Why Salt is a Superfood and the Health Risks of Lowered Salt Intake - Blog Entry Apr 10, 2015
In this edition of "Finding Balance", we will discuss a very misunderstood and demonized nutrient in the body and that is salt. A good reference on the effects of salt in the body would be a well written article by Ray Peat PhD. I will do my best summarize a great article.
For many years we have been told that excess salt in the diet will cause a variety of different health problems but most prominent of those being heart disease and high blood pressure. The data that shows that salt restriction has a short term decrease of blood pressure by a few points is well documented and presented throughout the mainstream media. What is less well known is the long term effects of salt restriction on the body. Bad news.... It actually has the opposite effect of decreasing our longevity and increasing stress on the body. Let's try to understand why that happens.
First of all, it is clearly understood yet not well publicized that salt restriction leads to an increase in mortatlity meaning you are more likely to die faster on a salt restricted diet. Also people who increased their salt intake decreased their risk of coronary events by 36%. Now correlation does not prove causation so lets delve a bit more into the physiology behind salt and its role in the body.
Sodium plays an integral role with a chemical call albumin in your blood to regulate blood volume in your body. When sodium becomes low, albumin cannot keep fluid from leaving the blood and entering your tissues. This causes edema or swelling of the tissues. This is similar to a puffiness that people can get when you injure a joint such as an ankle sprain. However, when our blood volume gets low we secrete a horomone called renin, this hormone increases the blood pressure to help oxygenate tissues when we have lower blood volume to do the same job. In other words, over the long term salt restriction INCREASES BLOOD PRESSURE.
As well as increasing blood pressure, salt restriction can cause us to secrete more adrenaline, causing insomnia and other sleep disturbances. It can also make the blood vessles more stiff making blood pressure go higher. Salt restriction also decreases thyroid hormone production and lowers your metabolism. Now that we got all the negative out of the way, let's talk about how we can avoid all these problems by having salt in the diet.
What kind of salt should we have? This is a question I get a lot from my clients, family and friends. My answer to this is to first consume foods with adequate balance of sodium and other minerals in them naturally. This would include pasture raised animal products, especially raw cheese, yogurt and milk. There are massive amounts of nutrients in these foods from real pastured farms (see link in previous blog) so much so that I'd have to write ten blogs to adequately cover it all. Salt is one of these. You can also use a celtic or himalayan salt. Either would provide a good balance of salt and other minerals. You notice I did not say a bag of potato chips that contain iodized salt that has been run through massive amounts of chemical processes. The more natural the better.
Remember that just like anything, we can overdo whether it s too much or too little salt, water or exercise. Listen to your own body when you put anything in your body. Until next time.
In good health,
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