Salt and Health

by Steven Carney on April 4, 2013

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I know you’ve heard of salt. It’s everywhere in our food and drinks! And numerous studies have shown negative health effects, especially for raising BP (causing hypertension). But salt (sodium chloride) has much broader effects on health, destructive in the amounts most of us use. Here’s some critical info you need to know about salt:

Salt, or sodium chloride is a necessary mineral for many bodily functions and is part of the electrolyte system. That’s the system that regulates fluids and electrical and ion transport into and out of cells, including muscle and nerve function. The electrolyte system needs to be in balance, and that’s where too much sodium, in relation to other important minerals, causes a problem.

Sodium helps to regulate fluids in the body but excess sodium causes water retention in tissues. Over time, that extra water causes bloating, extra weight and blood pressure to rise; it’s important to have some, but not too much sodium. Based on various studies, most Americans eat way too much salt, even double healthy levels! All that sodium is linked to more uric acid and blood vessel damage. About 30% of Americans have hypertension so it’s a significant issue.

One recent study showed that excess sodium led to more than 2 million deaths worldwide through:

  • Hypertension
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Other heart/vessel problems, including heart arrhythmias

Research has also shown that elevated salt intake can contribute to immune dysfunction and auto-immune problems, including:

  • Neurological problems
  • MS
  • Other problems like psoriasis

Sodium and potassium, oh my!

I mentioned electrolytes above. They refer to several minerals which help provide fluid balance inside and outside cells, as well as the normal electrical conduction and function of muscles, nerves and organs.

Some common electrolytes are potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride and magnesium. These minerals only work effectively when they are in the right balance, otherwise problems will occur. We need far more potassium than sodium for good health but often consume far more sodium. By reversing the proper ratio, we cause disruptions in cellular and tissue function.

Western diets high in processed foods and fast foods are also high in sodium, and that can cause imbalances in other minerals like calcium and magnesium. Excess sodium is hard on your tissues and kidneys. It increases urination and minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium are also lost when we excrete the excess sodium!

Those minerals, including others like zinc and copper, also play a critical in brain and mood health. When the minerals are out of balance, your brain and moods will be negatively affected. When you consider that many processed foods have both salt and sugar/refined carbs (also known to use up vitamin and minerals), plus they spike blood sugar and raise inflammation, you can see how destructive these processed foods are, including your mood and brain health!

Another important point to be aware of is that many prescription drugs can cause mineral and electrolyte imbalances. So before taking any drugs, ask yourself if it’s worth it when many other aspects of your health can be adversely affected. Alternatives to drugs abound and you can improve most health conditions without drugs, drugs which only treat symptoms by design.

Overall, these mineral disruptions from sodium have far-reaching consequences, because mineral imbalances drive a broad array of health problems beyond those already mentioned, including:

  • Weakness
  • Nerve problems
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Mood/depression/anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Muscle problems/cramps/twitching
  • High blood pressure/hypertension

Common sources of salt

We’ve all eaten too many potato or corn/tortilla chips, partly because they are salty and cause you to crave more (you also get more thirsty as the salt levels rise, causing you to drink more at parties). Salted or flavored nuts are another obvious example, as are many fast foods and junk foods (burgers, fries, pizza and sandwiches), all common sources of extra sodium.

Although it’s recommended that most adults consume less than a teaspoon daily (under 2,000 mg), many adults have far more, even twice the recommended amount! Unless you are a true athlete (engaged in daily, vigorous activity and losing salt/electrolytes through sweat), we are disrupting our electrolyte and mineral balances every day, which causes other cellular and tissue dysfunction.

Hidden sources of salt

Salt is everywhere in processed and fast foods! That’s partly because the food companies know that salt, like sugar and fat, can increase cravings and cause you to eat more, like the chip’s example mentioned above. Sodium is added to things that are less obvious, including:

  • Breads/crackers/cookies
  • Salad dressings
  • Canned soups
  • Soda
  • Pasta sauce
  • Canned veggies
  • Pre-packaged/cured meals (especially sodium nitrite)
  • Cheese
  • Sauces/flavor concentrates
  • And many more!

Sodium is literally added to thousands of packaged products now, along with sugar and fat. Again, those are all addictive foods so the manufacturers use them often in just the right amounts so you crave more and buy more! Yeah, they are playing you and your family for every dollar they can get. They don’t care about you or your health, they want your money!

As you look over the above list and the info on fast foods high in salt, it should be obvious that people are eating some of these foods every day! When you consider all those sources of extra salt, along with the thousands of additional sources of sodium in processed and junk foods, you can see how we get so much, and place ourselves on the path toward chronic diseases like those listed earlier in this, and many other posts I’ve written about chronic conditions and disease.

Lots of flavor alternatives

I stopped using salt as a seasoning about 10 years ago. I use other spices and herbs liberally instead: nutmeg, oregano, cinnamon, curry, ginger, ground pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic, perhaps a small amount of low-sodium soy or similar sauce.

I don’t miss salt at all. I don’t crave it because the other herbs and spices I use help boost flavor and lower inflammation, an important health benefit! If you’re curious, my resting BP is usually under 115/70, even though I’m over 50. Even adults in their 30s are often higher these days. My BP used to be higher but is not rising with age (a common myth), it’s falling! Lifestyle works!

If you want to set yourself free of your cravings and addictions for salt (and sugar), I can help in a few calls! We can discuss healthier alternatives and ways to adjust so you don’t feel like you are missing anything! In no time, you’ll feel better and save money because those processed and junk foods aren’t really nourishing you and they really cost far more! They won’t give you the healthy, sustained energy you need during the day. Instead, you have energy crashes and slumps, perpetuating a terrible cycle of energy disruptions!

And the issues raised with excess salt will shorten your life! I wonder, is it really worth it to crave all those unhealthy foods and lose years of health and longevity?

If you are a seeker, visionary or wise for your years, feel free to comment or ask a question! I’d like to create a group of passionate health visionaries to share ideas!

Helpful links:

© 2013 by Steve Carney/End Sickness Now


Anonymous April 4, 2013 at 9:29 AM

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Sarah April 9, 2013 at 12:20 AM

I’ve learn some excellent stuff here. Definitely value bookmarking for revisiting. You really put out some effort to make a great informative site.

danny April 17, 2013 at 12:07 PM

This was a wonderful report with so many areas and items included. Very stimulating.

Steve Carney April 17, 2013 at 4:54 PM

I’ve also covered cancer in many posts so you can use the categories for more posts.

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