Salt Intake

April 16, 2021 Updated: April 16, 2021

I found the article “Rethinking the War on Salt” by Conan Milner published on Wednesday, March 17, to be in dramatic contrast with my own personal and medical experience and thought a note to your readers appropriate in order to disabuse them of potentially harmful information. Probably the best way of illustrating this point is to relay my own medical issues in regard to salt intake, bolstered by the subsequent experience of many friends and associates regarding their salt intake. Presidential Thinking Capacity: Brilliant or Incompetent? Comparing Presidents Ronald Reagan and Joe Biden

I returned from a long trip some seven years ago and, after indulging in a high-sodium dinner (a six-piece fried chicken meal), happened to check my blood pressure. I had never been diagnosed or treated for hypertension, but being a retired physician, I kept a blood pressure cuff in the house and would check my own and my wife’s pressure occasionally. On the evening in question, the reading was 180/100, an alarming level. Although the level decreased to 150/100 later that night, I thought it appropriate to consult a friend-physician the next day, had blood work ordered, and discovered that my kidney function was abnormal, presumably from undiagnosed hypertension. Undiagnosed, possibly, due to the fact that I had never visited my doctor after a six-piece fried chicken dinner.

Appropriate medication was duly prescribed and the pressure readings came down to reasonably satisfactory levels, but the abnormal renal function mandated that I keep tight control over blood pressure to obviate additional kidney damage. Thus, I scrupulously monitored my pressures and quickly discovered a rise in resting blood pressure closely related to sodium intake. I was told by my doctor to eat normal meals but not to add any extra salt to the food. Turned out this was completely wrong.

It soon became evident that ANY salt intake resulted in a rise in blood pressure, and I put myself on a very low sodium regimen—well under 1000 mg per day. On this diet, my blood pressure decreased dramatically and rapidly—so much so that I gradually weaned myself off all three medications I had been prescribed. Of course, the first medication discontinued was the diuretic (hydrochlorothiazide), since its primary function is to increase excretion of sodium, and with a low sodium diet a diuretic was not only non-beneficial but potentially harmful. This factor would account for the low sodium levels noted by the doctor in your article. Restricted sodium mandates cessation of all diuretic medication.

The other two medications (an ACE receptor blocker and a beta-blocker) also could be discontinued since my BP readings consistently came in at 105-110 over 50-60. On a roughly 700 mg per day diet, my pressures off all medications still run at those consistent low and healthful levels. My wife, who eats the same food as me, runs similarly low blood pressure. We are both ridiculously healthy, exercise vigorously, perspire vigorously out at the pool, are of normal weight, and look about 15 years younger than our chronologic ages. In this regard, it might be noted that during the first two weeks of my maintenance of a very low sodium diet, I lost 15 pounds of fluid, the periodic swelling of dependent extremities that I had developed cleared completely, and I noted a significant increase in energy and general well-being.

All of this would be mere anecdotal information and not generally valid were it not for the fact that many of our friends saw the effect a reduced-sodium diet had on us and began the same regimen—i.e., keeping total daily sodium intake at or below 700 mg. This is admittedly difficult since it precludes most meals at traditional restaurants. The key is eating fresh and not preserved foods, avoiding canned foods, reading labels for sodium content, and demanding that the restaurant omit any salt in preparation (Yes, they can do this if requested, even at our local Chinese place and Burger King).

The many friends who instituted the low-sodium regimen were all able to discontinue their anti-hypertensives and experienced the same BP decreases we did—110/50 or so, a perfectly healthy level. It should be noted that none of us feel any of the ill effects of artificial (medically induced) BP lowering like dizziness on standing or reduced energy levels. Parenthetically, I discovered that my kidneys retain just the proper amount of sodium in my body by reducing the volume of sodium in my perspiration—my kidney function has improved and my sweat isn’t salty! The kidney disorder, as it turned out, had not been due to hypertension at all, but rather to acid suppressors for reflux disease. That, however, is another instructive story.

Historically, salt was initially used solely as a preservative. Domestic animals couldn’t be kept adequately fed during winter months and were therefore slaughtered and their carcasses heavily salted to preserve meat for consumption when fodder was unavailable. Ditto for vegetables, necessary for out-of-season vitamin consumption; thus the tradition of corned beef, salted pickles, and all the rest of the traditional unhealthy dietary items that killed our grandparents. Hell, if the salt kills bacteria, fungi, and parasites, why should it be beneficial to us? With the advent of modern freezing and refrigeration techniques, this outmoded salt preservation is both unneeded and unhealthful.

For a graphic illustration of this, just have a look at portraits of various monarchs of the 16th to 19th century in their later years. The huge bulk of their bodies, the puffy eyes and bulging necks, and swollen jowls all betray a high sodium intake. I dare say that many of your readers, looking in the mirror, will see the same thing.

In which regard, I might mention that salt is a powerful appetite stimulant. On introducing a very low sodium diet, I found immediately on its inception a dramatic reduction in the amount of food I consumed at meals, eating only enough to fill my stomach and never forcing that extra mouthful down my throat. Think about those potato chips and 700-mg-sodium hot dogs. A bowl of hot and sour soup at your local Chinese place has 7000 mg of sodium. That’s why you weigh three pounds more the morning after a Chinese meal.

I admit to having a strong vested interest in this information reaching the Epoch Times readership. After all, most of us are like-minded politically and philosophically. I, therefore, want my fellow readers of The Epoch Times to survive to vote in many more elections. This won’t happen on a high salt diet. Please be advised.

 

Steven M. Greenberg, M.D.