So what sense does it make to avoid it? Most doctors will say it is because avoiding salt will help you lower or avoid high blood pressure.
Well, thank goodness for actual science. As noted in Scientific American, in 2003, the Cochrane Collaboration, an international, independent, not-for-profit healthcare research organization funded in part by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, concluded that “there is little evidence for long-term benefit from reducing salt intake (Moyer, 2011).” In fact, in 2011, the American Journal of Hypertension found “no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure (Taylor, Ashton, Moxham, Hooper & Ebrahim, 2011).” Many other studies have found similar conclusions. So why doesn’t your doctor know this? Well, they probably do know it, but perhaps you have to ask yourself whether it gets them paid to see you any less.
The Recommended Daily for Americans is 2,300 milligrams a day (Palacios, 2013). Still, many Americans are suffering from symptoms associated with not having enough. It is said that the average American eats up about 3,700 milligrams of salt a day, and this has been fairly steady for the last five decades or so. Is that bad?
Let us look at Japan for a second. Even when factoring in the drinkers, Japan boasts one of the highest life expectancy rates globally, but they consume an AVERAGE of 4,650 milligrams of salt daily. Think about that! Not only that, but they also boast a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than most other countries. Hard to believe based on what we have been sold, I know.
Perhaps salt is not the issue alone, so let us dig a bit deeper. The truth is that when you are eating salt, you are consuming both sodium and chloride. Interestingly, having a low chloride level is associated with a higher probability of death (McCallum, 2014). So, either way, such consumption is obviously a good thing.
True, some will point to the Japanese and say that they have a higher risk of stroke, and American medicine is quick to blame the salt. But consider ALCOHOL! In Japan, there is something known as “Karōshi.” You will not hear about things like this in America. It means “death from overwork.”
What does one do if they feel they are being worked to death? Probably drink, right? Good assumption. I poke fun here, but seriously, drinking is a part of their culture. Accordingly, older studies of the Japanese people have shown that alcohol intake was directly associated with their blood pressure issues, and it is getting worse (Reed, McGee, Yano & Hankin, 1985).
According to the CMAJ, a peer-reviewed general medical journal, “although alcohol consumption is now decreasing in most industrialized countries, it has quadrupled in Japan since 1960 (Milne, 2002).” And wouldn’t you know it? Recent studies have shown that too much alcohol can increase your risk of a stroke just as much as high blood pressure or diabetes (Thompson, 2015). So if we use logic and reason as a guide, heart attack and stroke due to excessive stress, excessive alcohol, and starvation diets seem a lot more in line with reality than blaming plain old salt. The evidence clearly supports that theory.
Most Americans are worried about strokes that occur due to problems with the blood supply to the brain; either the blood supply is blocked or a blood vessel within the brain ruptures, often due to high cholesterol. So now factor in the lack of soluble fiber and a diet rich in convenience food, and we can begin to see why.
As it turns out, high cholesterol can often be countered with Iodine; an element quite a few simply do not get enough of. Dr. Michael Donaldson says that “Iodine stabilizes the heart rhythm, lowers serum cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and is known to make the blood thinner as well, judging by longer clotting times seen by clinicians. Iodine is not only good for the cardiovascular system, but it is also vital (Elwardt, 2006).” So ask yourself what your major source of Iodine is.
Don’t get me wrong; some health conditions may require lower salt intake. I am not saying that salt is the answer to all of your woes here, but like anything I discuss, there is always a bigger picture to see and that bigger picture, in this case, is that salt has clearly been wrongfully removed from the diets of far too many. Salt is clearly a component of this bigger picture. And while we are at it, and since I have referenced it above, the Japanese also consume fairly high levels of Iodine. I would stretch to say Americans consume next to none (comparatively).
So unless otherwise instructed by a physician, it seems that one should consume NO LESS than 2,300 milligrams of REAL salt a day, but not more than 4,650 milligrams of salt a day, along with PLENTY of fresh spring water. It should also be noted that you will not get much-refined salt in your food if you eat right.
NOTE: IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO ALWAYS AVOID REFINED FOODS – INCLUDING REFINED SALT, SUGAR, FLOUR, ETC.
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This article was originally published as a chapter in the book Natural Health Made Easy: The Briobiotic Protocol (2016)
Dr. Robertson is a health researcher and educator, not a physician. The information provided here is not medical advice, a professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or service to you or any other individual. The information provided is for educational and anecdotal purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation, or the advice of your physician or other healthcare providers. Dr. Robertson is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or additional information, services, or product you obtain or utilize. IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, YOU SHOULD IMMEDIATELY CALL 911 OR YOUR PHYSICIAN.