Salt through the ages, salt in your food and salt in your body
2020 February health interview by Zulaikha with Health Researcher Sue Visser on radio.
According to an Islamic text, “Salt is the master of your food. God sent down four blessings from the sky – fire, water, iron and salt” (Ibn Maja). Taking a few grains of salt before and after meals was recommended centuries ago by Islamic healers.
Q: Sue, what are the benefits of doing this?
A: Salt before a meal helps to support the intensity of the stomach acid to digest the meal. A pH of 2 (very acidic) is required to close the valve at the base of the oesophagus and salt provides the chloride that is needed to maintain acidity at this intensity. Taking a little salt after a meal can thus help to prevent acid reflux and heartburn. Do not drink a glass of water straight after the meal because it will dilute the stomach acid and other digestive juices like pepsin. A salty finish (as opposed to sugary residues) also helps to fight tooth decay. The mouth can then be rinsed.
Q: Today we are told to reduce our salt intake or even stop using it at the table. Some say it is “white poison”. Do we need any extra salt? The Prophet (May Allah honour him and grant him peace) tells us the following:
“Eat of the good things We have provided for your sustenance, but commit no excess therein.”
A: Profound words indeed! An excess of salt especially, is associated with many diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases. We need to abide by the rules of excess, otherwise salt will be cause an imbalance of other minerals, especially potassium, calcium and magnesium, causing diseases like hypertension, cholesterol problems and diabetes. However, if you eat enough foods that contain potassium, such as green vegetables and bananas you need to balance the extra potassium with more sodium – from salt. When taken in moderation and balanced to potassium, the sodium in salt does not harm us and without it salt would not be salt – sodium chloride.
Q: Tell us more about the chloride?
A: Pure chloride, or what we know as chlorine kills germs, as we know. Taking chloride by itself would burn every cell in the body, so it is combined with sodium. Salt also kills germs and it tastes good! On hot days when we sweat a lot we lose minerals, especially the electrolytes: sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. That is why sweat tastes salty. One craves salt to replace it and salt is used by the body to conserve our water – lest we shrivel up and dehydrate. Our cells are like bags of salty water and need salt for their stability.
On the other hand, if we consume too much salt, the body retains too much water and we swell up because calcium and magnesium also need to be replaced, along with the pinch of salt. This is what happens when we “omit excess therein”. Too much salt causes not enough potassium, calcium and magnesium. People who are deficient in magnesium are more prone to headaches, blood sugar imbalances, muscle cramps, dyskinesia, and insomnia. Diabetics, especially, are deficient in magnesium.
Q: Can we obtain chloride from other sources?
A: Yes, to maintain our salt cravings but prevent the sodium excess we can use a salt alternative called “no salt” or potassium chloride. This also helps to increase the potassium levels. However, it is a good idea to mix it with a little calcium and magnesium powder as well. It is not a good idea to take a few grains of this into the mouth because it can burn off the skin of the tongue and cheeks. I found that out the hard way, by sprinkling potassium chloride onto my popcorn. It really hurt! Taken as a medicine, it is excellent for correcting hypoglycaemia, as opposed to consuming sugar.
Remedy for hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar emergency) Diabetics can use a ½ teaspoon of potassium chloride in ½ glass of water. This stimulates the release of the glycogen reserves from the liver and raises the blood sugar naturally. Another form of chloride – that tastes awful, is magnesium chloride. It can be “lost” in a smoothie or other guise. It is a great all-round healer, especially for correcting magnesium depletion but it is not a table condiment. The remedy called “Concentrace” contains it. Within 10 minutes is frees up the blood corpuscles and prevents them from sticking to each other. Magnesium chloride flakes are also available from some health shops, or online.
Q: We use bicarbonate of soda as an antacid. Do we also use the sodium in salt for alkalising?
A: Yes, we need sodium bicarbonate to neutralize acidity. Our body has a way of recycling this antacid and only allows the kidneys to excrete what is not needed. So then sodium will be retained if there is a shortfall of potassium. We are constantly reminded that our best sources of potassium are from vegetables. Other valuable sources include apple cider vinegar, molasses and cream or tartar from the grocery store. So to prevent high levels of sodium rather increase the levels of potassium and allow your body to flush out what you don’t need. We don’t have to ask why urine or sweat tastes salty! We excrete a lot of sodium potassium, calcium and magnesium. They ALL need to be replaced and kept in balance.
Q: Now we can see why we need a good balance of these minerals, as it is stated by the Prophet (May Allah honour him and grant him peace)
“But Allah has said that He created no disease without also creating its remedy, except death (meaning old age).”
How is salt associated with remedies?
A: Salt kills germs and we can gargle with salt and it makes a good mouthwash. Perhaps that is why we are reminded by Islamic traditional health practitioners to take a few grains of salt – again, after the meal. People also use a saline solution as a nasal spray or for treating sinus problems. Salt also balances the water levels, both within and without our cells. It is not the salt that is to blame for the water retention. People who stop drinking water to try and correct water retention are telling us that they have a potassium deficiency.
Homeopathic remedies and the 12 tissue salts use salt as one of their chief remedies. Salt is called Natrum (sodium) Muricatum (chloride) – NAT MUR for short. Homeopathy gets the closest to using substances that are both a cause and a cure, as alluded to 1400 years ago. During the 19th century Samuel Hahnemann discovered that a diluted version of a poison – arsenic, for instance became a medicine to treat the symptoms of arsenic poisoning. Thus if salt causes water retention, the same substance when potentized or diluted will cure water retention.
In fact, NAT MUR, the Homeopathic version of salt corrects many other types of water imbalances in a patient. For instance, a dry skin, hay fever, constipation, bloating or a dry cough NAT MUR at a potency of D6 – 300C will be prescribed. Mental symptoms that a homeopath would detect as contributing to the symptom picture would benefit from higher potencies, say 3M show up as weepiness, depression, feelings of hopelessness and people get called hypochondriacs. Being reactive and hyper sensitive or wanting to be left alone are also common symptoms.
Q: We are discouraged from using salt, yet you say we lose it when we sweat or urinate every day. What happens if we have a deficiency of salt?
A: Yes – insulin resistance and once again, high blood pressure. To the degree that sodium is restricted the hormonal balance between renin and aldosterone is challenged. An unusually high amount of aldosterone is released. Sodium and potassium are balanced by this hormone. If there is not enough sodium to keep the potassium ratio in balance, both potassium and magnesium are then excreted. A loss of these electrolytes makes the blood acidic. Oxidative stress sets in. Muscles cramp up, fingers go numb and up goes the blood pressure! This is scary and enough and a good reason to pass the salt.
Double blind random placebo controlled studies show that a sodium restricted diet in patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes resulted in an increase in insulin resistance. Even after a few days, the effects of not eating salt manifested as an average increase of 12% in terms of upping their insulin resistance. Even in normal people this was the case. Cut out the salt and up goes the potential for insulin resistance associated with syndrome X and especially type 2 diabetes.
Last word: Ironically, the doctors who condemn salt also use it to save your life. A saline drip is a familiar sight in a hospital and the food will remain tasteless – without any salt!
“Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food” (Hippocrates)
http://naturefresh.co.za/salt-is-good-for-you/ website article on Salt by Sue Visser
http://www.infobarrel.com/Salt_is_not_white_poison_-_without_it_you_would_be_dead Link to Sue’s online article.