Blood and sea water both harbour (pun!) a very similar chemical constitution. So similar in fact that the salt concentration and mineral components are nearly 100% identical! This is not surprising from an evolutionary perspective, Homo sapiens did after all evolve from a creature that spent all of its life cycle in saltwater.
Our bodies need a regular intake of salt in order to work optimally, yet somehow this essential component of our historical diet has gotten a bad rap over the last decades. No one really knows how this came about.
There is a Regular War on Salt by Government Health Authorities
Just like how our views on saturated fats and total cholesterol levels were slightly skewered, the medical community doesn’t always get it right. The great thing about science (and where it deviates from other institutions) is its ability to admit when it has made a false assumption.
It seems to be de rigeur for the medical establishment to slate salt usage in cooking for its supposed adverse effects on kidneys and blood pressure. Some health practitioners even rank it as a poison, up there with tobacco and alcohol for its damaging effects on the body. They quote from outdated clinical studies whose conclusions used statistics to demonstrate a negative impact on the circulatory system, hereby causing high blood pressure – this has never been proven scientifically.
Salt has been so vilified in fact, that the US Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines lists salt as the number one most dangerous food additive – even over sugar, fats and alcohol! The director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US even took this one step further, recently stating on record that reducing the amount of salt consumed is AS important as quitting cigarettes for long term health!
If we are talking science, then there are numerous studies that show that a low salt intake is actually associated with disease progression and shorter life spans! Conversely the m0st recent clinical trials all seem to suggest that salt consumption is vital to our body’s functioning at its best.
It is safe to say, that the notion that a low salt diet is good at treating high blood pressure is based on dogma not evidence.
Not all Salts are the Same
There are several different salts available nowadays. Salt is literally mined from all four corners of the earth: The Himalayas, clay pools along the coastlines of France, the Dead Sea in Israel, salt mines in the heart of the Black Forest, Germany and many more.
Some salts contain up to 60 different trace elements. Essential ones too, such as magnesium.
On a daily basis ocean water is channeled and accumulates in shallow pools (usually made of clay). In these pools, the salt gets isolated from the water element of sea water and takes on the minerals and trace elements of its surrounding. Hereby supplying the salt with ocean-derived minerals and trace elements, including essential iodine, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, manganese, chromium and zinc.
On top of all this, it is important to note that these historical studies that outlined the negative side effects of salt were conducted using regular (refined) table salt – the type of salt that is made using industrial machinery – not extracted from natural quarries and mines and the studies also focused on overall sodium levels as a benchmark- which can be increased without ingesting salt.
Government health authorities in the US and EU are trying to call for an all-out ban on salt due to these risks– if not an all-out ban, then at least a substantial reduction in its industrial use (i.e. in adding to bread etc..) – the ramifications of this could be catastrophic for our bodies.
Unrefined Salt is GOOD for you
Clinical studies have shown that having salt in our diet increases insulin sensitivity and decreases insulin resistance. Even a moderate restriction in salt intake has powerful effects on insulin levels and actually increases overall insulin resistance.
Salt helps the thyroid function properly and also combats increased levels of cortisol (our stress hormone) – which means that during times of stress, it is important to maintain adequate salt intake. Salt has been shown to completely eliminate cortisol levels in some studies, it is also useful in combating certain types of insomnia, especially those associated with sporadic adrenaline spikes – some natural health practitioners advise a pinch of salt on the tongue if you awake during the middle of the night – especially if this is a sudden wakening where your heart is beating fast (which is usually characteristic of an adrenaline spike).
As mentioned, some unrefined salts contain up to 60 important trace elements, including magnesium – which is underrepresented in our everyday diet.
Salt also helps maintain the proper osmotic balance in the extracellular fluids. Many highly significant hormones and cellular messengers are transported through the fluid surrounding our cells – so it is important to maintain the osmotic balance so as to ensure optimum transport of these molecules.
Adequate levels of dietary salt also encourage a healthy metabolism and in turn affect weight management.
During and after intense exercise, salt can be added to water as a natural electrolyte replacement. Salt can also help during allergic reactions, it binds to histamine and as such it is a natural anti-histamine.
How much Salt?
Our bodies are pretty amazing at gauging how much we need from any nutrients. Have you ever had a real craving for something salty? Well this is because your body is low on salt. Listen to your body, it usually knows best.
Sometimes when the thyroid is not functioning properly or our metabolism is too low, we need more salt in our system. Here it helps to add a little bit of unrefined salt to everything from beverages to meals. Though bear in mind that if you have suffered hypertension or kidney (renal) problems in the past then please contact a health professional. When choosing the right salt, make sure it is unrefined and comes from a natural source. There are some excellent natural sea salts available. Happy choosing.
Finally, let us pay tribute to one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century – who had this to say when it came to salt..
“Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all”
Amen, Nelson Mandela!
by Christopher von Roy BSc, MSc, DCP Immunology
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