Updated: Oct 20, 2022
“Salt is bad for our health,” is a common phrase we hear all the time when we are trying to improve our eating habits to be more “healthy.” Even the FDA has recently updated their Dietary Guidelines for Americans by recommending Americans limit their sodium intake from 3,400mg to now 2,300 mg per day for people 14 years and older, less for anyone 13 and younger. The culture around salt has emphasized the consumption of salt to be bad for our health, as too much salt will create harmful health effects on the body. This is a message we hear all the time.
But is salt really that bad for our health? The short answer is yes and no. I know, not the answer you probably were looking for. Salt regarding our health is more complex than being a simple, bad vs. good, but in fact it is about balance. Factors such as quality of salt, where our source of salt comes from (i.e., fast food vs. home cooked meals), and health conditions all play a role in how salt effects our body. Today I will focus on the last factor – health conditions.
Let me explain…
The thing about salt is our bodies needs it to survive – that is common knowledge. However, too much of anything, including salt can potentially cause an imbalance in the body leading to health effects like high blood pressure – something we do not want. But we have to take that statement with a grain of salt because not everyone experiences salt in the same way.
For the most part, high levels of salt can be harmful or as I like to say cause an imbalance within the body. However, this is not for everyone. There is a demographic of people who have the opposite effect with salt and instead require extremely high levels of salt for the body to be balance. These people have what is called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, POTS for short.
POTS is a condition that effects the heart and blood volume in the body. When a person has POTS the condition causes their heart to beat faster during the transition from laying, to sitting, to standing up. Normally a body can regulate itself during these transitions keeping the blood pressure at a steady and stable rate, but this is not the case with the POTS demographic. Studies show on average a person with POTS have a 12 to 13% lower blood volume compared to a person without POTS. A lower blood volume can cause a variety of symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, brain fog, heart palpitations, fatigue, feeling nervous or anxious, shortness of breath, shakiness, extreme sweating, chest pains, headaches, feeling sick, bloating, discoloration, and many more symptoms!
At this moment the medical field is unaware on what causes POTS as it currently affects around 3 million people in the USA. However, researchers have been able to identify subtypes of POTS, including Neuropathic POTS (loss of nerve supply), Hyperadrenergic POTS (overactive sympathetic nervous system), and Hypovolemic POTS (reduced blood volume). POTS people can have one or more of these types. As researchers continue to study POTs, more evidence is suggesting it is an autoimmune disease – for those unaware of what an autoimmune disease is, it is a when the immune system attacks its own body for unknown reasons. Some examples of an autoimmune include, hashimotos, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis (MS). There is currently no cure for POTS.
So, what does salt have to do with POTS?
On going studies have found that salt can help balance and increase the blood volume and improve the symptoms associated with POTS. Dr. Satish Raj, MD, a cardiologist and researcher at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine led a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showing that an intake in high levels of sodium and water helped increase blood plasma volume in patients, which resulted in a decrease in noradrenaline heart rate aka stabilizing their body upon standing, along with other symptoms improving.
How much salt are we talking?
On average someone who has been diagnosed with POTS is suggested to intake approximately 2 liters of water and around 3 to 5 grams of salt (3,000mg – 5,000mg) a day. However, some POTS people require less or more salt. One study by Low et al.(2012), published in Primer on the Autonomic Nervous System, suggest between 10-20 grams of salt (10,000 to 20,000mg). It is important to note that anyone who has POTS should consult their doctor before increasing their levels of salt as each person is different and some people with POTS will require more or less salt than others – there is no "one fits all" in terms of how much salt someone should consume with POTS.
So how does someone with POTS get their salt intake?
It depends on their doctor’s train of thought. Some doctors will suggest a salt pill be added to one’s diet. These pills are exactly what they are called – salt in a pill form. However, salt pills are not sustainable. For the most part they are made with processed pure sodium chloride, which for anyone who has read other post from me knows that processed salt or table salt can be harsh on the kidneys/body, and the body tries to eliminate it fast. Whereas, natural salt with trace minerals provides electrolytes that help the body slowly absorbed the sodium and transport it throughout the body. Furthermore, salt pills can irritate the stomach lining causing nausea and even making someone throw up, as one of my customers experienced before switching to our NaCl packets. So, in general salt pills are not sustainable and can cause additional side effects.
Another train of thought some people take when increasing their sodium is to consume electrolyte drinks like sports drinks. However, the issue with most electrolyte drinks on the market today contain loads of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and chemicals that lead to other issues such as inflammation of the body. And now that POTS is being looked at as an autoimmune disease, sugar and chemicals are one of the leading contributing factors in increase inflammation within an autoimmune body. Thereby, creating even more imbalance and problems such as inflamed joints, increase headaches, and body aches.
The last train of thought is to increase salt through heavily salting food and/or by drinking salted water also commonly called Sole water (pronounced “so-lay”). Both methods are counterintuitive to what we are told when it comes to salt in our diet. But for those who have POTS adding salt is essential to improving their blood volume and decreasing their symptoms.
What is Sole water?
Sole water is made by mixing pink Himalayan salt (PHS) and water together. Some people add fine grain or powdered PHS to 2 liters of water while others add large size PHS crystals to water and let it sit overnight. The issue with the latter is not knowing exactly how much milligrams of salt you are consuming since the salt is infusing the water, whereas adding fine grain or powdered salt is automatically mixed it in. It is important that PHS is used instead of other types of salt such as sea salt or desert salt because of the level of trace minerals present. PHS has the highest amounts of trace minerals with 84 compared to its counterparts that have around 60. These trace minerals act as electrolytes that help the body absorb the salt slowly so it has a longer lasting effect on the body compared to pure sodium chloride like in salt pills or table salt.
Studies have suggested that drinking salted water can benefit other people, not just the POTS community. Incorporating salted water in your daily habits might lead to better sleep, increase hydration, stress reduction, and even potential weight loss. But remember too much of a good thing can cause an imbalance, and always be sure to consult a medical professional before incorporating any type of protocol into your life – especially anyone with a medical condition. Every body is different and salted water may not be for you.
Drinking salt water throughout the day does not overload the body all at once with salt, but disperses the salt throughout the day helping to keep a person’s salt level consistent without any dips. However, many people have chosen not to do this method of salt intake because it tastes like the ocean. Some have been able to adapt to the taste but others have a hard time.
The taste factor is a huge issue among the POTS community. This is why many still drink sports drinks even if it can cause inflammation in the body. As a salt researcher whose best friend was diagnosed with POTS and has a family member who does not have POTS but was placed on a salt pill for another medical issue and experience stomach irritation, I wanted to find a solution that helped people acquire their salt intake with something that tasted good and had no added sugar and chemicals. This is why I developed my NaCl Water Enhancer packets. They contain powdered pink Himalayan salt to easily dissolve in water and natural non-GMO fruit. Our packets do not contain artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, and colors. The fruit adds a light flavor to the salt to help make drinking salt water more pleasant.
One customer who was on a salt pill began experiencing stomach issues including throwing up with no results of their salt levels improving. They switched to our NaCl packets and within a couple of weeks they were not longer throwing up and their lab test showed their salt levels had increased to the level at which the doctor was wanting. Another customer with POTS has stabilized their conditions and now uses our NaCl packets for maintenance, but also drinks it because they love the taste of our products.
If you are someone who has POTS, finding what salt method is right for you along with how much salt, will be an individual journey as for what works for one may not work for another. But know you have options and support.
I hope by now you understand that salt is not bad or good for the body, but simply needed to help create a level of balance for each person depending on their body’s condition. Of course, before incorporating any level of salt always consult a medical professional. This blog is simply to educate people and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anyone of any medical condition.
Until next time,
Alyssa - the salt woman