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So, sodium is good for you! What does your brain do with that? Most people experience a knee-jerk reaction and think "That can't possibly be true!" We've been so led to believe that sodium is bad for you. How can it possibly be good for you?
There is so much confusion, disinformation, and misinformation about sodium and salt that covers the spectrum of credible sources, from medical doctors to Joe Six-Pack. And it's really simple to untangle the gnarlyness when we realize that this confusion has to do with simple definitions gone awry. Once we have a more accurate terminology in place, we can begin to address the serious health issues caused by sodium DEFICIENCY. Unless we do this, sodium deficiency will continue to be ignored as a contributing cause to most health issues. So here we go:
There are three terms that we need to define more accurately and these definitions must have very clear distinctions from each other. These terms are: Sodium, Sodium Chloride and Salt. These are three completely different substances. Let's look at them individually. Then we'll see how the confusion ensues, what we can do to rectify it and why we would want to.
First let's look at sodium. Sodium in the body is different than sodium out of the body. So even with sodium, we can probably benefit by making this distiction. Let's call sodium outside of the body, inorganic sodium. This is a very unstable metal which becomes stabilized by combining it with other substances. When sodium in the soil is uptaken into the root system of a plant, it becomes stabilized by the process of photosynthesis, combining the elements of air, light and water to create what we can call organic sodium. For the purpose of this article "sodium" refers to this organic sodium.
Briefly, sodium is an electrolytic mineral. Some other electrolytes are potassium, magnesium, calcium, lithium and phosphorous. Sodium is found throughout the human body from birth. Our dependency on sodium to regulate various organs and metabolic functions is mind-boggling. It is found in every cell of our body. Having a symbiotic relation to potassium, the two create an electric charge that contributes toward cell life and energy. There is actually a pump-like action on every cell that pumps potassium in and sodium out. (Although one source claims the sodium goes in and the potassium out.) Sodium is found at work in the stomach, the gallbladder, the joints, and all of our cells. Even our very own DNA is mostly sodium!
Ancient sea beds that have dried up leave behind the mineral content of the sea (minus the water). The mineral content of a piece of rock salt will vary from location to location. But in general, there are usually over 80 different trace minerals, including sodium.
Sodium chloride is the chemical compound more commonly known as table salt. It is sodium from rock salt that has been stripped from all the other healthful minerals and stabilized by the gas chlorine. A natural form of sodium chloride occurs in our oceans but this isn't the same thing as table salt which is processed in a factory. In the processing of table salt, the sodium is ionically bound to the chlorine, creating a substance that is neither sodium, salt or chlorine. The ionic bond is unbreakable in the process of digestion. We cannot possibly extract the sodium from table salt and put it to use in our body. In fact, the process of digesting sodium chloride requires us to extract sodium from our body in order to detoxify it and get it out or our system. The body treats sodium chloride like a toxin!
In the media and in the minds of health care professionals, not to mention the public, these terms are all interchangeable. When I hear that some doctor told his patient not to eat celery because it has sodium in it and will contribute to her hypertension, we are witnessing a serious problem of ignorance leading the ignorant. Packaged foods tout that their product is "sodium free", which is probably true, but not beneficial. A more helpful claim would be "sodium chloride free". Nutritional labels add to the confusion by listing the percentage of sodium in their product. Are they listing the amount of sodium chloride or sodium and do they even know how to make the distinction?
Why does this matter and why should anyone care? Is this a deliberate attempt to dupe the public into making poor dietary choices, leading to compromised health, leading to profits to drug companies and doctors? It sure seems that way. If you want to know why this matters, please continue reading.
Sodium has many functions and it is important to look into some of these. Before doing so, a quick summary of pH is required. pH stands for potential hydrogen. It is a way of determining the alkalinity or acidity of a substance, or the effect of a substance in a localized area in our body. The pH can be measured on a scale of 0-14. 7 is neutral, where anything below is acid, anything above is alkaline. The lower the number, the more acidic. The higher the number, the more alkaline. Also, a food such as a lemon, may be acid before we eat it, but it is an alkaline-forming substance once eaten, that is, it contributes towards an alkaline state in the body.
One thing to keep in mind about pH, is that there are different ideal pH levels throughout the body. It is common to hear people talk about having an alkaline diet, or being alkaline inside. But it is also inaccurate and an oversimplification to think of our body that way. Different body functions and organs have different optimal pH levels.
For example, the stomach creates hydrochloric acid to help digest and break down proteins and fats in the food we eat. The optimal pH level of hydrochloric acid is .4 which is very acidic. This level of acidity can also destroy unwanted pathogens and microorganisms such as e.coli. What mineral do you think is important in regulating hydrochloric acid levels? SODIUM! In a healthy person, sodium is found in abundance in the mucosa lining of the stomach.
After the food is saturated with hydrochloric acid, the resulting chyme (pronounced kime) moves into the small intestine where the broken-down nutrients attempt to be uptaken into the blood and liver. But the chyme is still highly acidic and would burn the intestine. Fortunately, when it enters the small intestine it is saturated by a bile that is highly alkaline. This bile is created in the gallbladder and an optimal level in a healthy person is close to 14 (highly alkaline). What mineral regulates the alkaline level of this bile? SODIUM!!! In a healthy person, sodium is found in abundance in the gallbladder.
Now what happens in the stomach, when the sodium is removed and it can't help regulate the acidity of hydrochloric acid? The hydrochloric acid becomes weaker, meaning it has a higher pH level. Proteins and fats aren't broken down as much so the body can't absorb them in the small intestine. AND microorganisms have a free pass into the body. You can eat all the meat in the world and not be able to absorb and use ANY of the protein because it's not being broken down to the amino acids, which the body uses to rebuild protein in the liver. When sodium is removed from the gallbladder what happens? The bile doesn't alkalize the acidic chyme and you can experience unpleasant burning sensations after eating. Also, sodium keeps calcium moist in the gallbladder, and when it is removed the calcium hardens resulting in gallstones.
So here we have clear examples of how to determine a sodium deficiency: gallstones and poor hydrochloric acid levels. But what causes the sodium to leave the stomach and gallbladder in the first place? Let's look at the blood. Blood has to stay within the small pH range of 6.8 - 7.2. If it goes above or below that range, we die. What mineral helps to regulate the pH level of our blood? SODIUM!!! If we are not bringing sodium into our body to regulate the pH level of the blood, then the body, in order to survive, has to pull the sodium from other areas in the body. It probably starts with the stomach and gallbladder. Then after those sodium reserves have been depleted, it starts to take it from our bones and joints. If sodium keeps calcium moist, having sodium extracted from the joints may be a contributing factor to arthritis. Finally, as a last resort, the body starts extracting sodium from our cells, causing our cell energy to slow down. And then if it needs more, it can always get it from our DNA.
Hopefully now you can see the implications of not having enough sodium in the diet. The issue of sodium deficiency can lead to all sorts of problems. So how do we prevent sodium deficiency? Not only is sodium destroyed in the process of cooking foods, one of its important functions is to buffer and neutralize acids. So ANY acid-forming substance (meat, dairy, cooked foods, alcohol, coffee, grains, bread, unfermented soy products, pharmaceutical drugs, sodium chloride aka table salt, and STRESS) extracts sodium from our reserves. If we are not replenishing with sodium in the diet, and minimizing our intake of acid-forming foods, then we begin a chain reaction of unbuffered acids entering our digestive system unable to be broken down into absorbable nutrients and clogging up the passages of our intestines. This would be like putting sludge in the gas tank of your car.
Sodium deficiency can only be addressed by eliminating the acid-forming foods from our diet. It is not just a matter of eating more sodium rich foods in their raw state!
OK, I know eliminating all those acid-forming foods right away is challenging for most people and the idea can be overwhelming. For those with immediate health concerns, you probably don't have much choice but to eliminate as many as possible and replenish with plenty of sodium-rich vegetable juices. Your other choice is to trust the medical establishment. (If you are reading this, you have probably moved away from trusting in that option.) But for those of us who are not currently with observable discomforts, if you don't want to experience physical problems in the future, you would be best served by eliminating as many of the acid-forming substances that you can and phasing out the others at your own pace, while adding more sodium to the diet. The most important first step would be to stop ingesting sodium chloride, and use instead, high quality salt in your own food preparations. If you eat out, it is harder to avoid sodium chloride. Well, probably impossible unless you eat at a raw foods restaurant.
So the sodium rich foods would be (all organically grown and raw): celery, sea veggies like dulse, kelp, nori, aloe, vegetable juices. Unprocessed rock salt is also a great source of sodium and contains all sorts of micro-nutrients.
Sea Salt vs. Himalayan Rock Salt
Both of these products have become popular choices among health-conscious consumers. According to David Favor, the problem with sea salt, which is usually harvested off the coast of France, is that it contains petroleum by-products from the pollution in the ocean. Apparently the French government realizes this and prohibits the sale of sea salt to its citizens, recognizing the potential health concern. Himalayan rock salt, again according to David Favor, is always ground with cheap quality nickel-plated grinders. Nickel dust ends up in the finished product. Nickel is a highly toxic heavy metal. David Favor sells a product called Sunfire Salt which is a blend of 4 different salts from different regions: Himalayan pink salt, Bolivia, Hawaii, and China. He had to arrange for higher grade grinders to be used that are harder than the rock salt, to prevent contamination in the product.
Another interesting source of sodium is called SOLE. This is prepared by taking 1 or 2 chunks of Himalayan rock salt and adding water in a jar. After a couple of days, the rocks actually melt, or rather, the water becomes saturated with the mineral contents of the rocks. The resulting liquid is SOLE. This can be added to water to re-mineralize it, or to add a salty taste to any recipe where salt is required. It's concentrated salt liquid and the minerals are easily absorbed by the body. To learn more about sole, go to www.americanbluegreen.com
Sodium deficiency is a serious health concern that affects problably more than 90% of the Western diet-eating population. There are stages of symptoms. Unfortunatley, sodium deficiency is not only never addressed, it is considered an oxymoron because of the confusion in terminology! When you get a blood test, and it shows plenty of sodium, a doctor isn't going to think, "Aha! Sodium deficiency!" The sodium is in the blood because it has been extracted from other parts of the body to regulate the pH of the blood. It's not in the blood because one is eating too many potato chips! Sodium chloride doesn't even make it into the bloodstream. As mentioned earlier, the human body can't even extract the sodium from the sodium chloride. It goes straight through the digestive tract. Don't believe me? Why wouldn't you believe me? Why would I lie to you? Well, try an experiment. Put 2 Tablespoons of sodium chloride (table salt) in 1/2 a gallon of water and drink it down. It tastes horrible. Within an hour, it will come out as liquid from your butt. This is known as a salt water flush. The next day do the same thing but use real salt. Your body absorbs that salt in digestion so it doesn't come out where fecal matter should.
Hopefully this article will help to start to clear up the confusion regarding sodium. Please forward this information far and wide. And maybe in our life time we will see a reverse of the thorough brainwash job that the most important mineral to the function of the human body is BAD for us.