Once upon a time salt was worth more than gold lb per lb. Wars were waged, and countries conquered in pursuit of this white gold. The salt of our ancestors looked nothing like the snow-white granules we find in the Mrs. Morton’s. Their salt came from the sea or underground mines, not from a lab. Life can not be sustained without this compound. Yet it has been the source of much fear in the present civilization. Viewed as a dangerous additive that leads to disease, how did salt go from savior to foe? We must first examine what it is, what it does, and how it has been analyzed in modern studies.
First, let us examine what is salt? Salt is the compound NaCI and has been used in civilizations since the age of antiquity. It is more than just a kitchen seasoning. Not only is it important physiologically, but it is also important culturally. Salt is an important dietary supplement, preservative, increases trade and population growth, and opened regions to settlement. Thus, salt has been important to the development of all complex societies (Flad Et Al, 2005). Salt has been so engrained (yes that is a pun) in society that the words like salary and salad are derived from it. The saying “He’s not worth his salt” comes from ancient slave trading when many were purchased using salt as a currency. Animals have traveled great distances in pursuit of this marvelous mineral. Although tiny, this granular mineral carries more weight than we may know. is more than just a kitchen seasoning.
What exactly does salt do to us physiologically? The first thing that comes to mind may be a sense of dehydration. This is true, but what if I said salt can also be hydrating? French Biologist Claude Bernard first highlighted Sodium as essential for fluid balance and cellular homeostasis in “Milieu Interierur” (Farquhar Et Al, 2015). This means salt plays a key role in physiological functions such as nutrient absorption and maintaining fluid balance. Salt is necessary for optimal function of the lymphatic system, muscle contraction,
How can salt be hydrating? Osmolality is a measure of how much one substance has dissolved in another substance. Osmolality must increase before thirst is engaged. In a study done by Russian scientists, results contracted the belief a high salt diet would increase thirst. They discovered that a high salt diet on training cosmonauts did not increase the serum osmolality needed to produce thirst. Thus, it did not result in higher water intake (Rakova. Et Al 2017). Further testing is needed to determine the exact mechanisms behind this. Personally, I drink a glass of spring water with a pinch of salt in the mornings. I notice a difference in my overall thirst most definitely.
You may be asking yourself, well what about high blood pressure? Studies between hypertension and salt have been an issue of debate since 1904. Studies have come out on either side making the information fairly inconclusive. The experiments rarely state what type of salt is used! Typical ionized salt has been chemically altered in a lab thus changing the way it communicates with our cells, and honestly should barely be called “salt.” Salt isn’t naturally white, so it must be “cleaned and purified” which also strips it of the beneficial minerals needed in the first place. All we are left with is an empty, dehydrating granular lab experiment. While Celtic sea salt on its own contains over 80 key and trace minerals (Karr, pg 275, 2018). Our shift from natural salts to this lab salt could be one of the contributing factors in salt-induced hypertension.
THE DEAD SEA
Salt may get a bad rap however it has been a prevalent mineral in the last 10,000 years of human evolution. It is important to monitor not only your salt intake but your salt quality. Iodine a critical mineral is found in commercial (lab) table salt. Although needed you can get iodine from other sources such as seaweed and other seafood. Thus the ionization of salt is purely for commercial reasoning to make salt cheaper. Be sure to purchase natural sea and rock salts such as Himalayan, Celtic, dead sea, or Hawaiian red salts and put the Mrs. Morton’s where it belongs, in the trash!