Salt has earned a bad reputation in recent years, so it may comes as a surprise to hear this ancient seasoning is actually crucial for good health.
Humans are made up of about 72% water and 28% mineral salts, (plus some bacteria, proteins and fatty acids). As such, there are two “oceans” of water in the body. One ocean is held inside the cells of our bodies, and the other ocean is the sea of fluid existing outside of our cells.
Your good health depends on a delicate balance between the volume of these two bodies of water, and this balance is achieved by salt—natural, unrefined mineral salts.
A Grain of Salt
The differences between refined salt (also known as “table salt”) and unrefined natural salt are as great as the differences between white sugar and freshly cut sugar cane. These differences can have a major impact on staying healthy, or increasing your risk of diseases you want to avoid.
The typical modern, refined table salt can be compared to refined sugar and refined flour—it used to be a healthful, whole food, but our industrial food system has stripped and processed it into a disaster waiting to happen.
Like most factory-made, food-like products Westerners eat today, what began as an essential nutrient has been disfigured into a detriment to our health.
Major table salt producing companies mine unpalatable and impure rock salt from the earth, then dry it in huge, fossil-fuel-guzzling kilns with temperatures reaching 1200 degrees F. This changes the salt’s chemical structure into pure sodium chloride, which is very different from natural salt which contains lots of trace minerals.
But if that weren’t enough, after this extremely energy-intensive drying process, toxic additives like fluoride, anti-caking agents, excessive amounts of potassium iodide and other poisons are mixed into the salt. Many versions of commercial salt also contain toxic aluminum derivatives, which have been implicated in a number of health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease.
All these additives can cause discoloration in refined salt, so bleaching agents are then used to restore the desirable white color. The end product is a highly industrial, toxic pseudo-food Americans have come to think of as “salt” that causes the potential for a myriad of health problems.
Refined sodium chloride (table salt) is an unnatural chemical form of salt full of additives that your body recognizes as a foreign substance, and much like processed food full of chemical non-food additives, your body wants to break it down and get rid of it as quickly as possible.
According to Dr Barbara Hendel, researcher and co-author of Water & Salt, The Essence of Life, it is refined, processed and bleached salts that are the problem. Salt is critical to our health and is the most readily available nonmetallic mineral in the world. But our bodies are not designed to processed refined sodium chloride since it has no nutritional value.
In fact, refined table salt has been implicated as a cause of the Western epidemic of autoimmune disease!
Salt of the Earth
Natural, unrefined “whole” sea salt (whether from the sea or from ancient sea beds) is better than table salt, by a wide margin. In contrast to refined table salt, most sea salt is naturally harvested and dried in the sun, and contains a wealth of trace minerals and electrolytes that are easily assimilated by your body. Salt from ancient sea beds is mined, but you can find brands that are minimally processed and still contain the trace minerals present in ancient sea water.
Unlike refined salt which contains only 2 or 3 elements, natural whole salt from the sea contains about 80 mineral elements (potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium and more) that are essential in small amounts for a variety of functions in the body.
These mineral salts and electrolytes are key players in enzyme production as well as immune system, adrenal and thyroid function. And while, compared to food, natural salt is not a major source of minerals, like any whole food, sea salt has a natural balance and a lack of toxic additives, so we are actually nourished by it, rather than depleted.
According to Dr. F. Batmanghelidj in his book, Water: For Health, for Healing, for Life:
- Salt is most effective in stabilizing irregular heartbeats and, contrary to the misconception that it causes high blood pressure, it is actually essential for the regulation of blood pressure—in conjunction with water. Naturally, the proportions are critical.
- Salt is vital to the extraction of excess acidity from the cells in the body, particularly the brain cells.
- Salt is vital for balancing the sugar levels in the blood; a needed element in diabetics.
- Salt is vital for the generation of hydroelectric energy in cells in the body. It is used for local power generation at the sites of energy need by the cells.
- Salt is vital for absorption of food particles through the intestinal tract.
- Salt is vital for the clearance of the lungs of mucus plugs and sticky phlegm, particularly in asthma and cystic fibrosis.
- Salt is vital for clearing up congestion of the sinuses.
- Salt is a strong natural antihistamine.
- Salt is essential for the prevention of muscle cramps.
- Salt is vital to prevent excess saliva production to the point that it flows out of the mouth during sleep. Needing to constantly mop up excess saliva indicates salt shortage.
- Salt is absolutely vital to making the structure of bones firm. Osteoporosis, in a major way, is a result of salt and water shortage in the body.
- Salt is vital for sleep regulation. It is a natural hypnotic.
- Salt on the tongue will stop persistent dry coughs.
- Salt is vital for the prevention of gout and gouty arthritis.
- Salt is vital for maintaining sexuality and libido.
- Salt is vital for preventing varicose veins and spider veins on the legs and thighs.
- Salt is vital to the communication and information processing of nerve cells the entire time that the brain cells work—from the moment of conception to death.
However, not just any salt will do. It is refined, processed and bleached salts that are the problem. Our bodies are not designed to processed refined sodium chloride since it has no nutritional value.
However, when a salt is filled with dozens of minerals such as in the rose-coloured crystals of Himalayan rock salt or the grey texture of Celtic sea salt, our bodies benefit tremendously for their incorporation into our diet.
The Salt Hypothesis is Bunk
For 4,000 years, we have known that salt intake can affect blood pressure. We also know that a very small minority of the population can lower blood pressure a bit by restricting dietary salt. And we know that elevated blood pressure, “hypertension,” is a well-documented risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. We also know that reducing high blood pressure can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke–depending on how it’s done.
Some have suggested that since salt intakes are related to blood pressure, and since cardiovascular risks are also related to blood pressure, that, surely, salt intake levels are related to cardiovascular risk. The idea is known as the “salt hypothesis.”
The problem with this hypothesis is that it has never been proven. In fact, it has been often disproven.
An eight-year study of a New York City hypertensive population stratified for sodium intake levels found those on low-salt diets had more than four times as many heart attacks as those on normal-sodium diets—the exact opposite of what the “salt hypothesis” would have predicted. (1995). Dr. Hillel Cohen who worked on the study documented no health outcomes benefits of lower-sodium diets.
In fact 17 different studies worldwide have found NO relation between salt intake and the incidence of stroke or heart attack.