There are different views on the need for added salt. Some low-salt advocates believe that there is sufficient sodium in our meats and no additional salt is needed.
Some anecdotal stories hold this to be true. But for most of us, we need to add more life-giving salt.
Depending on the type of salt, salt is mostly 40% sodium and 60% chloride.
Sodium is a mineral and an electrolyte. Sodium helps to keep the balance of fluids in and outside of the body’s cells and how the nerves and muscles work in the body. In my next blog post, I’ll talk about the importance of balancing electrolytes.
Why You Need Sodium
More than 85% of the sodium in our body is found in the blood and in the lymph fluid (part of the body that carries lymph fluid, nutrients and waste around the tissues and bloodstream).
Maybe this is why many tribal communities drink the blood of the animal.
Normal Sodium Levels
Sodium can be measured in urine, blood and hair mineral tests.
Blood tests show a normal range between 136-145 mmol per L.
While blood markers show serum sodium levels for a brief snapshot in time, hair tissue mineral tests show an average of 3-month-mineral-levels in the cells. If you are having a hard time balancing electrolytes on a lower carbohydrate diet, hair tissue tests are a great tool to getting to root cause.
Causes of High Sodium Levels (HYPERnatremia)
High sodium serum (blood) levels are considered results above 145 mmol/L.
Reasons for High Sodium Levels:
- Extreme thirst is a sign of mildly high sodium levels (so the body can pee out the excess sodium) but in more serious cases, it can lead to stroke or seizures.
- Excess processed carbohydrates and processed foods (with iodized salt)
- Diarrhea, vomiting
- Excessive sweating
- Not enough drinking water or dehydration
- Dehydration from medicines such as diuretics and lithium.
- Kidney disease can also cause issues with balancing sodium levels
- Liver disease
- Low levels of specific hormones
- High aldosterone hormone levels. Oftentimes, when the body is stressed, excess aldosterone is produced by the adrenals and in turn, retains more salt in the body.
- Imbalance in adrenal glands (overusing adrenals = high cortisol outputs)
- Imbalances in kidney function
- Medications like lithium and laxative (diuretics)
Causes of Low Sodium Levels (HYPOnatremia)
Low sodium levels are defined as serum sodium levels under 135 mmol/L.
Reasons for Low Sodium (or imbalanced) Levels:
- Medications such as birth control pills, corticosteroids, estrogen, antibiotics, some antidepressants, heparin, diuretics, lithium, NSAIDS (advil), and blood pressure supports.
- Malnutrition—not just not eating enough but not eating enough nutrient-rich foods
- High serum glucose levels, triglycerides and protein levels
- Consuming too much water while excessive exercising (marathons). Yes, excessive water ingestion is more dangerous than dehydration.
- Adrenal gland imbalances (underactive adrenals, hypoadrenals)
- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroid)
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Not urinating enough
- Liver disease (cirrhosis)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Addison’s disease
- Excess beer and recreational drugs
- Diuretics and laxatives
- Excess diarrhea and vomiting
- Ketones in the blood
Getting a Better Pulse on Sodium
Balancing electrolytes is key and you can read more in the next blog about balancing electrolytes.
These electrolytes will depict a better idea of what may be going on with serum sodium levels:
Kidney markers may also give you an idea of what’s going on with serum sodium levels as kidneys will ultimately be the detox organ to excrete excess sodium in the body. (note that the adrenal hormone, aldosterone has a role in this too).
- Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN – a marker for kidney function)
- Creatinine and creatinine clearance (another kidney marker)
- eGFR (estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate)
Are You Consuming Too Much Salt?
We are led to believe that we consume too much salt and that anyone with high blood pressure should be on a low-salt diet.
The frequency of low sodium blood results for hospital visits says otherwise.
Remember, a high-stress lifestyle (high sugar and carbohydrate diet, stress, overexercise, undereating, not enough sleep, etc.) can cause a need for more salt. (Hello, adrenals and aldosterone). Additionally, one reason we can run into lower sodium levels is when we have ketones in the blood. Ketones can cause an extra need for sodium.
Maybe we are unfairly blaming salt. Maybe it’s the adrenal and electrolyte imbalance that high-stress lifestyles and excess carbohydrate consumption does to our bodies.
- A large global study showed that low-salt diets increased the risk of cardiovascular disease and death compared to average salt consumers. 
- One Harvard study of 60,000 nurses, who followed a low calcium and magnesium diet, had a greater chance (23%) of developing high blood pressure.
- Another study found that by balancing calcium, magnesium and other electrolyte minerals, improvements to blood pressure and hypertension were seen. Yes, it wasn’t about reducing sodium.
- One study at the University of Indiana put patients on a low-salt diet. 33% of the patients lowered their blood pressure. But 33% also increased their blood pressure.
Not All Salts Are Created Equal
Iodized table salt is not the same as mineral salts. Iodized salt can create a mineral imbalance by having too much sodium and chloride in the body and not enough of the other essential minerals.
Natural salts contain trace minerals that can support hormone, electrical and chemical processes in the body. Trace minerals can support heart and nerve health. Remember, minerals are the spark plugs in the body. In fact irregular heartbeats, heart palpitations and even neurological disorders can be better supported by managing sodium levels.
Other Benefits from Real Mineral Salts (Celtic, Himalayan, sea salt):
- Adrenal (and thyroid) health – Aldosterone is made by the adrenals, especially when the body is stressed. Water retention (edema) is directly related to aldosterone and can be a result of too much salt and not enough. The body may be holding onto the deficiency until there is sufficiency.
- Allergies – may be a natural antihistamine
- Asthma and sinus – Salt can help clear excess mucus and phlegm. (saltwater gargle)
- Blood sugar – may help to increase insulin sensitivity and support those with diabetes
- Bone health – a ¼ of the salt in the body is in our bones. When the body doesn’t have enough salt and minerals, it pulls these resources from the body. This can worsen osteoporosis. Magnesium and sodium are critical here.
- Cell cleaning – negatively charged ions and trace minerals in salt can better cross into cells and possibly pull toxins out
- Cellulite – may be lessened with more salt consumption
- Digestive function – salt can increase stomach acid and may help with heartburn. See Carnivore Cure, chapter 2 for more details.
- Heart health – as discussed above
- Hormonal balances – can support normal hormone function, including in fertilitiy and reproductive health.
- Migraines – migraine sufferers tend to need more salt. See my podcast interview with Angela Stanton, PhD, founder of the Stanton Migraine Protocol.
- Muscle cramps – A balance of magnesium and sodium help to balance muscle cramps. Sodium and magnesium ratios are critical in adrenal health. This is why you see athletes soak their feet in Epsom salts. They released a lot of cortisol (adrenals) from exercise and now want to support the muscles with sulfur, sodium and magnesium (ingredient in Epsom salt).
- Normalize blood pressure
- Nutrient absorption from water and food
- Skin health – Improvements in eczema and psoriasis have been seen with balancing electroyltes and sodium intake.
- Sleep – Balancing electrolytes can support hormones and improve sleep quality
- Teeth – Trace minerals may help to remineralize teeth. Saltwater gargling can benefit oral health.
Excerpt from My Bone Broth Guide
Shy away from iodized salt as much of it is processed with synthetic chemicals and maybe toxic to your health. These chemicals include manufactured forms of iodide, sugar, dextrose (sugar) to stabilize iodide, fluoride, sodium solo-co-aluminate, sodium bicarbonate, MSG, anti-caking agents, and toxic amounts of potassium iodide and aluminum derivatives.
The natural forms of important iodine is lost when salt is manufactured. Without this natural iodine, the thyroid is severely harmed. Because of this, the salt industry began to add synthetic forms of iodine to their products. Salt found in the natural world is not white. Table salt has been colored white with bleach.
And where does this salt come from?
Much of it is the actual flaky residue from oil digging. yes, crude oil extract is one way we produce table salt. Table salt can also cause headaches with high sodium in the blood and a dilation of blood vessels, as our cells won’t let water in because they are protecting the cell-salt ratio. The processed, dry state and mineral-deficient profile make it unusable by the body.
Real Mineral Salt
I like Celtic sea salt, Redmond’s real salt, and Himalayan salt. Himalayan salt is considered rock salt because it is mined. Studies have shown very minimal traces of heavy metals and I have yet to see heavy metal toxicity in my client’s hair tissue mineral test.
Himalayan salt has been compressed for millennia and can be difficult to absorb. Making sole water with Himalayan salt helps because the overnight soaking of the salt in water allows the salt to become digestible (and absorbable) again. Studies show that Himalayan salt has about 84 minerals but it is mostly sodium, magnesium and calcium. The good thing about these results is that the toxic minerals are next to none, as well.
Sea salt assimilates well in our bodies. Our bodies digest it and use its minerals. Sea salt may have the greatest quantity of trace minerals and the body needs these electrolytes to maintain the right balance of fluids. If any of the trace nutrient minerals are lacking, the body will lack the triggering bioelectrical impulses and mineral building blocks necessary to operate at full efficiency.
All natural salts can also be used to support HPA axis dysfunction, thyroid disorders and headaches.
Celtic salt is also a good option. Celtic salt is naturally cultivated sea salt, where salt farmers stir ocean waters until crystals are formed.
Sure, mines and sea salt may have their impurities but I trust those options more than the finagling of iodized salt that uses bleach, synthetic iodine and other harmful additives (see natural flavors).
Excerpt from Carnivore Cure (Chapter 11)
Salt can support the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) imbalances, thyroid disorders, and headaches. Salt is beneficial to our brain, as sodium helps move vitamin C into the brain. Salt can promote insulin sensitivity, improve metabolism, reduce stress hormones, and support overall hormone balance. It is also a natural antihistamine and critical for good digestion. The chloride from the salt makes strong hydrochloric acid, and the calcium from some natural salts will support the acid release in the stomach.
Sodium is one of the most important electrolytes in the body and supports the body’s fluid balance. This becomes especially important when removing most carbohydrates from the diet. Glycogen is stored in water in the muscles. When the body is depleted of glycogen stores, the body removes a lot of the water. With less water, electrolytes become critical. Make sure to replenish your electrolytes on days you are more active. Otherwise, you will begin to feel the symptoms of electrolyte deficiencies.
Consuming too much salt does not raise blood pressure and then increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies show no evidence that limiting salt intake will lower the risk of heart disease. The one caveat is individuals diagnosed with salt-sensitive hypertension that might benefit from monitoring salt intake.
Traditionally, salt was used as a tool to preserve food. High amounts of salt prevented bad bacteria from growing. This is how many of the fermented food processes came into play. Today, salt is added to foods to help manufacturers to find the bliss point. Bliss point is a lab-made formulation of the exact amount of salt, sugar, and fat that optimizes tastiness and, subsequently, the desire to go back for more. Thank Howard Moskowitz, a psychophysicist and market researcher, for turning human food consumption into a massive science experiment. He has earned accolades for helping companies get inside the minds of the people.
Ways to Consume Salt
- Asthma and allergies. Use a sea salt inhaper to help alleviate symptoms.
- Balancing electrolytes. Drinking sole water for electrolytes has been the most effective tool I’ve seen with my clients.How-to and electrolyte balancing in my next blog post! One thing I’ll say is that magnesium is critical.
- Detox. You can also make a scrub with salt + olive oil to use an exfoliant as you bathe. You can also use this as a soap (may help with eczema).
- Epsom salt bath. Soak your body (or just feet) in an Epsom salt bath (2 tablespoons of salt + magnesium).
- Food and drink. Adding mineral salt may help the body better absorb water. Remember, stick to mineral salts.
- Oral health. Swish daily with a mineral salt mixture for 30 – 60 seconds. The trace minerals should help remineralize teeth and support the overall pH of the mouth.
- Skin health. Make a mixture of mineral salt and water (you can use honey too) and apply to the areas with eczema or psoriasis flares.
- Himalayan salt lamps. Our family has one in every room. It helps the ambiance in the room and we want to head to bed in a rested/relaxed state (parasympathetic state). These salt lamps have been touted to ionize the air but research is inconclusive (and frankly, there are a lot of fake lamps out there). But if anything, they are a wonderful night light.
Nutrition with Judy Closing
Figure out what amount of salt works for you. If you have the symptoms of low salt, you may want to start consuming more minerals salts. I am a big fan of sole water and using a variety of celtic, Redmond’s and Himalayan salt to ensure the maximum amount of minerals and the least amount of heavy metals.
Find the amount that works for you but remember, a low salt diet is usually not the answer. Make sure to read the next blog post on balancing electrolytes and how to make sole water.
w️ith ♥ and hope for healing,
DISCLAIMER: The content is for educational purposes only. While I am a nutritional therapy practitioner and provide nutritional support, I am not providing medical advice. Whenever you start a new diet or protocol, always first consult with your trusted practitioner.
 Adler et al., “Reduced Dietary Salt for … Disease.”; McMaster University, “Low-Salt Diets May Not Be Beneficial for All, Study Suggests,” ScienceDaily, 2016, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160521071410.htm.