| Pass the Salt Please
People and animals need salt. We put salt licks
out for horses and other animals. Deer have been observed traveling
up to 3 miles outside of normal range just to visit a sodium
source. Yet many people are brainwashed in thinking that salt
is an evil substance and to be avoided at all costs. It appears
that salt has been the subject of controversy for a very long
time. In fact, it has been at the headlines of many all the
In antiquity, salt was a precious commodity.
Marco Polo reported that in Tibet cakes of salt were pressed
with images of their ruler and used as currency.
Salt bars were also used as currency for more than 1000 years
in Ethiopia and travelers report that some are still circulating
among the nomads of the Danakil plains.
In ancient Greece, slaves were traded for salt, and an unruly
slave was not "worth his salt". Romans paid legionnaires
to enable them to purchase salt - a salarium argentum - from
which the word "salary" originates.
Chinese emperor Hsia Yu (2200 BC) was the first to levy a tax
on salt. This was also the first tax ever.
In France, the notorious salt tax (la gabelle) was partially
responsible for the eruption of the French revolution on 1789.
It is recorded that thousands of Napoleon's troops died during
his retreat from Moscow because their wounds would not heal
as a result of a lack of salt.
In 1777, the British Lord Howe was jubilant when he succeeded
in capturing General Washington's salt supply.
Salt played a key role in the Civil War too. In December, 1864,
Union forces made a forced march and fought a 36-hour battle
to capture Saltville, Virginia, the site of an important salt
processing plant thought essential to sustaining the South's
beleaguered armies. Civilian distress over the lack of salt
in the wartime Confederacy undermined rebel home front morale
History of Salt in Religion
Salt has long held an important place in religion and culture.
Greek worshippers consecrated salt in their rituals. Jewish
Temple offerings included salt; on the Sabbath, In the Old Testament,
Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt. When she looked
back to the city, Sodom.
Covenants in both the Old and New Testaments
were often sealed with salt: the origin of the word "salvation."
In the Catholic Church, salt is or has been used in a variety
of purifying rituals. In fact, until Vatican II, a small taste
of salt was placed on a baby's lip at his or her baptism. Jesus
called his disciples "the Salt of the Earth." In Leonardo
DaVinci's famous painting, "The Last Supper," Judas
has just spilled a bowl of salt - a portent of evil and bad
luck. To this day, the tradition endures that someone who spills
salt should throw a pinch over his left shoulder to ward off
any devils that may be lurking behind.
In Buddhist tradition, salt repels evil spirits. That's why
it's customary to throw salt over your shoulder before entering
your house after a funeral: it scares off any evil spirits that
may be clinging to your back.
Salt was much more valuable commodity in the
past than it is now. Before refrigeration, salt was the main
ingredient to preserve food, as it draws water out of bacteria,
causing it to shrivel and die. The vast majority of meat, and
fish was salted and shipped. Even butter was heavily salted.
Since 1949 many governments mandated the addition of iodine
to table salt, a deficiency which causes goiter, a swelling
of the thyroid gland. (Goiter used to be prevalent in mountainous
inland regions with limited or no access to salt). But because
of the wide spread avoidance of salt, I see numerous conditions
that respond to an increase iodine supplementation and sea salt
does not have a high content of iodine.
Salt is essential to all life; it regulates fluid balance and
absolutely necessary for movement, nerve impulses, digestion
and healing of wounds. All vertebrates have the same amount
of salt in their blood (9 grams per litre) which makes it four
times more salty than sea water.
Standard table salt is pure white, and it is a mined from the
Earth. I like sea salt on the other hand which is harvested
from the ocean and contains a wide mineral spectrum. These other
minerals are also useful for other bodily functions that are
in some cases have yet to be understood. Plus sea salt tastes
So in this day of high blood pressure and the associated fear
of salt, we still have mineral deficiencies that can cause a
wide range of symptoms that are often undiagnosed. Very often,
a person will be deficient in sodium or potassium. Yet the blood
tests are perfectly normal. This is because the sodium and potassium
that are deficient are at the cellular or tissue levels and
are not readily available for measurement. Many athletes and
those who work outside and who perspire profusely, all have
a need for sodium and potassium supplementation. This is basically
the Gatorade concept, which is not new idea. It just costs a
lot more to drink Gatorade (about five dollars a gallon) than
to take some sea salt tablets and potassium tablets. And Gatorade
is filled with sugar, which is not what a person needs to maintain
proper energy levels. During the hot humid weather that we've
been experiencing lately many people have been drinking lots
more water or fluids than they typically do. This can create
a state called hyponatremia (low sodium levels). This is a dangerous
condition that may arise when you dilute your body's sodium
levels. In fact, this is a condition often encountered after
person has a heart attack and is very difficult to restore to
normal. Active people who drink a lot of fluids and the loss
of salt through perspiration, one can also develop hyponatremia.
Some of the common conditions associated with sever sodium loss
Heat Cramps are involuntary and sometimes painful cramping of
the muscles, usually in the calves or abdomen. These cramps
usually occur from and imbalance of sodium and potassium as
a result of salt loss through heavy sweating. Fluid and electrolyte
(salt) replacement is the proper treatment.
Dehydration is the lack of sufficient fluids
in the body usually lost from sweating during exercise. Early
signs of dehydration are decreased urine production, lethargy,
anxiety, and irritability. Severe dehydration may be manifested
by un-coordinated, spastic gait and altered consciousness. Untreated
dehydration may lead to cardiovascular collapse and death.
Salt depletion is exclusively the result of
heat exposure, usually occurring in conditions of high sweat
production over several hours or several days of repeated exposure.
Mild salt depletion causes symptoms similar to mild dehydration.
Sever depletion can cause seizures, coma, and death. Moderate
to severe depletion should be treated under the direction of
Heat Exhaustion occurs as a result of increased
metabolic heat load from physical activity and dehydration and/or
sat depletion secondary to sweating. Common symptoms include
"gooseflesh," headache, dizziness, shortness of breath,
pallor, nausea, vomiting and uncoordinated gait. The first treatment
is to remove the individual from the hot environment, if possible.
Re-hydration and replenishing of salt is essential. Active cooling
measures may also be needed.
Sodium is an electrolyte that helps with nerve and muscle function,
and also helps to maintain blood pressure. Hyponatremia can
also occur in people whose kidneys do not function properly,
as well as in those with heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver,
and Addison's disease. Sodium must be maintained at a specific
concentration in the blood and the fluid surrounding the body's
cells for the body to function properly. Changes of extracellular
sodium concentration are sensed by hypothalamic receptors. It
is only recently been found that we have these receptors, and
exactly how they work is not yet known.
So how do you know if you're getting enough sodium or potassium?
I like the salt lick concept. If you add sea salt to your food,
after you have cooked it. You may be able to taste if you're
getting too much. I think do we still have the ability to realize
if were getting too much and to stop taking it. Just like animals'
do of the wild. Another way is to look at your feet. Most adults
should be able to see the veins and tendons in your feet there
are few if any fat cells in the feet. If you can't this could
mean that you're retaining fluid, or that you're either getting
too much salt or not enough potassium. So if you're increasing
your salt intake or taking salt tablets and you notice your
feet look a little puffy you can try increasing potassium and
cut down on the salt intake too. As always, anyone with hypertension
should consult with their health care professional prior to
increasing salt or potassium intake.
Randy Schaetzke, DC, DIBAK
Randy Schaetzke, D.C., D.I.B.A.K.