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 world’s events.
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 too.
History of Salt in ReligionSalt 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 better.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 include: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 a physician.
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.