Chances are, if you follow mainstream medical advice or watch the news, you’ve seen some negative press about salt.
In fact, the low-sodium industry is booming!
Thank goodness that this sodium reduction, along with a low-fat diet and eating more whole grains has so greatly increased the health of Americans over the last few decades…
What’s that? It hasn’t?
And you’d be right… if we are talking about the chemically produced table salt that is added to most processed foods, meats and snacks.
Table Salt = BAD!
Table salt, which is 97% Sodium Chloride (NaCl) is chemically produced, bleached and devoid of most other nutrients. It also contains Aluminum in many cases, which has been linked to Alzheimers disease and other problems in the body.
This type of salt is not naturally occurring and in fact, when salt-water fish are placed in salt water made with table salt… they die.
This type of salt is also devoid of the many trace minerals that the body needs… so it is a wise decision to avoid it.
The problem is, that when companies reduce table salt in their foods to make it low-sodium, they don’t replace it with trace minerals and healthier options, they often replace it with MSG and other chemical additives to achieve the flavor without the salt.
Unfortunately, many of the studies done on sodium consumption use table salt, not real salt, in the research, so there is now a body of evidence showing that salt consumption is harmful, when in reality, no distinction has been made between chemically created table salt and real salt containing trace minerals.
If you have any of this type of table salt around your house, I’d recommend that you stop using it immediately. Don’t throw it out though… you can use it in natural cleaning and stain treatment. (Just don’t eat it!)
Real Salt = Good!
To the degree that table salt is bad, real salt is healthy, necessary and good.
While the research linking regular table salt to disease and health disorders is correct, we’ve thrown out the baby with the (salt) water.
Consider this: the body contains high concentrations of many minerals and nutrients, and while it needs water, it also must have the proper concentration of these nutrients in bones, blood and organs to function properly.
A person can’t be given an IV of plain water- it must contain a careful balance of minerals, including salt!
Salt, in its natural form is not only necessary for the body to function, but it is extremely important in the right concentration for optimal health.
While many accept the common belief that high salt intake leads to hypertension:
“In a study of 60,000 nurses followed by Harvard researchers, those whose diet was very low in calcium or magnesium had a 23 percent greater chance of developing high blood pressure over four-years.”(source)
Other studies have shown that it is actually proper calcium, magnesium and other mineral balance, not sodium reduction, that improves blood pressure, hypertension and other problems.
“The notion that salt intake and blood pressure were intimately related emerged early in this century when doctors discovered that they could lower the high blood pressure of people with kidney failure by feeding them a rice-based diet extraordinarily low in salt.”
Unconvinced, this eventually led to more comprehensive research on worldwide salt intake, which found that:
“And in 1989, researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine decided to re-evaluate the link between salt and blood pressure through a study of more than 10,000 people in 52 cultures around the world. Participants ranged from Yanomamo Indians in Brazil, whose diet is almost salt free, to residents of northern China, who eat as much salt in a day as a Yanomamo eats in three years.
Instead of merely estimating salt consumption, the researchers calculated precise values based on urine samples. They took into consideration obesity and alcohol consumption.
Among their findings were that except in a few places with extremely low salt consumption, the amount of sodium in the diet was unrelated to the prevalence of hypertension in a society or to its average blood pressure. Moreover, although the high rates of hypertension in the United States had long been considered a function of this country’s love for salty processed food, the study placed Americans right in the middle of the world’s salt intake curve.”
“A decade ago, when researchers at the University of Indiana put patients on a low-salt diet, they found that blood pressure went down in about a third of patients, but that in an equal number it actually rose. Dr. Pavel Hamet of the University of Montreal recently studied 200 Canadians with widely varying salt intakes and found that the saltiness of the diet bore no relation to whether a person was hypertensive, as long as the subject had adequate calcium in the diet and was not a heavy drinker.”
Many of the studies done on the supposed link between salt intake and hypertension are used to justify a low-sodium diet, especially in cardiac patients. Unfortunately, these studies fail to take into account the difference between real salt and chemical table salt, and the importance of proper salt consumption in the reduction of risk of other health problems like osteoporosis, cancer, arthritis, skin conditions, hormone balance and nerve function.
If you’ve been limiting salt for health reasons, you must differentiate between chemical table salt and healthy nutrient-dense salt.
Do you experience:
- High Blood Pressure
- Kidney Stones
- Gall Bladder Problems
- Sore or Swollen Joints
- Brain Fog
- Poor Sleep
- Asthma or Respiratory Illness
- Irregular heart beat
- Poor adrenal health
- Diabetes or blood sugar issues
- Poor muscle tone or lack of coordination
- Water retention, edema or swelling (actually result from too little salt… not too much!)
These are all conditions that can result from too little salt and the resulting mineral imbalance.
It is important to note that regular table salt will actually make these conditions worse because it will create more mineral imbalance by delivering too much sodium and chloride and not enough of the other necessary minerals.
Through our efforts to remove processed table salt with the low-sodium craze (a good thing to remove) we have created a deficiency of the minerals found in natural salt.
What does Salt do?
The negatively charged ions in real salt, especially when combined with water, support a host of hormonal, chemical and electrical processes in the body.
The trace mineral concentration in real salt makes it especially supportive of nerve and heart health. (Scary, since cardiac patients are often told to reduce sodium). Some doctors have even had success in improving irregular heart beat and lessening neurological disorders with proper doses of real salt.
Some other health-related processes that salt can support are:
- Food absorption: Proper mineral balance in food and water (from salt/trace minerals) helps the body absorb and assimilate food and water better.
- Cell Cleansing- The negatively charged ions in real salt and the trace mineral concentration let it cross into cells and pull toxins from them.
- Blood Pressure- Real salt actually helps regulate blood pressure (not raise it) when taken in the correct amounts.
- Heart Health- The negative ions in real salt help stabilize an irregular heart beat and support electro-chemical reactions in the body.
- pH Balance- The alkalizing effects of real salt help balance the body’s pH.
- Blood Sugar- Proper mineral balance from real salt helps increase insulin sensitivity and has even been shown helpful in patients with diabetes. (Note: It is especially helpful with type II diabetes, and while Type I diabetes cannot be reversed, it helps nutrient assimilation and other health factors in patients with Type I diabetes as well)
- Allergies- Some evidence shows that real salt dissolved in warm water is an effective natural antihistamine.
- Asthma and Sinus Trouble- Some patients experience asthma and sinus relief from taking salt internally and from using a salt inhaler. Salt can also be helpful in clearing up excess mucous and phlegm.
- Improved sleep- Balancing the trace minerals in the body is supportive of hormone processes and can improve sleep quality and duration.
- Reproductive Health- By supporting natural hormone function, real salt is also supportive of natural fertility and can improve reproductive health in both men and women.
- Cellulite- There is some evidence that cellulite is lessened by proper intake of regular salt. (I’ve seen this personally)
- Cell Communication- Its pH and ion concentration help improve chemical communication between cells.
- Muscle Cramps/Tension- The trace minerals and pH in real salt help alleviate muscle cramps (magnesium is also important here). This is one reason that you often see athletes soak in salt water/epsom salt baths.
- Bone Health- Over 1/4 of the body’s salt is in the bones. When sodium and trace mineral stores are not high enough in the body, it can pull salt from the bones to keep the rest of the body functioning. This can be a tremendous factor in osteoporosis. (Magnesium is important here as well)
- Adrenal and Thyroid Health- the pH and trace minerals in salt are extremely important for proper adrenal and thyroid function. If you suffer from problems with either of these glands, increasing salt consumption can greatly help improve symptoms.
- Nerve function- The electrical properties in real salt help support proper nerve function and communication throughout the body.
- Water Content of Body- Just as an IV must be in the proper electrolyte concentration to be absorbed, the trace mineral in real salt help the body naturally regulate the amount of water and trace minerals it needs.
- Sexual Health- The same hormone-supporting properties of salt make it supportive of healthy libido and sexual function
- Digestive Health- When consumed with water, real salt can help optimize the environment in the digestive system and increase stomach acid. This makes it helpful in dealing with digestive disorders, heartburn and other digestive problems.
- Though not scientifically studied, there are cases of doctors helping or eliminating conditions in their patients with the use of real salt and water, including: arthritis, lyme disease, hypertension, neurological disorders, skin issues.
- Eczema and Psoriasis- The same helpful properties in real salt make it helpful both internally and externally for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
- Oral Health- the trace minerals in salt can be helpful for oral health and for remineralizing teeth. Swishing with a salt water mixture daily can help improve oral health.
What Kind of Salt?
At our house, we have several different types of natural salt (black lava, Celtic sea salt, etc) but our favorite BY FAR is Himalayan Salt.
This type of salt is found deep in the Himalayan mountains and contains all 84 trace minerals needed by the body.
Unlike chemical salt, it is naturally pink or red and has a much milder flavor.
In my opinion, this is the highest quality salt available, as it is from the mineral rich Himalayan mountains and is not affected by the chemicals and toxins that are increasing in quantity even in natural sea salt.
I add this type of salt to almost all of our foods, and even take it plain in water at times.
How To Consume Enough Salt
If you aren’t used to consuming salt, it may be difficult to make a transition back to healthy salt consumption (though many people find that their bodies crave it and respond very well immediately).
If you aren’t used to eating enough salt, there are some easy ways you can increase your intake:
- Add real salt to your foods and avoid processed foods or eating out, since you will consume large amounts of processed table salt. Salt to taste and don’t worry about eating too much.
- Drink 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of quality salt in a quart of water daily to help raise your electrolyte and trace mineral levels.
- Soak in a relaxing bath with added magnesium (epsom salts) and Himalayan or Celtic Salt (2 tablespoons of each).
- For skin issues: Make a poultice of real salt and water (or honey) and apply to areas with eczema or psoriasis.
- Make a salt scrub with finely powdered sea salt and natural oil (like coconut or olive) to use as an exfoliant in the shower.
- Use a salt board for cooking and curing foods
- If you suffer from asthma or allergies, try a sea salt inhaler to help alleviate symptoms
- Use a Himalayan Salt Bar “Soap” in the shower to sooth and heal skin (some say this is very anti-aging) and is very gentle for children with eczema
- Use a Salt Deodorant Bar if you are sensitive to even natural deodorants
- Swish daily with a salt water mixture in the mouth for 30-60 seconds. The trace minerals in the salt will help remineralize teeth and the pH of the salt will help improve the pH of the mouth.
- Make sure you are also consuming enough magnesium and other minerals, as most people are also deficient in magnesium. Magnesium will help absorption of other minerals and vice versa.
- Though it won’t help sodium levels in the body, there is some evidence that a Himalayan salt lamp can ionize and cleanse the air. Either way, they are pretty!
We get our Himalayan salt from Mountain Rose Herbs in 5-pound bags, which is the cheapest and highest quality source I’ve found. Himalayan Salt is also available on Amazon (though this one doesn’t seem to be as high of quality) and in most health food stores.
If you are limiting your salt or consuming regular sea salt, I highly recommend that you make the switch to high quality salt as soon as you can.
Real salt is necessary for so many things within the body and this is one health change that is easy (and tasty) to make.
Our bodies naturally crave salty foods, and many people even crave the beach (real salt plus vitamin D!). Make sure you are consuming enough!
Important Note: As with many other healthy substances, the FDA is proposing measures that would force companies to limit the amount of sodium in foods (regardless of the type of salt) and could potentially limit access to quality salt. Go take a second and share your support!
What are your thoughts on salt? Scared of it? Unsure? Avid salt eater? Weigh in below!