I wanted to share with you a helpful tool I use when working with my clients… SALT.
I, like so many other people was convinced salt was a bad thing, and limiting your intake of it was a wise and health-conscience decision. We are told that a diet with a “high” salt intake could lead to issues such as high blood pressure, hypertension, edema, and heart disease. However, my personal experience with salt has been a positive one. In the past when I’ve cut salt out or decreased intake, it led to more health issues. Finally, my confusion lead to a whole lot of researching and experimenting. The following is my experience with salt.
Working with my clients and through research on how to help issues such as high blood pressure and edema, I discovered increasing salt intake was the answer to fixing them. The more I studied about the human body’s functions the more dumbfounding contradictions I found in the medical literature. For many years they have told us to stay away from salt, however, in an emergency situation, like dehydration, poisoning, or major blood loss, you would be given an intravenous drip of saline… SALT!!
Some doctors have been known to use salt to reduce inflammation, improve sleep, aid muscle recovery and function, increase insulin sensitivity, improve thyroid function, and stabilize blood pressure. So why is there so much conflicting information our there?!
When and How Did Salt Get Its Bad Rep?
In the 1950s drug companies marketed newly discovered (thiazide) diuretics to the general public. This new drug was being sold as a solution to deal with swelling, edema and hypertension. Pregnant women found themselves as a big market for the sale of diuretics. The one noticeable side effect of taking the drug was the loss of sodium in a person’s urine. This raised a few flags, but instead of questioning the safety of the drug, the diuretic company claimed this excessive sodium loss must be a result of too much salt consumption in the diet.
It is the belief of several doctors, including Dr. Ray Peat, that the diuretics industry convinced a whole generation of doctors that pregnant women should limit salt in their diet, take a diuretic for preventive measures, and restrict calories to prevent “excessive” weight gain. The advertising campaigns created also created a strong belief that salt was the culprit in hypertension.
Millions of women and their babies were harmed by these claims. The prescribed diuretics intended to treat high blood pressure, pulmonary edema, heart failure, “idiopathic edema,” orthostatic edema, obesity, and other forms of water retention, including pregnancy. The loss of all this sodium in their systems caused various disfunction in their bodies. And since they caused sodium to be excreted in the urine, their sale was accompanied by advising patients to reduce their salt intake to make the diuretic “more effective,” compounding the problem. Modern diuretics use new chemical mixtures, but still have a damaging and negative side effects on the kidneys.
The Study…and 50 deaths… or maybe more.
What about the actual studies regarding salt and the effect on the body? David McCarron, M.D., (professor of medicine and head of the Division of Nephrology, Hypertension and Clinical Pharmacology at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland) looked at the government’s recommendations and the figures they were based on. He found that people who limited their sodium intake had the highest blood pressure. In contrast, people who consumed more sodium had lower blood pressure or became “healthier”. [McCarron found this to be inaccurate and in his research he claim a calcium deficiency to actually be the cause of hypertension. Sadly, even though Dr. McCarron wrote 150 articles on the subject, the CA university where he taught, asked him to leave. Sodium was just an innocent bystander, but we’ll come back to this in a moment.]
Dr. Michael Alderman, a blood pressure researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and editor of the American Journal of Hypertension, said medical literature on salt and health effects were inconsistent. Allow me to explain…
The study was published in the May 4, 2011 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/899663. The objective of the study was to see whether the amount of urinary sodium excretion in a 24 hour period could predict blood pressure and health outcomes. The initial study only involved participants without high blood pressure. The results were considered at best suggestive and not conclusive. It included 3,681 middle-aged Europeans with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease who were followed for approximately 8 years.
The researchers analyzed the participants’ sodium consumption at the start and end of the study, and measured the amount of sodium that was lost over a 24-hour period. All the sodium a person consumes is lost in urine within a day, so this method is the most precise way to determine sodium consumption. However, that may have been inconsistent as well.
Dr. Peter Briss, a medical director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “its subjects who seemed to consume the smallest amount of sodium also provided less urine than those consuming more. This acted as an indication that they might not have collected all of their urine in an 24-hour period.” Briss thought the urine samples of those with lower sodium levels weren’t properly collected.
A follow up was implemented on all 3,681 participants over a period of around 8 years. Researchers found that the less salt people consumed, the more likely they were to die of heart disease — 50 people in the lowest third of salt consumption died during the study. 24 in the medium group, and 10 in the highest salt consumption group. Those eating the most salt had, on average, a slight increase in systolic blood pressure — a 1.71-millimeter increase in pressure for each 2.5-gram increase in sodium per day — they were no more likely to develop hypertension.
“If the goal is to prevent hypertension” with lower sodium consumption, said the lead author, Dr. Jan A. Staessen, a professor of medicine at the University of Leuven, in Belgium, “this study shows it does not work.”
What’s the cause for high blood pressure then?
Dr. Ray Peat teaches how low-salt diets have been shown to increase inflammation and activate the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone (RAA) system, stimulating greater activity of the sympathetic nervous system. Meaning, that low-salt diets trigger the stress and inflammation chain reaction in the body that can lead to hypertension.
Also having a deficiency in calcium causes an increase of the para-thyroid hormone to pull calcium out of the bones and moves into cells. When too much calcium enters a cell it activates many enzymes, prevents muscle, blood vessels, and nerve cells from relaxing, and eventually kills the cell.
How to fix the problem
Having a diet with a good amount of salt and calcium will relieve symptoms of hypertension, high blood pressure and edema. Sodium stimulates energy production and protects against inflammation and other stress reactions. It also activates thyroid function and pushes calcium from the cells and helps cells to relax.
Dr. Ray Peat recommends 2,000 mg of calcium and other alkalizing minerals: magnesium, sodium, and potassium to relieve your symptoms. Sodium also aids in the production of CO2. Increasing carbon dioxide eliminates calcium from the cells which will relax the blood vessels, allowing the calcium to move out of the blood vessels, and back into the bones, ultimately decreasing blood pressure, water retention and more symptoms of hypertension. Other ways to increase carbon dioxide in the cells, is to breathe into a bag, add a pinch of baking soda to your drink, or baking soda to your bath.