Note from Carolyn:
My father was on a salt restricted diet most of my life. They blamed his cognitive decline on his alcohol consumption, but I wonder if the lack of salt, and the wrong kind of salt contributed to it. When you eat whole foods in their natural form you don't crave a lot of salt. Getting the right kind adds the proper minerals that are missing in our soils, and therefore in our foods. .
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- Carrying nutrients into and out of your cells
- Maintaining and regulating blood pressure
- Supporting healthy glial cell populations in your brain, which are essential for forming the protective coating known as myelin that surrounds the portion of the neuron that conducts electrical impulses, as well as other vital neurological functions
- Helping your brain communicate with your muscles, so that you can move on demand via sodium-potassium ion exchange
What else is salt good for? WAPF's commentary to the FDA further breaks down the importance of both sodium and chloride for body function:ii
"Sodium plays a critical role in body physiology. It controls the volume of fluid in the body and helps maintain the acid-base level. About 40 percent of the body's sodium is contained in bone, some is found within other organs and cells, and the remaining 55 percent is in blood plasma and extracellular fluids. Sodium is important in proper nerve conduction, in aiding the passage of various nutrients into cells, and in the maintenance of blood pressure.
Sodium-dependent enzymes are required for carbohydrate digestion, to break down complex carbohydrates and sugars into monosaccharides such as glucose, fructose and galactose; sodium is also involved in transporting these monosaccharides across the intestinal wall. Although salt is the most common dietary source for these essential elements, sodium is also available from various foods that contain sodium naturally.
Chloride ions also help maintain proper blood volume, blood pressure, and pH of body fluids. Chloride is the major extracellular anion and contributes to many body functions including the maintenance of blood pressure, acid-base balance, muscular activity, and the movement of water between fluid compartments. Chloride is the major component of hydrochloric acid, which is needed for protein digestion.
Symptoms of hypochlorhydria (low hydrochloric acid) include bloating, acne, iron deficiency, belching, indigestion, diarrhea and multiple food allergies. Chloride is available in very few foods, and adequate chloride must be obtained from salt."
The risk for heart disease was 56 percent higher for the low-salt group than for the group who ate the most salt! Some studies have shown a modest benefit to salt restriction among some people with high blood pressure, but the evidence does not extend to the rest of the population.
"While excess sodium consumption does increase blood pressure in certain sensitive individuals, increased salt intake does not raise blood pressure in most people. In an average population when salt intakes are reduced, about 30 percent will experience a small drop in blood pressure (between one and four mm Hg), while about 20 percent will experience a similar increase in blood pressure.
The remaining 50 percent of the population will show no effect at all of salt intake reduction. In most people, even a significant increase in salt consumption does not raise blood pressure. … While salt restriction may benefit a small percentage of people with high blood pressure, the science shows no health benefits – and significant health problems – due to salt restriction in the majority of the population."
There is also a condition in which you have too little sodium. This is known as hyponatremia, where your body's fluid levels rise and your cells begin to swell. This swelling can cause a number of health problems, from mild to severe. At its worst, hyponatremia can be life threatening, leading to brain swelling, coma and death. But mild to moderate hyponatremia has more subtle effects that you or your health care provider may not even connect with a sodium-deficiency problem, including: