“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.”
Salt has been a part of human life for thousands of years before Christ and still remains a vital part today. It was heavily traded, used as currency, an antiseptic and for flavor and preservation.
“If the importance of a food to a society can be measured by the allusions to it in language and literature, then the significance of salt is virtually unrivaled. Nearly four pages of the Oxford English Dictionary are taken up by references to salt, more than any other food. “A grain of salt” may be a recipe for skepticism. But there can be no doubt about how salt has seasoned history.”
Have you noticed the wide array of salt you can now purchase in stores? The options seem endless. If you eat out regularly and especially if your diet is the modern Western Diet so many consume today then you need to be educated on the detrimental effects of salt consumption. The current CDC and USDA recommendations of salt consumption for Americans is less than 2,300mg of sodium per day, which is only 1 teaspoon. Most Americans consume at least 1,000 mg more than that each day.
Today’s modern Western Diet is filled with two things; sugar and salt. By 2009, European and North American diets received approx 75% of sodium intake from manufactured foods with cereals and baked goods being the single largest contributor to sodium in the diet. An imbalance of either too little or too much salt in your diet can have hazardous effects on your health. Sodium is very important for allowing the body to regulate water retention, facilitating the electrical signals of the brain, musculoskeletal system, and nervous systems, and controlling blood pressure and blood volume.
It is commonly accepted today that too much salt intake is detrimental for cardiovascular health, but what about inflammatory diseases? I have found two recent studies from 2016 that suggest a high salt diet actually promotes autoimmunity and the typical Western diet has a profound impact on autoimmune conditions.
One study published on the Role of the Western Diet on Inflammatory Autoimmune Diseases says, “The intestine is the primary absorption interface for nutrients, vitamins, and water, and therefore constitutes a premier site to investigate dietary influences in autoimmune disease….It is current knowledge that nutrition, the intestinal microbiota, the gut mucosal immune system, and autoimmune pathology are deeply intertwined.
There are high profile leaders in the health community who argue for salt and those who argue against it. My general assumption has always been if you are fixing food at home, you don’t need to be concerned with the amount of salt you add to your dishes.When a high-salt diet is associated with inflammation and poor cardiovascular health it is usually becasue the salt’s source is processed junk food, so is it really the salt that should be singled out or poor dietary consumption?
Table salt is processed to obtain a fine texture then stripped from any minerals, and given additives. Iodized table salt has Iodine added to it and this process has been occuring since the 1920’s to prevent Iodine deficiencies. If you eat an anti-inflammatory diet you should be able to get enough Iodine through whole foods to be able to prevent Iodine deficiency. Relying on iodized table salt is not sufficient enough if you are iodine deficient so talk to your doctor about a healthy supplement .
If you are stuggling with chronic inflammation, salt is an important piece of the diet you don’t want to ignore.
Sea salt is obtained through the evaporation of seawater, it is raw, unrefined and has trace amounts of other minerals. It contains the same amount of sodium (NaCl) makeup as table salt.
Himalayan salt is not from the sea, but mined from salt caves in the Middle East. It is touted as the purest form of salt with a deep history since the beginning of time. Celtic sea salt is another form of pure salt harvested in France and is said to contain all 82 trace minerals needed by the human body for optimal health and longevity. Both of these salts are unrefined, contain more nutrients and minerals, and are able to be beneficial for your health when added to the cooking process of a healthy diet.
When you eat a poor diet, just changing table salt to sea salt won’t make much of a difference. The sodium imbalance comes more from your diet then your salt shaker. I recommend an anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates sugar, refined processed foods/oils, and trans fats for everyone who needs to reduce inflammation and improve health.
I wrote here how inflammation is controlled by the immune system. This study shows a high salt diet encouraged more of a pro-inflammatory immune system and more often than not, high salt intake is associated with enhanced inflammation than low salt intake. However, reduced salt intake has also been shown in the medical literature to induce inflammation by linking it to Diabetes, obesity, poor cardiovascular health, and decreased cognition.
When you eat an anti-inflammatory diet then your taste buds should be able to help regulate how much saltiness you can handle and all this debate shouldn’t alarm you. It’s clear that there needs to be more studies on the health benefits of salt in the proper diet. If you know you have salt induced medical condition then listen to your doctor and avoid it and beware that eating junk food contains more salt than you realize. If you notice, most of the above studies are done the Western diet (not just salt alone) and it’s harmful effects health. This should be addressed more by doctors when speaking to people about eliminating salt, plus more emphasis should be placed on sugar and it’s deleterious affects on the heart, obesity, inflammation, and the immune system rather than generalizing all salt as bad and promoting low salt processed foods.
One thing to note, if you are beginning a low carb diet (Ketogenic), it is possible you will need to increase your salt intake in the beginning because when you eat less carbohydrates, your body tends to need more salt. Lightheadedness, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, weakness, and constipation can occur during a low carb diet associated with weight loss becasue the kidneys excrete sodium. If this occurs, Dr. Hyman recommends adding more salt to your foods by drinking a cup of broth or making soup with warm water and a bouillon cube daily.
Another form of Himalayan salt is found in the trendy salt lamps. They work to collect moisture and toxins in the room environment to detoxify the air, relieve sinuses and allergies, improve energy, improve mood, enhance sleep, improve the immune system, reduce Seasonal Affect Disorder, and neutralize electromagnetic radiation.
I have a this salt lamp in my bedroom and I can tell you it is beautiful when lit and has a very calming effect. The main claim to health is found in the negative ions the lamp releases and this is difficult to test since everyone’s lamp and their environment are different. Scientific proof that it works? I don’t have any, but when you search Himalayan salt lamps on Pinterest, you will find 1,000 + images declaring love for these beautiful lamps and their health benefits. If these negative ions work to offset the postive ions produced from all the elecrotronic devices in the house then you are better for it, plus you get a beautiful piece of decor in your room.
Epsom salt is not food salt (NaCl). Epsom salt is Magnesium Sulfate. I am adding it in this post because we refer to it as salt, it is much more than just an old folk remedy, and has more anti-inflamamtory power than any of the above mentioned salts. I will write about Magnesium more in depth later because it is important engouh to warrant it’s own post, but for now here is an overview.
Magnesium is critical for proper physiological function of the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, heart, and for reducing inflammation. Deficiency in magnesium is very common among individuals who have chronic pain and inflammation. Magnesium balance in your body has an impact on joint inflammation, joint pain, muscle cramps, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, insomnia, diabetes, migraines, osteoporosis, heart complications, heart disease, depression, cancer, neuromuscular disorders, and nervous disorders.
Poor dietary choices and depletion of magnesium in our soil lend toward a higher prevelance of magnesium deficiency.
Increasing your magnesium level with food or supplements can be done, but is often a slow process and can aggravate GI issues. Himalayan salt has been found to have trace amounts of magnesium, but most doctors will prescribe it is supplement form. Taking Magnesium supplements orally also needs to be cleared by your medical doctor. Replenishing your Magnesium levels transdermally (through the skin) could be a quicker way to absorb this vital element. Epsom salt baths are an excellent way to absorb Magnesium transdermally without causing any GI disturbance.
Taking a bath to improve stress and inflamamtion sounds lovely right? Proper levels of Magnesium in the body can reduce stress and inflammation. This recent study shows those with obesity have low concentrations of magnesium, and high concentrations of oxidative stress and this one suggests that magnesium deficiency may determine how vulnerable the body is to stress.
If you struggle with inflammation, don’t stress so much on adding sea salt to flavor your cooking, but definitley beware of the harmful amounts of sodium in processed foods. For extra help with reducing inflammation, turn to Magnesium found in Epsom Salt.
OK! Now you have a reason to unwind tonight. Take an Epsom salt bath, breathe, relax, destress and rest in knowing you are nourishing your body with healthy anti-inflammatory properties. Don’t have a full bath or can’t get into a bath? Don’t worry, you can do a foot bath or hand bath and it can still affect your full body. If you use essential oils you can add those to your bath. Fresh lavender or lavender oil works to improve circulation and decrease stress.
Epsom Salt Bath:
1 cup of Epsom salt per 1 gallon of warm water.
Bathe your body in a full bath or
Soak your limbs in a foot or hand bath
Time: 20-25 minutes.
Need more Inspiration?
- Beautycounter Style sea salt spray for your hair includes all of above ingredients: Sea Salt, Himalayan Salt, and Magnesium Sulfate.
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