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Monday, September 9, 2013

Our Bodes need Salt, But NOT Refined Table Salt

 Stress related conditions all start somewhere and in our efforts to thwart the grip of a chronic illness in our daughter, we sought the advice of  Dr. Andrew Neville at The Clymer Healing Center in Quakertown, PA

The goal at this facility is to provide comprehensive natural health care by utilizing the whole person approach.  Specializing in Adrenal Dysfunction and Chronic Fatigue, their mission is to educate and treat patients by utilizing all of "God's healing gifts and nature's healing agents".
Adrenal Dysfunction basically means dysfunction in the entire stress response system, which consists of half the hormone-related side (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis) and half the nervous system side (Autonomic Nervous System). The hormone side controls the hormones of the stress response, primarily cortisol and adrenaline. The nervous system side of the stress response uses our nerves or wiring. The stress response system involves every nerve and cell in the body.

Normal use of our stress response would involve a balanced seesaw between the "fight or flight" side and the "rest and digest" side. Problems arise when things get off kilter and unbalanced. If our lives continue to be hectic, stressed and anxiety ridden, we are continually in the fight or flight mode, which inactivates the rest and digest mode. The lack of balance stresses our delicate systems, putting us at risk for Adrenal Fatigue, Adrenal Exhaustion which could lay out the welcome mat for Adrenal Dysfunction.

So what does this have to do with salt?

We tend to forget that the water content of our bodies is a salty water solution very similar to seawater. Our bodies have evolved with salt over thousands of years and it is incredibly important to our basic survival. Salt plays a crucial role in our general metabolic function, as the body literally runs on the energy produced by little pumps called sodium/potassium pumps. Every function, every chemical reaction, are dependent on adequate levels of sodium and potassium. Those levels of sodium and potassium are controlled by the hormones of the adrenal glands, with aldosterone being the hormone that controls our ability to hold onto sodium. If our adrenals are weak, the levels of aldosterone decrease, resulting in our bodies inability to hold onto water, thus losing sodium as well (remember the basic rule that water follows salt). Since our bodies are made up of roughly 70% water, to lose too much water decreases our blood volume, which means we are dehydrated. To put it bluntly, to be dehydrated most of the time means you'll feel lousy most of the time, tired, brain fog, lightheaded, etc.

So what about all the doctors' warnings about the evil of salt in our diets. As with most things associated with the diets of modern society, the problem lies in refined vs. unrefined, processed vs. unprocessed, synthetic vs, natural, the confusion over choices continues.

It isn't salt itself that is bad, it's the type of salt we consume that needs to change. Table salt is processed sodium chloride or NaCl. Salt in this form does not exist in nature, therefore is foreign to the body.

There is a purpose for refined and processed salt. Salt is used for a lot more than seasoning our foods. Most of the various kinds of salt are used in the chemical industry, mainly as a source of chlorine, snow and ice removal, stabilizing soils, construction and preserving food.
Salt intended for food processing is treated to remove impurities, pollutants, and added to it are anti-clumping compounds to prevent caking together (A characteristic of all salts is that they absorb water from the surrounding environment and thus clump). A quality people want in their salt is that it be fine grained and free flowing from the salt shaker. What are considered impurities are things that can cause problems with certain foods in production, such as: small amounts of calcium tend to toughen vegetables, traces of copper or iron tend to destroy vitamin C and to increase the rate at which fatty foods become rancid, and calcium and magnesium both tend to make salt absorb more water, causing it to cake.

Salt in its natural state is not white and fine in texture. The color of unrefined sea salt depends on the concentration of all the minerals in it; it could be tan, gray or pink. Table salt is 99.99% sodium chloride and only 0.01% trace minerals. Salt in its natural state contains about 80 minerals and can make up from 2 to 15% trace minerals, depending where it was harvested and how it was produced. The minerals exist in the same balance as they do in the ocean, which is very similar to the balance of minerals that we need in our bodies.  They are still moist and often clump together because they don't contain any of those anti-clumping agent additives.

Iodine is naturally occurring as the ocean is rich in iodine, so it doesn't need to be artificially added in (and the iodine that is added into salt is usually synthetic, which is difficult for your body to process properly, as with any synthetic ingredient). If our diets include foods such as kale, brussel sprouts, kelp, and cabbage we needn't worry about getting enough iodine.

Minerals act as catalysts in the body to make everything happen and run smoothly. People with adrenal fatigue and adrenal dysfunction actually have low amounts of salt in their bodies. Normal sodium levels in the blood is roughly 142. A craving for salt is the bodies way of trying to get the minerals it needs to function properly and get the water levels back in balance. Refined table salt is not the type of salt craved by our bodies so if that is the type we are giving it we are only aggravating  other problems with our body chemistry. The issues with salt elevating blood pressure are not common when using unrefined sea salt because the necessary minerals are present for proper function.

The advice of Dr. Neville is that if you have the following symptoms you may be suffering from Adrenal Fatigue:

Frequent urination
Light-headed
Brain fog
Fatigue
Dehydration

To balance your system and help your body function properly, eliminate white, processed table salt and replace it with unrefined, sea salt found at health food stores. Don't buy any sea salt, if it is white it is still processed. Though better than table salt, ideally what you want is for the package to say unrefined sea salt.
Try to stay away from highly salted, processed foods.

Dr. Neville highly recommends the following book:
Salt Your Way to Health by David Brownstein