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Friday, January 24, 2014

Is sea salt really good for you? (updated)

Lorraine Moller: In need of a long, cold
drink - and a little salt - following her Bronze Medal
performance in the Barcelona Olympic
Hi Gary,
I cut right back on salt intake quite a few years ago thinking it was more healthy, but now I'm starting to think this might be wrong!

I've read of a few runners who overcame Adrenal gland burnout by taking SEA SALT!

Could my low Max Heart Rate and feeling weak and dizzy when I stand up quickly be caused by not taking enough salt! Is sea salt really good for you?

As a distance runner following Lydiard's base training I must be sweating out buckets of salt and trace

Any advice would be much appreciated.
Thanks Rick

Good questions, Rick.

Humans have salt receptors on their tongues.  Its because without salt, we die.  Salt helped found civilisations when it was traded for cloth and grains. Roman soldiers were paid in salt which was then used to purchase goods (hence the word "salary").

The problem is that we have adulterated salt by refining it to be just one salt - sodium chloride (NaCl).  Natural salt consists of 80 or more different mineral salts with NaCl being the principal one. On its own, NaCl may be considered detrimental to health by causing imbalances between itself and the other salts that are found inside the healthy cell. Refined NaCl salt is what is added during modern food processing.

Pink Himalayan salt is at least 240 million years old.  It is what remains of the Primordial Ocean, the ocean from which creatures emerged to colonise the land.  Our cells have a salt make-up that is remarkably similar to the primordial ocean.  Our tissue salt make-up is quite different to the salt content of the oceans of today.  I find this most fascinating - that we have managed to retain, more or less, the salt make-up of the oceans within which higher life evolved many millions of years ago.

For this reason, I encourage the consumption of Pink Himalayan Salt and the avoidance of all other salt.  If pink salt is not available then Celtic salt is a good alternative.

There are three fluid compartments inside the body: These are the blood, the water surrounding the cells ("extracellular matrix") and the water inside the cells ("intracellular matrix").  Your trillion or so cells are like individual plants bathed in a hydroponic mix (extracellular matrix), with the nutrients and water (blood) supplied by millions of pipes (blood vessels).  The most important compartment, if there is one, is the intracellular matrix where the complex biochemistry of life happens.

Water follows the salt in the body.  How much water is in a compartment depends on how much or how little is needed to ensure the near perfect concentration of the complex salt solution necessary to maintain life. If there is an excess of NaCl relative to other salts, then the body will attempt to dump this excess NaCl through the kidneys and via sweating.  This will result in dehydration in all three fluid compartments, especially in the intracellular matrix.

Water and nutrients are actively transported across the semi-impervious cell membranes by there being a greater concentration of sodium on the outside relative to the potassium on the inside.  If this mechanism is unable to function well due to a mineral deficiency or excess then the processes that nourish and cleanse the cells begins to faulter.  The cell may become dehydrated and metabolic toxins will begin to accumulate in the intra and extracellular compartments.  Paradoxically, the extracellular matrix may become bloated with excess water.  These may be felt and seen as:

  • Oedema or bloating, often apparent as swelling of the feet and hands.  In skinny people, look for the tell-tale indentation from the elastic of ankle socks towards the end of the day.
  • Heavy, tired legs.
  • Feeling faint when standing up quickly.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Slow, unresponsive pulse
  • Difficulty getting up to maximum heart rate.
  • Confusion, poor memory, anxiety.
  • Fibromyalgia and polymyalgia.
  • Adrenal fatigue.
  • Poor healing.
  • Prone to infections.
  • Physical and mental burn-out.
All of the above are very common in athletes and signals the beginning of the end of their competitive career.  Few competitive athletes avoid the symptoms above ("burn-out").

The solution is to take about one rounded teaspoon per day of pink salt.  If doing a lot of sweating, then more salt needs to be taken.  Add it liberally to food.  You also need to take in a little protein about every 2-4 hours of waking.  This can be any form including a protein smoothie drink.  The adrenals need salt and protein in order to do their job which includes regulating blood pressure.

Feeling light-headed?
Feeling faint upon arising is the cue to take three-four grains of coarse Himalayan Salt.  Just toss them into the mouth and wash down with a large glass of water.  If you get a nauseous feeling you need to drink more water. Have something to eat, including a little protein.

If you are depleted in minerals it can take many months, if not years, to fully replenish and balance levels and it may be necessary to give extra amounts of minerals such as magnesium, zinc and selenium.  It may also be necessary to supplement with nutrients such as pyridoxine which assists in the balancing of minerals including sodium and potassium as well as promoting red blood cell production, nerve function and balancing various hormones.

Just what is needed and how best to go about replenishing and balancing these is complex and best guided by the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) and repeated the test every 6-12 months.  I recommend that all athletes use this test to guide their nutrition and to avoid burn-out.

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