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Defending Salt

Friday, February 03, 2017

It is difficult to get people to understand something when their job depends on not understanding it. —Upton Sinclair

One of our bad habits as Americans is to overdo and obsess what currently gets our attention. The good news is that most of us seem to have a propensity to self-correct before too much damage is done.

“Eat clean” (fresh, whole, nutrient-dense foods that have not been over processed with chemicals) is what you have been hearing for years from me, health care professionals, Dr. Thornton, David Amess, and other members of the Biosyntrx staff and scientific advisory board.

Hopefully, you are all adding a bit of quality salt to your “clean food” to avoid sodium deficiency and electrolyte imbalance, which is particularly important for those who are eating the nine to 13 potassium-rich servings of fresh fruits and vegetables—now the daily amount recommended by our government to provide the vitamins and minerals our bodies require for health.

The National Academies' Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board recommends 3.8 grams of salt per day for adults 19 to 50 years old to replace the amount lost daily on average through perspiration and to provide other essential nutrients with the safe upper limit (UL) being 5.8 grams of salt intake per day, based on age and physical activity.

Older adults and African Americans should consume less salt, as should people diagnosed with chronic diseases including hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease. People diagnosed with any of these diseases should always discuss salt intake with their physician.

The Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board recommends 4.7 grams of potassium daily to blunt the effect of excess salt from processed foods. Food with the highest amounts of potassium per calorie are spinach, cantaloupe, almonds, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, bananas, oranges and potatoes.

A little salt science: As with everything, balance is key. Sodium always works in tandem with potassium, two of the major cations (positively charged ions) that make up the body’s salts. They are as intimately and mysteriously bound together as February valentines and life itself.

Salt intake mainly permeates the fluid between cells (plasma) and blood, providing the saline bath and nutrition necessary for our cells to thrive. Potassium, on the other hand, is retained mainly within our cells (in the intracellular fluid).

The presence of both in their proper balance supports nerve function, muscle contractions and relaxation, and regulates the permeability of cell membranes, affecting how nutrients, water and waste are transported to and from cells.

Sodium deficiency can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, seizures, heart arrhythmias, decreased consciousness or coma. Sodium deficiency in people with high blood pressure is now linked to increased risk of heart attack and swelling of the brain, and either or both can lead to death.

Mankind can live without gold…but not without salt. —Cassiodorus (a brilliant scholar who spent the 6th century bridging cultural divides between East and West).

A little human history: The advent of agriculture increased the likelihood of sodium deficiency. Large herbivores (animals that eat plants) have always eaten far more vegetable matter than humans, so the trace amount of salt in the ancient mostly meat-eating society was enough to sustain life. Once the availability of salt in the newly agrarian society food supply became sporadic, humans quickly developed intense physiological salt cravings and sophisticated taste receptors for recognizing salt, therefore, agrarian societies were much more likely to engage in the salt trade than those who consumed more meat.

Ellen Troyer with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff


According to a favorite author and food and nutrition writer Mark Bitterman, “Salt in its unrefined form has the most yin of any substance used as food. That means it is grounding and affects the descending, inward activities of the body and mind. Salt directs the energy of the body inward and is more appropriate to be eaten in the cooler months in order to concentrate the warmth of the body in the yin, or interior and lower body areas.”

In Chinese medicine, salt used in moderation is believed to support mental clarity as it strengthens the heart and mind. Holding with the balance of yin and yang, overconsumption of salt is regarded as harmful.

Afterthoughts: One sea salt never recommended for dietary consumption is Dead Sea salt, due to its high bromide content.

Some nutritional biochemists are now passionately suggesting that sea salt may not be as healthy as once thought due to the ever-increasing levels of pollution in our oceans. Salt produced from ancient geological oceans like that from the Great Salt Lake in Utah or Himalayan pink salt is now suggested by many to be cleaner than sea salt. Time will tell.

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