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Salt: It’s the Balance that Makes the Difference

Salt, or sodium, is a required nutrient in the diet. It helps regulate fluid balance and promotes proper muscle function.  The body requires sodium in specific amounts but the  need varies  from person to person. A range of 1,800 to 2,400 milligrams, or about one teaspoon of salt, is considered to be a healthy daily dose for most people. Athletes** and those living in humid climates may require more.

You have undoubtedly heard about the dangers of salt and how it contributes to high blood pressure and how it should be avoided. This statement originated in the ’40’s when Dr. Walter Kempner from Duke University started restricting salt intake in people with high blood pressure.

Medical facts from Cornell Medical School’s Hypertensive Institute and the famous “Intersalt study” with over 10,000 participants from around the world confirmed that there is NO correlation showing salt raises blood pressure. This begs the question of why the salt-high blood pressure statement is still being pushed.

It’s been known for the past 2 decades that people with high blood pressure who don’t  lower their salt intake can simply consume more potassium-containing foods. Why? Because it’s really the balance of the two minerals that matters. This is THE key when it relates to salt — The balance between Salt and Potassium.

In fact, Dutch researchers determined that a low potassium intake has the same impact on your blood pressure as extremely high salt consumption does.

One way to determine this ratio is via blood tests. A simpler and arguably more accurate way is via Hair Analysis (aka “Trace Mineral Analysis”). (Call our office now for more details and to order one.)

Here is another way. If your right nostril is congested AND you ruled out allergies, cold and other respiratory issues etc., this is typically related to a Potassium deficiency. If your left nostril is congested AND the aforementioned issues are ruled out, this typically relates to a Sodium deficiency.

Bottom line here. Sodium is not nearly the “evil” substance that it is made to be. You can also make a strong case that seasoning with Sea Salt (not table salt/sodium chloride) is essential to overall health. Sufficient salt intake is an absolute for the circulatory buffer system to work in a health way.

  • ** Sweat is “saltier” during the beginning stages of training and heat acclimation versus after the athlete has a solid fitness base.
  • Sweat contains more salt when you are starting to become acclimatized to heat, and should decrease as you spend more time in this climate.
  • Depending on your sodium losses, you can replace your sodium sweat losses with the salt or sodium in your daily diet and by consuming a sports drink with adequate levels of sodium.

It has been my experience that most endurance athletes in humid climates are significantly deficient in trace minerals and electrolytes and should strongly consider supplementing these.

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1 comment
Lisa Leitl says April 22, 2010

Great article! It is a topic that gets tossed around in athletic circles constantly. I’ve always gone with the “it’s an individual” need. Everyone’s loss of electrolytes differs greatly. Thanks for clarifying some of the issues regarding sodium replacement.

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