Low-Sodium Diets: Not Worth Their Salt

Why does salt have such a bad rep?

The word “salary” is derived from salt, as salt was used to pay wages in ancient Rome.  Have you heard of the phrase “salt of the earth?”  That’s what Jesus called his homies.  Salt has been used in many of the world’s religions in purification rituals.  The words “salad,” “sauce,” and “sausage” are all rooted in the word “salt,”  their inherent deliciousness depending on it.  The early American pioneers used salt to preserve their food and probably ate about twice as much salt as we do today.  When the colonists were denied salt by the British as a Revolutionary war tactic, they figured out how to make it on their own.  The human quest for salt, throughout history, has led to the creation of the main trade routes and therefore, human civilizations have sprung up along these lines. 

And now salt is bad?

Salt, you may remember from chemistry class, is made of sodium and chloride, held together by a ionic bond that breaks down upon digestion.  Sodium is found in many other food sources, good and bad, but chloride is not found in many food sources, save salt. 

Chloride helps regulate water pressure in our cells and it also produces hydrochloric acid, a necessary ingredient for digestion. Do you have acid reflux?  Most people who suffer from this problem are actually lacking in hydrochloric acid.

DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN “LOW-SODIUM” AND “LOW-SALT”

The war on salt began around 1972 when the National High Blood Pressure Education Program began to warn people of the danger of eating too much sodium.  Many of the studies that “prove” salt is dangerous lack other dietary information:  are the participants eating a lot of veggies or just processed foods?  Are the studies providing unnaturally high amounts of sodium to “test?”  What about just using natural salt in your regular healthy diet?  Most of the studies that correlate higher blood pressures with higher salt intake are not accounting for the whole picture.

And exactly how high was the blood pressure of the test participants?  Too high or just higher than it was before?

Up until the 1980s, this was the medical standard for blood pressure.

Plus, most people eating a “low-salt diet” are eating too many processed foods, many of which are contaminated with artificial ingredients like MSG and other sodium-based ingredients that do not have a proven history of supporting humankind and are probably the actual reason for hypertension in most Americans.  Paradoxically, these low-salt diets are very high in sodium!  They are encouraging the very thing they claim to treat. 

In Chinese medicine, salt is one of the five main flavors.  Some foods, like seaweed, celery, duck, and pork, contain salt naturally as part of their chemical makeup.   The 5 flavors balance each other out in a healthy diet.  Salt is moistening (part of the water element) and softening.  It balances the flavors of foods and aids digestion.  It’s cooling as well.  If you have dry conditions (dry skin, dry nose, dry anything), hot skin eruptions, or swelling of your lymph nodes, you can use more salt.  If you have fluid retention (too much water element), use less salt.

There’s a reason why food tastes better with salt:  it’s good for you!  Just make sure you’re eating real food and using real salt.  Use a good quality pink or grey salt or a good sea salt.  Stay away from bleached and processed (like “iodized”) salt.  And always, always, always READ LABELS when you buy food.  People (including yours truly) are surprised to learn their favorite (even from the health food store, people) packaged foods contain food chemicals like

  • Disodium guanylate (GMP)
  • Disodium inosinate (IMP)
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Sodium nitrate
  • Sodium citrate
  • Sodium chloride
  • Sodium diacetate
  • Sodium erythorbate
  • Sodium glutamate
  • Sodium lactate
  • Sodium lauryl Sulfate
  • Sodium metabisulfite
  • Sodium phosphate
  • Trisodium phosphate

Food chemicals are non-foods.  They’re made in a lab and designed to trick the consumer by enhancing the taste of the foods.  This list is only a partial list; there are thousands of food chemicals.  They make foods addictive and extremely unhealthy.  Real food is rarely the culprit in health concerns.  It’s the processed s***t.  So read your labels, or even better, just make your own food! 

 

 

Seaweed – the superfood you need for calm energy

When I was in college and struggling to turn my health around, I read a nutrition book that suggested eating seaweed.  So, being the “A-student” I am, I bought some nori sheets (what is used to wrap up sushi) and wakame to put in soups and crumbed dulse to use instead of salt on my food.  The first time I ate a meal that contained a large amount of seaweed I noticed an instant feeling of relaxation.  I kept eating it regularly because I instantly felt good whenever I ate it.

Turns out it wasn’t just in my head:  seaweed, also known as micro algae or sea vegetables, has been considered a superfood and an essential part of one’s diet in Asia for thousands of years.  Some types of seaweed are considered medicinal in Traditional Chinese medicine to shrink goiters.  Seaweeds are full of macro and micro-nutrients:  vitamins A, C, D, E, K and calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, and iron.  It’s also the best real food source of iodine:  a trace mineral that is essential for thyroid and breast health.

Newer studies are proving that there is a link between reduced risk of breast cancer and thyroid disease and increased dietary iodine.  Here’s another link showing how in this sector of Korean women, the ones who ate more seaweed had significantly lower risk of cancer.

The average Asian person consumes 25 times more iodine – probably due to the prevalence of fresh seafood and seaweed in their regular diet – than the average American person.  They also have roughly 1/3 the chance of breast cancer than Americans.

So, “seaweed good,” right?

Q:  “I already use iodized salt, so I don’t need any other source of iodine, right?” 

Iodized salt was invented to reduce the incidence of goiters (thyroid gland enlargement) and low IQ in the general public in the 1920s.  I found this out while researching this article; I was previously unaware that iodine is also important in brain development.

Some conflicting research has shown that, while some people reflect improved health from the mass iodine supplementation, other people did not.  “While the programs almost completely eliminated goiter, the prevalence of autoimmune thyroiditis increased in areas with iodated water or in those using iodized salt.”

With seaweed, the side effects of using iodine alone disappear, as we see in places like Japan.  In our “modern” age, we seem to think we can circumvent nature and isolate the health-providing micro-nutrients from our food.  Maybe it’s just the food itself – and its unique combination of all the smaller parts – that is healthy and not some isolated part of the food.  Maybe we don’t need pharmacists and laboratories to be healthy; we just need to eat closer to what nature provides.

Q:  “I hate the taste of seaweed / I don’t want to eat seaweed / I don’t think I can eat seaweed that much.”

Cool.  I understand.  Same here.  I just take it in a tablet form:

Q:  “I have a thyroid condition and my doctor told me to NOT take iodine.”

I understand your doctor’s concern because, as in the iodized salt situation, some people respond favorably to an iodine isolate, and others do not.  However, seaweed as far as I know is not contraindicated for any health condition, nor has any side effects of taking seaweed been shown in studies.  

A balanced diet that includes some seaweed has been shown to help with a multitude of health conditions including thyroid problems, diabetes, and digestive irregularities. 

you don’t need vitamins, you need food

Have you seen these recent studies on Vitamin C that show how excessive use causes more problems than it cures? 

Except that the studies didn’t study vitamin C, they studied ascorbic acid! Ascorbic acid is NOT vitamin C.  It is made in a laboratory.  Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables.

“Back in the 1930’s ascorbic acid was isolated out of little red peppers. The man who first performed this experiment was Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi who won a Nobel Prize for his work. What he also found, which has mostly been ignored until recently, was that ascorbic acid was far more biologically available and active while it was still in the red pepper.” – Vitamin C “vs.” Ascorbic Acid By Michael and Nora Wohlfeld

Ascorbic acid (“vitamin C”) that you buy at your local drugstore is made in a laboratory with corn syrup and hydrochloric acid.  No wonder it causes problems. 

The idea that we can take something man-made to replace what nature provides for us is ludicrous.  This thought pattern is the essential problem behind reductionist medicine (the study and focus of a singular diseased part and ignorance of the whole) and taking isolated chemicals in place of whole foods. 

The only way you can replace a food in your diet is with that food- although, perhaps, in an easier to take format such as a tablet or capsule.  This is why I love Standard Process supplements so much; they’re all food-based. 

I see a lot of folks with signs of calcium deficiency (muscle cramping, immune challenges, etc.)  When I ask if they’re taking calcium, I see that they’re on calcium carbonate.  Calcium Carbonate is NOT Calcium.  Well, at least, not the calcium that your body needs.  Calcium carbonate is found in rocks.  Not bodies. 

Foods contain vitamins, for sure, but they also contain roughly around 40,000 different phytochemicals and metabolites.  And fiber!  We can’t tease out what one or two things are the “most important” from that mix.  It doesn’t work like that. 

A variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors is essential for our diets.  Each one has a variety of macro and micro nutrients that we need for all our body processes, as well as phytochemicals that we need in varying amounts such as carotenoids, polyphenols, phenolic acids, flavonoids, and lignans.  Herbs have even more active ingredients that we can utilize for enhancing, balancing, or reducing certain body functions. 

Any overuse of a certain food or herb will have a side-effect, of varying intensity, but by using different ones, at different times of the year, and according to your individual constitution and cravings, you can create balance. 

Nothing created in a laboratory can imitate this process.  This is a process found through traditional farming techniques; through hunting or raising animals in a humane environment; and cooking at home. 

Eating out or eating a lot of pre-packaged foods puts you at the mercy of the manufacturer or restaurant.  And guess what?  They don’t care about your health!  They care about their stocks increasing.  What causes stocks to rise is lowered cost of production:  cheap ingredients that last a long time.

Cheap food is all around us:  food chemicals like FD&C food dyes, preservatives like MSG and high fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate and sodium nitrate, and artificial sweeteners like saccharin and aspartame.  All of which make the shelf life of the food longer, which means more $$$ for them.  And more problems for you.  This is not what human bodies are meant to live on.   

Vegetables are a pain in the butt – you have to cook them, and learn how to cook them well or they taste bitter or sour, and you have to use them within days or they go bad and you have to throw them out!  No wonder most people don’t eat enough veggies. 

But just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it.  Or that your body doesn’t need it. 

The best way to integrate new habits in your life – like eating more vegetables or cooking more at home:

1. TAKE A CLASS

Or read a book on it.  Or learn from a friend who is already doing it.  Some people have a depth of knowledge on this subject.  Get in touch with them or do some Googling on the subject.  If millions of people around the world can, so can you. 

2. MAKE IT A PRIORITY

People do what they want to do.  If you want to eat healthier, don’t put it off in favor of, say, going out and partying with your friends or spending all your extra money on a new purse.  Devote time and money to the cause. 

3. MAKE IT DO-ABLE

What realistically works for your schedule?  Can you use a food delivery service?  Can your family help out?  Are you in a position to hire a chef a few nights a week?  (Good for you if you can!  #goals)

 

How to Have More Will-Power

“I should exercise more…”

“I should drink more water…”

“I should eat healthier…”

“shoulda, woulda, coulda…”

We all know what we need to do.  So why don’t we do it?

What it is… is that deep inside of all of us… is a little toddler. 

No, not like that! 

Our inner child who is sometimes like a little toddler who wants to eat ice cream, who doesn’t want to do what they’re “supposed” to do, and who will pout if someone “makes” them. 

I’m sorry you think this is brash, but I like to think of it as “tough love.” 

Just because you don’t want to do something, or you don’t enjoy the healthy things, you still need to do them.  That is, if you want to be healthy and feel good.  If not, disregard. 

If you don’t like the taste of water:  I’m sorry, but just because you don’t like the taste of it, it doesn’t mean your body doesn’t still NEED it. 

If you don’t like vegetables:  Sorry, but your body still needs them.

If you don’t like to exercise:  Yep, you still need to do it. 

When you’re a kid and you decide to eat muffins and juice for breakfast and not drink water all day long, and skip meals, and play video games all day, there’s not too many immediate consequences to convince you that’s a bad idea. 

But for adults, there are consequences, and while they won’t show up the first day you eat bad or just laying around for one day, eventually it will catch up with you. 

Then you will need to see a doctor. 

Western doctors are inundated with patients, and they don’t have the time (and frankly, there’s no money in teaching people how to live a healthy life anyway) to teach people how to avoid these problems or how to correct these problems of lifestyle.  Plus, that’s not what doctors learn in medical school.  They are not experts in getting people healthy.  They’re experts in attacking what’s wrong.  Not supporting what’s right.  So, what they’re going to do is give you a pill.  Because it’s

  1. easy for them to just write a quick script, and
  2. easy for you because your insurance covers it and you don’t have to change anything.  Just take the pill and “all your problems are solved.” 

Or you can decide to tell that little kid in your head to grow up already.  Take some responsibility for what you put in your mouth.  Pay attention to what and who you listen to.  Move around some more.  And put down the damn phone/remote.

So, how to get more will-power?  It’s called a swift kick in the pants.  Just decide you’re not going to take it anymore!  You have the power to change your body and change your mind, if you want it.  

Oh, and what happens to those kids who are told to “sit up straight,” and “finish their vegetables, ” and “go play in the street?”  They grow up to be healthy, vibrant, and active adults who actually enjoy doing those things. 

What you need to realize is that the disgruntled toddler brain will eventually stop bothering you because the healthier options actually give you longer-lasting results and pleasurable feelings that grow and improve over time. 

Here are some ways you can give yourself a nice kick in the pants:

1. Just focus on one thing

you should read this, too!

Don’t worry about the entire list of things you have to do.  Just focus on starting one simple thing.  Finish it and then start on the next thing.  Focus on doing this…one day at a time. 

2. Check in with your body

Are you tired and actually need to rest?  Are you anxious or stressed?  Address your actual needs with deep breaths, conscious body-talk, and real, actual human connections.  Avoid addressing the needs of your body with extra caffeine, alcohol or sugar. 

3. Slow down

We so often get into “robot-mode” and do a lot of pointless activities – really fast.  We think we need to move fast all the time, but we really don’t.  Try driving slower for a start.  Seriously, it’s a fun experiment to see how stressed everyone around you is. 

4. Daydream

The American way is to push, push, push to get results.  But is it really working?  Take some time to relax, pull out a pen and paper and really think about what your long-term goals and dreams are.  What projects do you want to tackle or start up?  How can you align your energy to making those dreams come true? 

Next thing you know, you’ll have the will of steel and the inner focus of a Buddha! 

Changing Parameters to Prescribe More Meds?

Imagine this:  you’re a detective and you’re trying to figure out who is setting fires all around your city.  You start to think, “Hmmm, at every fire I see these fire-fighters.  I think they’re involved somehow.”

The plaque that can build up in your blood vessels is made out of cholesterol.  When these plaques detach from the cellular wall, they can cause a blockage which is the beginning of a heart attack or stroke.

Is it the “bad” cholesterol causing this?  Healthy fats glide right through and actually help keep your blood vessels clear.  LDL cholesterol (the “bad guy”) is needed too.  LDL moves nutrition to your cells and also is what repairs tears in your vessel walls.  When the LDL is “too high,” it’s usually from the Liver being over-loaded with glycogen from a diet too high in carbohydrates.

In the late 1990s, the average American’s cholesterol reading was around 204.  Now the average is around 189.  So do we have healthier hearts? 

False. If cholesterol truly lowered the risk of heart dis-ease, why would all these people with picture-perfect cholesterol still be having cardiovascular incidents?

 

Cholesterol-lowering drugs, called statins, are the #2 most prescribed medication in the US, second only to thyroid meds.   Yet cardio-vascular disease is still the #1 (#2 if you consider deaths from medical errors) cause of death in the US.  Can we really say this is working?

The guidelines for prescribing the medications keep changing too.  For statin drugs, as well as hypertension drugs.  If you want to sell more drugs, you lower the limits that increase the number people of “sick” people.  Before 1984, the upper limit for cholesterol was 300.  If you want to sell more drugs, just lower the limit, right?  Then more people “need” it.

A lot of the studies that “prove” dietary fats cause cardiovascular disease associated with high LDL cholesterol are faulty because they are only tracking one or two dietary factors (like eggs and red meat).  I don’t know about you, but I eat way more than 2 kinds of foods every day.  If we really want to track the effect of diet on health, we need to track

1. Quality of the meat and eggs (grass-fed beef only, free range eggs only)

2. Amount of vegetables and fresh fruits eaten daily (minimum of 6 servings per day of a wide variety)

3. Refined and processed foods eaten (should be very low to none)

Literally keeps the doctor away.

Cholesterol doesn’t make you sick.  You need cholesterol to make hormones.  You need cholesterol to repair blood vessel damage. Blocking your Liver’s ability to make cholesterol impairs enzyme CoQ10 which enables muscle function (including your heart muscle!).  Taking statins is linked to muscle pain in 75% of people who take it.

What is really needed?  What is the solution, then?

#1. Healthier blood vessels

If the blood vessel walls are strong, they will not tear and therefore not require cholesterol plaque to repair.  The best way to ensure healthy blood vessel walls period (including treatment of varicose veins and bleeding disorders) is a diet rich in rutin, like buckwheat and apples. 

#2. Lower your carbohydrate intake (especially sugars of all types and processed foods and white grains)

Refined carbs, transfatty acids from rancid vegetable oils, and processed foods, and the overall quantity of them relate to inflammation in your body.  Cardiovascular disease is a disease of inflammation, not a disease from eggs.  Inflammation is from eating an unnatural diet.  The natural human has fats of all types, including animal fats like bacon and butter and eggs, salt, plenty and fresh water, and foods that grow from the earth. 

#3. Heart-to-Heart connections

In Chinese medicine, your Heart is more than a physical organ.  It’s your mind.  (Notice we don’t say we had a “brain-to-brain talk.”)  It’s your emotional center that allows you to feel joy.  Studies have shown that strong social connections are actually a bigger prediction of heart health than body weight. 

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