Friday, June 7, 2013

How Much Salt Do You Really Need?

New research finds limiting salt intake can be dangerous.
As a whole, Americans consume far too much salt – on average 3,400 mg sodium or more daily (or about 1.5 teaspoons of salt). Our processed “fast food” diet is a major contributor – a bacon cheeseburger and large fry from McDonald’s clocks in at a whopping 1,790 mg of sodium.
But, how much is enough?
I’ve long advised my clients to limit salt intake – and for good reason. For starters, salty processed foods can pack on “false fat” or water weight, and too much sodium is especially harmful for those at risk of heart disease and stroke.
The current U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that people 14 to 50 limit salt intake to 2,300 mg daily, and for people 51 and over, African Americans, and those with hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease—1,500 mg daily. And for years, the American Heart Association has recommended that everyone stay below 1,500 mg per day to avoid heart disease and stroke risk, regardless of age or ethnicity.
Recently, a big story hit the news warning that lowering daily sodium intake below the nationally recommended 2,300 mg may do more harm than good.
According to the report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), “these new studies support previous findings that reducing sodium from very high intake levels to moderate levels improves health. But they also suggest that lowering sodium intake too much may actually increase a person’s risk of some health problems,” committee chair Brian Strom of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine said.
While the IOM research does acknowledge the positive correlation between high sodium intake and heart disease and stroke risk, its findings were inconclusive on whether lowering salt intake below 2,300 mg can actually decrease risk as previously thought. In fact, lowered sodium intake was actually found to have negative health affects for patients with heart failure in the mid-to-late stages.
What does this mean for you?
I think this latest study reinforces the common sense notion that moderation is key. While I definitely don’t condone pouring on the salt, I think cutting it out almost entirely can be more dangerous…just learn to live with less!
As a general rule, I’ve always advised that if you’re over 40 or have hypertension, it would be smart to keep your daily sodium intake around 1,500 mg. However, this new research definitely brings to light something that I’ve noticed more and more with my own clients.
Based on the Tissue Mineral Analysis results that have come across my desk over the last few years, I’ve noticed a marked increase in the number of people suffering from severe adrenal fatigue – a result of the stressed out world we all live in. And, with burned out adrenal glands comes the need for extra sodium.
When the adrenals are distressed, the production of aldosterone, the steroid hormone responsible for regulating the body’s salt-water balance and helping regulate blood pressure, becomes disturbed making it necessary to moderately increase salt intake to ensure adequate levels of sodium.
As the summer months approach, I also recommend that Athletes who are sweating more than usual shake on a little extra salt to keep in balance.
As a little extra tip, I’ve found that salt can help prevent the body from becoming too acidic. The next time you find yourself with a pounding headache focused on the forehead region, try taking a pinch or two of salt – you’ll be amazed at how quickly this simple pH adjustment can make your headache disappear!
For tips on how to incorporate salt into your diet healthfully, check out my book Get the Salt Out or read my blog, Need to Shake Your Salt Habit?
-Edge On Health, Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman