Fasting and Salt Intake: It’s Time To End the War On Salt

March 30, 2020 | By | Programs


Salt is a hot topic.  Depending on who you ask, you might hear that they are either restricting their sodium intake because they have high blood pressure or another condition.  While, on the other hand you might hear of some people taking additional salt on purpose in a salt shot (a small amount of salt in a bit of water, or some decide to take the salt straight in their mouth then wash-down with water).   

Who is right?  Who is wrong?

Unfortunately, the science that led to the world’s war on salt is outdated and has been since proven unreliable. Nevertheless, once people form a belief in something it can be really hard to get them to change their minds and see any other points of view. We’re going to try anyway though, so sit back and read on to find out why salt might not be the “big bad” you were taught to be afraid of and why people on low-carb or fasting diets might actually want to add more salt to their diets, not less. 

Why Does Salt Have Such A Bad Reputation?

It’s no secret that salt is a 4 letter word, both literally and figuratively in the US. How did a mineral that’s actually vital to our survival (and that tastes so delicious) get a rep worse than Lindsay Lohan? The true origins of our salt misconceptions go all the way back to some scientific medical claims made in the early 1900s. But much more recently, in the 1980s a study was released that linked extreme sodium consumption to hypertension (high blood pressure) that resulted in more heart attacks and strokes. Thanks to some highly effective marketing campaigns by the American Heart Association between then and now, people have assumed that eating too much salt will lead to a massive coronary ever since. 

Even though more recent clinical studies have failed to find a link between sodium consumption and heart attacks (yes it can lead to high blood pressure but high BP alone doesn’t directly correlate to more heart attacks, per se.) people still fear sodium as if the Grim Reaper himself was pouring it on.

National health guidelines say we need no more than 2.400 grams of sodium per day and that we should strive to ingest much lower amounts than that (compared to the 3-6 grams recommended by more current findings). Most populations, however, eat a lot more sodium than that each day and have had little success lowering sodium consumption on a large-scale basis. It doesn’t help that there is a ton of added salt in carbs, processed foods and canned foods that make up the (SAD) standard American diet. 

So, does that mean we are all doomed? Probably not, in fact, some people might need much higher levels of sodium than what’s being recommended. You have to remember that when talking about nutrition recommendation it’s never a simple one-size-fits-all solution. The exact amount of water, sodium, or any other important element, varies from person to person.  Conveniently, for many healthy individuals, our bodies will take care of excess salt.

Salt Is Actually Essential And We Have The Evidence 

Salt is an essential mineral that our body needs to function properly. Here are just some of the things salt is responsible for:

  • Electrolyte Homeostasis
  • Nutrition Absorption
  • Maintenance of Cell Plasma Volume
  • Acid-Base Balance
  • Transmission of Nerve Impulses
  • Normal Cell Physiology 

There is just one problem, as perfectly designed as a human body is, it doesn’t make sodium on its own. That’s why it’s essential that we get enough salt through a healthy diet. 

Now, it’s true that eating an excessive amount of salt can raise your blood pressure and no matter if that’s a direct cause of coronary disease or not, it certainly isn’t good. On the other hand, if people are terrified of salt, there is a danger of developing low sodium levels that are equally bad for you. As with all things in life, it’s all about balance. 

Having adequate salt in your diet can reduce anxiety, help balance insulin levels, and regulates hydration. The cool thing about salt is that your body easily recognizes when it has too much and can eliminate the waste through the kidney or through sweat. 

Having Low Sodium Is Way More Dangerous Than You Think 

Not having enough sodium can cause symptoms such as fatigue, lack of focus, depression, anxiety, low electrolyte levels, and low blood pressure that could result in a heart attack, coma, or death.  Low sodium levels also leads to insulin resistance and increased insulin levels. In fact, low sodium is also responsible for the “keto-flu” people experience when they are new to the keto diet.  Keto-flu can make you feel tired or sick for a brief period of time. Adding extra salt to your diet can help eliminate the keto-flu phenomena. 

Salt is vital to maintain the correct blood pressure and blood volume. If you don’t have enough sodium in your bloodstream you can develop a condition called Hyponatremia. This can cause nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headaches, confusion, muscle cramps or spasms, irritability, restlessness, seizures, or comas. 

How Much Salt Do You Need For Fasting And Keto Dieting? 

The type of diet you eat plays a big role in your body’s needs for supplemental sodium. If you’re restricting carbohydrates or fasting then you might actually need to increase your salt intake.  This is due to dropping insulin levels, which cause our bodies to excrete salt, inducing what many call the “keto flu” this is where increasing electrolytes (which include salt) can be critical!  Symptoms of “keto flu” include dizziness, low blood pressure, and lightheadedness. 

It is recommended that people following a keto diet consume between 3-6 grams of sodium per day. Depending on your salt type, that’s 1 ⅓ to 2 ⅔ tsp of salt. Remember, that’s almost twice the conventionally recommended amount. 

Adding Salt to Your Day

Besides all the health benefits we’ve already been over, adding salt to your routine (for example a small dose into water) can help make you feel fuller when fasting, according to Dr. Jason Fung. To add more salt to your low carb diet or fasting regimen you can:

If you’re looking to really deep dive into the truth on salt we recommend you read The Salt Fix – Dr. James DiNicolantonio.

What other questions do you have on increasing salt in your diet? Stay tuned for more information coming from us on the topic!

 

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