The World Was Built on Salt
Every living being on the planet needs salt. It’s essential for proper bodily function. In fact, civilizations were built on salt. Salzburg, Austria was one of the largest places in mainland Europe that contained salt beds. Sandwich and Norwich (Fun Fact: the suffix “wich” denotes a place where salt is sourced) were the most prominent locations in England for salt. And, Buffalo, NY was named after the vast bison herds that migrated to that part of the United States to find salt. Salt is essential to existence. So, how did it get such a bad reputation in the health and medical community?
Salt Restrictions and Negative Consequences
Salt restrictions in the United States, in particular, started in the 1970’s when Lewis Dahl concluded there was a correlation between hypertension (high blood pressure) and salt. He strongly influenced decision makers in the government that his study–which fed rats an enormous amount of salt (over 50 times the general consumption of the western world)–contributed to heart disease and high blood pressure. He also cited his observation that populations that consume higher amounts of salt experienced more hypertension.
Sodium is the main mineral found in salt, but it also is packed in foods that are not nutrient-dense at all and highly processed. Processed food, food that is readily available, and junk food contain many harmful ingredients that contribute to poor health. The problem with processed foods are many, but one is an imbalance of minerals, most lacking key minerals like potassium but is overloaded with sodium.
As modern society began to evolve and foods were made more available and affordable, people’s health started to take a turn for the worse. This notion was not included in Dahl’s assessment, and an essential nutrient to the human diet was given an unwarranted reputation.
New evidence and research are supporting the fact that salt is pivotal to optimal health and well-being. Without salt, there are an array of negative health consequences. It can create insulin resistance within the body and be the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Even more so, sufferers of Type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of death if there is a significant salt deficiency. Lack of salt in the diet can also cause heart problems and even increase lipids in the bloodstream such as triglycerides higher cholesterol levels.
The medical condition hyponatremia occurs when there is a lack of salt in the diet. The symptoms and complications of hyponatremia are:
- -Nausea and vomiting
- -Loss of energy and fatigue
- -Restlessness and irritability
- -Muscle weakness, spasms or cramps
While true sodium depletion is somewhat rare, many people suffer from an imbalance of minerals in the body due to lower intake, lower absorption in the gut, or other conditions such as adrenal dysfunction. Some more common symptoms of mineral deficiency could include:
- -Muscle cramps
- -Hair loss
- -Poor immune system
Older individuals are at a higher risk of having serious complications from hyponatremia because they are typically on a diuretic, which dumps sodium from the body.
Salt and Its Various Forms
Salt is a chemical compound that is (mainly) sodium chloride. Sea salt and—for intents and purposes—table salt actually have the same molecular structure. Table salt is salt leftover from evaporated sea water. Table salt is usually from the salt reserves on land. It is mined and goes through heavy processing. The processing of table salt consists of high temperatures and bleach. This type of arduous processing eliminates minerals. The typical processing for table salt also includes the addition of toxic molecules—fluoride, iodine, and aluminum hydroxide. The end result is a substance that is 97.5 percent sodium chloride and 2.5 percent harmful particles.
Sea salt is crystallized from current bodies of seawater, either by open-air solar evaporation or by a quicker vacuum evaporation process. Sea salt is either sold as unrefined or refined. The unrefined sea salt is unwashed and therefore may appear grey in color. Unrefined sea salt is also coated in trace minerals, algae, and other biotic organisms that can tolerate high levels of salt. All these may contribute to a more complex flavor.
Unfortunately, our oceans are loaded with pollution and most sea salt is heavily refined these days stripping away the trace minerals. The purest and trusted type of salt to ingest is pink salt. The most reputable form of pink salt is the Himalayan salt. There are reserves, however, of this pristine substance all around the world from Hawaii to Australia to Poland. The evidence is in the appearance. Iron oxide gives pink salt its hue. The more color—the better. Himalayan salt is said to contain 84 different minerals, all needed for optimal health.
The Real Purpose of Salt
Salt is actually life-saving. There is a reason it is used in extreme forms of dehydration, it regulates and balances water in the body. Salt facilitates sending signals to our nerves and muscles and helps sustain the fluid content inside and outside the blood cells. Oral Rehydration Salts and solutions such as Gatorade prevent the body from being dehydrated and balances electrolytes. Even mild dehydration leads to difficulty with mental tasks and causes fatigue, tension, and anxiety. Dehydration also plays a role in detrimentally affecting the mood. (This effect on the mood is found to be more significant in women rather than men.)
But salt can do so even more. As mentioned, it plays a significant role in the regulation of blood sugar health. It also:
- -Promotes energy
- -Aids in the absorption of food particles
- -Supports vascular & respiratory health
- -Promotes sinus health
- -Prevents muscle cramps
- -Promotes bone strength
- -Regulates your sleep & moods
- -Maintains healthy libido
- -Enhances immune function
- -Stabilizes heart rate & blood pressure
- -Extracts excess acidity
Salt is also used as a cleaning solution too. This chemical compound can cure infections in the nasal and throat passageways.
How Much Salt Should I Eat?
Newer studies show that diets with extremely high salt intake AND low salt intake both are harmful for health. So, with most things, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. The CDC recommends Americans consume under 2300mg/day. Other diets like the DASH diet, which is prescribed for many with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, recommends a consumption of under 1500mg/day. These recommendations fly in the face of human physiology and studies in prestigious medical journals. If you crave salt, this means that your body is naturally lacking minerals, which could be due to many different things like poor adrenal function. In order to curb salt cravings- drink a glass of Himalayan Saltwater(a pinch), or use Himalayan Salt liberally on your food. This is better choice than reaching for those processed chips or crackers. Your body is the best gauge for your salt intake, but I usually recommend salting food liberally to taste and even adding in a pinch of Himalayan salt to water or drinks. However, this can vary from person to person and condition to condition. If for some reason your blood pressure rises with salt intake or you experience other negative symptoms, do not increase your salt intake.