The medical community loves to tell us to eat less salt, with good reason. The Standard American Diet consists mainly of processed, packaged foods, which contain a LOT of salt! And we do know that some people can get high blood pressure from high-sodium diets. But, for some of us, we may need more salt to help combat some health symptoms.
Sodium is an important mineral for things like maintain electrolyte balance in the body, and for proper nerve and muscle function. The average person needs about 2000 mg of sodium per day.
Salt comes in a variety of styles these days: pink, grey rock, iodized, kosher, sea, etc. Many types of salts come from mines and some come from evaporating the water content from sea water.
Salt is actually “sodium chloride”. It is about 40% sodium and 60% chloride (another important mineral your body needs).
Too Much Salt
Many North Americans consume way too much salt. And, it’s not because they all add extra salt to all their food.
Sodium is found in most packaged and processed foods, including things like chips, soup, salad dressing, canned goods, pickles, deli meats, fast foods and most restaurant foods.
So much salt is used in packaged foods because it helps to preserve foods for a longer shelf life by drawing out water that can cause bacteria and mold to form.
Eating too much salt is known to increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, stomach cancer, kidney stones and even heart attack! And, think about the packaged or processed foods you eat in a typical week…if you add just 1 teaspoon of salt to your meals each day, that teaspoon is pretty much all the salt your body needs.
Yet, the average North American eats about 3400 mg of sodium every day.
High Blood Pressure
For a quick side note, people with high blood pressure often have something called “salt-sensitive high blood pressure”.
When you eat foods rich in salt, your body absorbs the salt quickly and it gets into your bloodstream. This salty blood triggers an influx of water into your vessels to dilute it, which turns on your thirst signal.
More water in your blood means that your blood vessels have more fluid in them than normal, which causes pressure against the vessel walls. More blood is sent to the kidneys to help flush the excess sodium out of your body.
This is why too much salt can cause high blood pressure and potentially kidney diseases. And, high blood pressure can impact those tiny, important vessels in your brain, too, which, if burst, lead to strokes.
If you’re at risk for high blood pressure, reduce your intake of salt by eating more whole foods, especially plant-based foods. Increase your intake of fiber-rich foods like ground flaxseeds, apples, or even blueberries. Avoid packaged and processed foods, and limit how much salt you add to your meals.
Can Your Body Need More Salt?
Alright, this next part may come as a shock but, yes, certain people actually need more salt!
Remember that most of our salt comes from packaged, processed foods, and that salt is super important for regulating our important electrolytes throughout our body. Electrolytes ensure signals and functions keep happening so that your body continues to hum along at a happy, healthy pace.
Cellular metabolism and energy production require a good electrolyte balance. As do your muscles, including your heart!
As people begin to move away from packaged, processed foods and become more conscious of what they’re eating, they likely will need more salt down the road!
You May Need More Salt if You Follow This Diet
If you follow a healthy keto or low-carb diet, you will need more salt. If most of your food comes from whole foods and you’ve reduced your total carbohydrate intake, you probably need more salt.
Well, remember that most of our salt intake comes from packaged foods. And, as someone who is following a healthy low-carb diet (i.e. one that is rich in healthy fats, tons of fresh fruits and veggies, and low in foods like grains, sugar or dairy), you likely aren’t getting enough sodium!
One indication that your body needs more salt is if you start to feel flu-like symptoms a few days into your new low-carb / high-fat diet. This is your body telling you it has an electrolyte imbalance and that it needs more salt.
If this happens, start by adding 1-2 teaspoons of pink Himalayan or grey rock salt to about 1-2 liters of water. Another way to help rebalance electrolytes is to try trace minerals.
Just keep adjusting your salt intake until you feel normal again. And, understand that this type of diet is super low in sodium, so you’ll need to continue to add water to food or water to keep your electrolytes balanced.
Salt and Adrenal Fatigue
If you’re living with adrenal fatigue, perhaps you’ve noticed more salt cravings than normal. Or maybe you feel lightheaded when you stand up quickly.
People with adrenal fatigue typically have low blood pressure along with low adrenal function. And, your body may need more salt than you think.
Note that those with adrenal fatigue should stick with pink Himalayan or rock salt and avoid iodized salt.
You need more salt because your body is low in aldosterone, a steroid hormone produced by your adrenal glands. Aldosterone plays a major role in helping to regulate blood pressure.
Low aldosterone can also cause electrolyte imbalances and cell dehydration, too. I know with my adrenal fatigue, I am ALWAYS thirsty, even though I drink 3-4 liters of water per day. This is because my low aldosterone levels aren’t helping to get the water I drink into my cells. And, to add to this, low aldosterone can lead to heart palpitations, extreme fatigue, and muscle weakness.
If you are healthy and eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods, then you probably don’t need to worry about your salt intake. You may actually want to add a bit of salt to your meals if you’re extremely tired, or you have flu-like symptoms every once in a while.
If your doctor has told you to reduce your salt or sodium intake, then you can do this by reducing your intake of processed foods, adding less salt to the food you make, and eating more plant-based foods. Organic cuts of poultry and meat are better choices as commercial meats tend to have more sodium content.