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Lower Your Salt Intake? Fugetaboutit!

Folks, I have written to you many times about the benefits of unrefined salt. Human beings are designed to desire and utilize salt on a daily basis. We can’t live without salt. Remember, we have no stores of salt in our bodies. Either we ingest adequate amounts of salt on a daily basis or we become salt deficient. Salt deficiency can manifest many ways but common symptoms of salt deficiency include muscle cramps (especially in the feet and legs), fatigue, headaches, and brain fog.

Let’s get a few salt numbers straight. The Powers-That-Be, including the American Heart Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics would have us all believe that we should limit salt in our diet. In fact, the current recommendations for salt state that we should have a maximum sodium intake of 1.5 to 2.4 grams per day (which is the equivalent of 1/4 to just over 1/3 of a teaspoon of salt). Finally, it is important to note that most of the world ingests between 3 and 6 grams of sodium per day (or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt).

A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine (August 14, 2014) studied the sodium levels in 101,945 persons from 17 countries. The scientists examined the association between sodium excretion and the outcome of death and major cardiovascular events. Sodium excretion correlates directly with sodium ingestion.

Over a mean follow-up of 3.7 years, the authors found that those with the lowest sodium excretion (less than 3 grams of sodium per day or ½ teaspoon of salt) had the highest rate of death or cardiovascular events—4.3%. Those who excreted 3-4 grams per day (just over ½ teaspoon of salt) had a cardiovascular incident rate of 3.1%–28% lower than the lowest salt-ingesting group. In fact, those who ingested more sodium, including the highest group (>7 grams per day or over 1 teaspoon of salt) had a 24% lowered death or cardiovascular event rate when compared to the lowest group (the incident rate in the highest group—7 grams per day–was 3.3%).

This article is another in a long-line of salt articles debunking the myth that we need to lower our salt intake. I have tested thousands of patients for their salt levels. I can assure you that the vast majority of patients are low in salt.

Salt is a vital, essential substance that we cannot live without. Low-salt diets do not lower the blood pressure for the vast majority of individuals. In fact, low salt diets are detrimental to most as shown in this study.

Although this study did not focus on the difference between refined and unrefined salt, there is a big difference between the two. Unrefined salt has over 80 essential minerals in it while refined salt contains zero minerals. Unrefined salt does not have toxic chemicals added it, unlike refined salt which includes ferrocyanide in the end product.

Unrefined salt should be the salt of choice. Generally I recommend ingesting at least a teaspoon of unrefined salt per day. Good brands of unrefined salt include Selina’s Celtic Brand Sea Salt, Redmond’s Real Salt, and Himalayan sea salt. I have personally tested all three brands and found them to be high in minerals and free of heavy metals.

The take home message: Salt is an essential nutrient for the human body. We cannot live without it. It does not make physiologic, biochemical, nor common sense to recommend limiting a populations’ salt intake to less than ½ teaspoon of salt. In fact, limiting salt intake to these levels will increase the morbidity and mortality rate.

Should you lower your salt intake to control blood pressure? Fugetaboutit.

More information about salt can be found in my book, Salt Your Way To Health, 2nd Edition.

SALTFRNT

 

 

Author Info

David Brownstein

Comments ( 22 )

  • Author Icon
    Diane Sprules

    I have just been reading over this article and am very confused about your sodium values per tsp of salt.

    You say 1 tsp of salt has approximately 6 grams of sodium.

    BUT when I look at the Redmond’s salt analysis http://www.realsalt.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/realsalt_analysis.pdf
    it says that one 1/4 tsp serving has 530 mg sodium so 1 tsp would have 2.1 grams of sodium – one third of what your article says.

    Likewise Eden sea salt http://www.edenfoods.com/store/product_details.php?cPath=26_51&products_id=105365#nutrition
    has 1/4 tsp 392 mg sodium or approx. 1.6 mg in one teaspoon far less than your 6 gm.

    Can you elucidate this please? Something is not right. I have your book on salt but my daughter has it now so I cannot check what you wrote there.

    Diane Sprules

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      Diane,
      I was referring to refined salt–it has more sodium than unrefined salt.
      DrB

  • Author Icon
    Linda

    Colette – I have tried to find hydro tabs with sodium, chloride and potassium supplements for sale online. Is the sodium, sodium chloride? I know that chiropractors often purchase what I would call “off brands”, so am wondering where I can find a tab that would fill the bill for hydration. I use the salts that Dr. B recommends, but would rather take a tab than drink the salt water.
    Thanks for your help.

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      Linda,
      You can buy empty capsules and fill them with salt.
      DrB

  • Author Icon
    Mary Fougner

    I can really speak to the salt issue. I’ve been making a lot of healthy changes to my body. I started using Himilayan pink salt about 2 yrs ago because I liked what I read. I was on blood pressure meds at the time and barely holding the line. I came into my doctor for several visits recentlly related to a neck issue. Each time they took my blood pressure it was lower by many points. I couldn’t account for it because I wasn’t active or focussing on it as a health issue at that time. It was still on my bucket list. I have to believe that I finally got the missing nutrients my body needed. No more meds for it now. Good nutrition is everything!

  • Author Icon
    Colette

    I used to have problems with my blood pressure getting pretty high when I was nervous or at the doctors’s office. My chiropractor prescribed Hydro Tabs, which is a Sodium, Chloride, and potassium supplement. I don’t seem to have the high blood pressure when under stress anymore. I must of been sodium and potassium deficient (adrenal dis-function). I had improved my health by taking Celtic and other salts that you mentioned in water first thing in the morning prior to doing the Hydro Tabs.

  • Author Icon
    JdL

    Thanks for this. I’ve been watching the anti-salt hysteria with a mixture of amusement and disgust for years. As a young man, I could barely function outdoors in the heat, until I discovered salt pills. It was like a miracle! At 65, I still use them on hikes. My body signals me if I’m tending to take too much. Funny how billions of years of evolution have given us an excellent feedback mechanism – ourselves – which self-appointed “experts” dismiss in their crusades to fix what they think is wrong with our habits.

  • Author Icon
    Howard Roark

    I disagree about salt – sodium. My blood pressure has been elevated for years. Then in April I focused on greatly reducing my added sugar, then in May I focused on measuring my sodium intake – not sure what it was prior to May. But I focus on keeping my daily sodium consumption to somewhere between 1500mg and 2000 mg. My blood pressure measured in late July was 100 over 74. And I am always nervous at the doctor’s office – so I am surprised my BP was that well.

    I am taking 5mg of quinapril per day. Have been for 3 years due to a long story – a panic attack when I thought I was having a heart attack. I’m trying to get off of BP medicine. But I think the reduction in sodium in my diet is key. I have been a fitness fanatic for over 35 years and I’m not obese. I was not really much into refined sugar for the last few years and virtually stopped drinking soda (sugar water) four years ago. I don’t think it was the elimination of added sugar that lowered my BP.

  • Author Icon
    Adriane

    Thank you for all you do! I’m glad to read that Redmond Real Salt and Himalayan salt tested free of heavy metals. I was concerned that they might have naturally occurring lead. Question – I’ve read some concerns that Himalayan salt has fluoride or fluorine in it. Do you know if this is true? Also, for adrenal fatigue/low aldosterone how much salt do you recommend per day and where do you like to see blood levels of sodium, is 138 good or should it be 142?

  • Author Icon
    Mary

    I use Himalayan as well as Real Salt. Both are good although the jar of Real Salt I got has higher residue.

    I live where it is very hot and humid so do want to keep electrolytes up. Plus I sweat almost 24/7, Sometimes I will sprinkle a small amount in both my drinking water and on the coffee grounds, not even to the point I taste it. Electrolyte drinks are available all over here.

    I recently had a blood test of several minerals. Sodium & potassium were mid-range.

  • Author Icon
    Elliot Freeman RPh

    There are so many attacks on the use of salt. Unfortunately, nearly all physicians believe that salt is the problem.
    The truth is that the real problem is low potassium levels or more precisely there is a problem with the potassium-sodium
    ration (See Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(13):1183-1191). A good friend of mine was over overweight and suffering from hypertension. After eating better food and taking more potassium in her diet, she lost weight and was able to stop taking
    nearly all of the medications she was taking. Low potassium levels in the diet, along with high use of salt, is the real problem.

  • Author Icon
    Melissa

    Does unrefined salt have iodine? If not, is that an issue since I know you advocate iodine usage.

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      Melissa,
      Unrefined salt contains a tiny amount of iodine. Unrefined salt is not a good way to increase body iodine stores. Iodine is best taken as a separate supplement.
      DrB

  • Author Icon

    Dr. Brownstein, my theory on salt (adjusted after I read many articles written by you) is that if ones body is retaining water, its because the individual probably isn’t drinking ENOUGH water so the body naturally will retain it so that there are plenty of fluids to control the normal functions. Is this a valid caveat?

    Of course there are always exceptions to everything, but generally if people would drop the sugary sodas and energy drinks, consume the daily prescribed amount of unrefined salt and drink plenty of water every day, the water retention issue should be a non-issue (relative to other illnesses or prescription drugs the person may be taking).

    The only example I am unsure of is my 100 year old Gramma. She doesn’t like water, doesn’t drink much of it. But here she is, 100 years old. No issues except a bit of dementia. Perhaps more water would even lower that one issue.

    Thank you for all of your brilliance and holistic advice. I’m a HUGE fan.

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      Mary,
      There is no doubt that maintaining hydration is important. Increasing water and salt intake can help many individuals with a variety of problems. I agree, people need to drop sugary drinks which include juices. Water should be the beverage of choice as our body is 70% water.
      DrB

  • Author Icon
    Aude Sapere

    “3 and 6 grams of sodium per day (or 1/2 to 1 gram of salt).” should be 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt. l love salt..Probably have low adrenal function. I use Himalayan.

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      Aude,
      Thanks for catching my faux pas.
      DrB

  • Author Icon
    Kathy Goss

    Can you please clarify the iodine levels in the unrefined sea salt? I would assume that iodine would be one of the minerals in unrefined sea salt – but how do I make the equation to my adequate iodine requirement? How much iodine is in a tsp of unrefined sea salt?

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      Kathy,
      There is a minimal amount of iodine in unrefined salt. If iodine levels are low, unrefined salt is a poor choice to rectify the situation.
      DrB

  • Author Icon

    Thank You So Very Much Dr. B!!!

    As a direct result of reading your article I have immediately ended my low salt “experiment”! Fortunately I was only experimenting on my own body and also fortunately the “experiment” lasted only for a few weeks. To celebrate I just took a big swig of a well-salted shot of the best spring water with a good amount of “Brittany” sea salt! Mmmmmmm, delicious! I love real salt!

  • Author Icon
    Kathie

    Can you comment on the claim that too much salt causes water retention? Is that a legitimate reason to avoid it if one has circulation issues?

    • Author Icon
      David Brownstein

      Kathie,
      Occasionally I see a patient who cannot tolerate added salt–they get water retention from it. It happens rarely with unrefined salt. If it does occur, there may be a sensitivity to salt. NAET can help this–it is an acupressure treatment designed to diagnose and treat food and environmental allergies. Also, detoxifying the liver can help. Total Liver Care is a product that I developed to enhance liver detoxification. It can be found at https://www.drbrownstein.com/about-chm/. Also, Norm Shealy’s Water Bliss helps this condition.
      DrB

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