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The Salt Paradox: Is Salt Really Bad for Your Health?

sea salt

You shouldn’t use too much salt - it’s not good for your health, right?! Or isn’t it?

When we think of salt, we often think of high blood pressure and heart disease and generally, people suffering from these conditions are asked to limit their salt intake.

But salt is such a precious nutrient packed with minerals like magnesium, iodine, sodium, potassium and chloride. Well that’s if you’re using proper sea salt anyways.

Why has salt gotten such a bad reputation?

For decades, salt has been linked to high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease. However, the relationship between salt intake and health is not as straightforward as once believed. Numerous studies have generated conflicting findings, leading to what is known as the "salt paradox." Some studies suggest a clear connection between excessive salt consumption and negative health outcomes, while others have found no significant correlation. These conflicting results have led researchers to reevaluate the conventional wisdom surrounding salt's harmful effects. Source

Unraveling the salt myth: understanding sodium and health

It is important to distinguish between salt and sodium, as sodium is the component of salt associated with health concerns. As I mentioned in one of my last blog posts, sodium plays a vital role in the body, maintaining fluid balance, assisting nerve function, and facilitating muscle contractions. However, excessive sodium intake can disrupt this balance and lead to health problems.

Now let’s consider just a moment that most foods that are high in sodium are processed and junk foods. And these are definitely not good for your health, but using a good amount of sea salt on your vegetables is a great addition for your health and also increases the nutrients and flavor!

Reading food labels can help you identify high-sodium products and make informed choices.

Very similar to protein intake, in a healthy kidney, sodium doesn’t really seem to have a negative impact. In an unhealthy kidney… if someone’s on dialysis, that’s a different scenario where you need to monitor both sodium, and in particular, potassium intake.

Some recent research that was conducted in heart patients, looked at their sodium intake, and looked at all-cause mortality and morbidity. Interestingly, a very low sodium intake correlated with high rates of morbidity and mortality. And the threshold was below 2 grams of sodium intake per day, which is exactly what is the general recommendation of a healthy sodium intake (as mentioned above).

In the different dietary interventions that have tried to reduce sodium intake, we don’t really see an improvement in blood pressure. The actual problem is overeating, excess calories, hyperinsulinemia that’s what’s causing sodium retention. Source

Signs of low sodium:

  • Feeling lightheaded

  • Muscle cramps => we often reach for magnesium for muscle cramps, but we also need adequate sodium to retain magnesium more effectively!

  • Fatigue

  • Problems falling asleep: one of the interesting side effects of having too low sodium levels is that it will alter the release of antidiuretic hormone (or vasopressin) in order to retain more sodium. But in the process of modifying that antidiuretic hormone release, you’re also releasing epinephrine and cortisol. It is a stress response that’s triggered when your body is low in sodium. So actually, disturbed sleep or altered sleep can be a really significant factor. => take a few grains of sea salt in a tiny bit of water before sleep

What leads to sodium “deficiency”?

  • Limiting healthy salt intake (that means sea salt or himalayan salt without additives & preservatives)

  • Exercise or profuse sweating

  • Dehydration

  • Lack of other minerals

  • Potassium:sodium balance is off

  • Following a low carb or keto diet

  • Drinking filtered or tap water

  • Chronic inflammatory stress from having an infection in the gut or elsewhere in the body

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Adrenal fatigue or rather impaired Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal communication

  • Addison's disease

How much salt should you consume?

The general recommendation for sodium intake is no more than 2,300 mg per day, with an ideal limit of 1,500 mg for most adults. People who are suffering from hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease, may need to further reduce their sodium intake. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate levels for individual circumstances.

For the general population, it is actually recommended to consume between 4 to 5 grams of sodium per day. That seems to be a really safe place to be for a general population eating a varied diet of whole foods. According to Robb Wolf

If you are active, live in a hot or humid environment you’ll probably need to go up to 8 to 10 grams of sodium intake per day.

If you are following a low carb or ketogenic diet, your 5 grams of sodium are an absolute minimum.

Most of the electrolyte replacement beverages and supplements on the market often have too much potassium, especially in comparison to the amount of sodium.

As always, it’s all about the balance! If you are eating a whole foods diet and stay away from packaged and processed foods, you don’t need to skimp on salt at all! But as I say it’s all about the balance: Sodium needs to be in balance with Potassium as Magnesium and Calcium balance each other out. If you are eating plenty of veggies and not skimping on salt, you probably don’t need to supplement with sodium or worry about it.

If you are on a low carb or keto diet though, exercising a lot or live in a hot environment, you may want to consider an electrolyte supplement. Also, don’t forget that if you’re drinking filtered or tap water, there will be no minerals in that water. You can add a pinch of sea salt to your water to add back some minerals or use the E-Lyte trace minerals from Body Bio for instance.

You are probably just randomly adding some salt as a condiment to your food and don’t know how much you are actually consuming: Is it a quarter teaspoon or less or more?

How can you figure out how much you are consuming, so you can determine if you need to add more or reduce your intake?

  • Use apps like myfitnesspal or chronometer that will help you determine the amount of electrolytes that are in the packaged foods you buy or just read the labels!

  • Use a kitchen scale and weigh how many grams of salt you want to use or are using


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