If you’re on a real food diet, you’re probably not getting as much salt as the average American. If your diet is low-carb on top of that, you may be sodium deficient.
Are You Sodium Deficient?
That was the case for me. I started to understand this better when I scrutinized my sodium levels in my blood work.
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
My most recent CMP came back showing my sodium was outside the normal range. It was low. But don’t worry, it’s not life threatening, and it’s easily rectified.
Symptoms of Sodium Deficiency
I can tell you from personal experience, that sodium deficiency is uncomfortable and can lead to unpleasant symptoms. Here’s what I experienced:
Are You Drowning Your Food In Salt?
I was drowning my food in salt. Consistently salting before I tasted because it wasn’t ever salty enough. Thankfully, my body was acting in an adaptogenic manner, telling me what I need.
Salt Based Electrolytes
I started on a salt-based electrolyte created for those of us on Low-Carb Diets. After using a small amount of LMNT daily for a couple of weeks, my system was more in balance.
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How do I know? I’ve stopped dumping the entire salt shaker on my food. This small miracle tells me my body is getting the sodium it needs.
Long before I used a salt-based electrolyte, I would put salt in my water whenever I felt a headache coming on.That’s a quick, easy, and inexpensive remedy that worked for me.
Anecdotally, for me, consuming adequate salt does a couple of things.
First, it keeps me hydrated, so the liquid I consume isn’t passing right through me. I stopped running to the bathroom all the time to urinate.
If you’ve recently begun the Keto Diet you will want to learn about the keto flu and how to beat it!
Second, it would help the headache go away. So easy and a great way to avoid NSAIDS which can harm the gut lining. I do my best to avoid this type of drug given that I have Celiac Disease.
Sometimes it would help with constipation. That’s because salt can have an osmotic effect, pulling water into the colon, creating minor distention, which signals the brain it’s time for peristaltic action. Bingo. No back up.
I know sharing my blood work with you is a little different than usual, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
Recipes Or Health Hacks?
Last week I spoke with someone at the Boulder Bookstore who said, you’re not in the health space, you write recipes and post beach photos of yourself on Instagram. I thought that was fantastic feedback because it made me realize that I’m not sharing some important stuff with you!
Why Not Both?
I have so many recipes and also a ton of personal bio-hacking information I’ve been wanting to share with you.
So now you can see my lab result for sodium and get a little insight into how I look at, study, and work for, my health.
What About You?
Are you drinking enough water? Do you crave salt? Have you tried electrolytes? Leave a comment and let’s talk about proper hydration. I want to hear from you!
Melissa Bridgman says
A year + later, thank you for this. I noticed that even when drinking 80+ oz of water I still felt dehydrated. AND I had a near-constant headache. I bought the electrolytes, made a L container to keep in the fridge, and add a splash to my water every other refill. I feel so much better and I’m very grateful to you for this and everything what you’ve taught me. Thank you, Elana.
Melissa, thanks for your super sweet comment! I’m so glad we’re on this healing path together :-)
Although you don’t know me, I feel like I know you after reading your posts and recipes for many years now. I connect with your story and experiences. Thank you for sharing!
I wanted to share some information with you that I thought you may find interesting. There is this article https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30213699/ that discusses how a higher sodium diet can exacerbate autoimmune disease. My doctor also shared this website https://kharrazianinstitute.com/ with me that I thought you might like. It is by a chiropractor and medical scientist and researcher discussing autoimmune disease as a loss of oral, chemical, and self-tolerance. It is written from an integrative medicine perspective and there is a course on testing and steps to take to reduce self-tolerance and increase autoimmune remission.
Thank you for sharing your story, being a source of inspiration, providing hope, and making amazing recipes!
Tessa, it’s so great to connect with you here and thanks for your fantastic comment. I consume quite a lot of salt because I’m chronically sodium deficient, but we’re all biochemical individuals so what works for one may not work for another. In terms of the Kharrazian Institute, I’m really looking forward to checking out their site and learning more. It looks super interesting and I’m so grateful to you for sharing both resources in your comment. Big hugs to you :-)
I am so sorry to hear about your losses to COVD-19. I hope you don’t mind me asking a question during this time. I have a daughter who suffers from nightly headaches. I’d love to try the electrolytes route to see if it would help her. I looked at the LMNT site and just placed an order. In the meantime, I’d like to start giving her a home-made concoction. Do you know the diff between Potassium Citrate and Potassium Aspartate as well as Magnesim Glycinate and Magnesium Citrate and which to use? Thanks so much. Also, is there a multi-vitamin you’d recommend? I’ve been searching literally for years trying to help my daughter.
Dorene, thanks for your sweet comment! I’d love to do some research and help you with this but I just don’t have the bandwidth right now given everything that is going on. So sorry.
Deneen Tressler says
The only thing that I have found that helps with my low sodium is to drink a cup and a half of Advanced Pedialyte. I take this every day to so I don’t feel like I am going to pass out. My classmate from school told me about your site and I have only been on here for 2 days and I already in love with this site, Elana, Thank you for having recipes for me to finally find something else to make other than black beans and rice for me to eat. I was diagnosed 2 years ago with IC which another name for it is Painful bladder Syndrome. Doctor gave a piece of paper telling what I can eat and what I can’t eat and that was it. I have read books and taken away a lot of food out of my diet and also have lost 20 lbs in the process. I had to go gluten free because it left me bloated and started to have more migraines than I normally had. I bought a gluten free flour and gluten free cake mix but didn’t know what recipes to use with them. Thank you for having tried and true recipes and an area for comments to.
Deneen, I’m so sorry to hear about your IC, and hope you find joy in the recipes on my website and in my books!
Kirbi Knop says
I flagged this email when it landed in my inbox days ago to read because it immediately intrigued me. I am always craving salt and salting away like you mentioned you were doing. Interesting. I need to have my levels checked. What does your Dr say about certain electrolyte ratios ? Potassium or magnesium etc in regards to salt? Thanks for always be informative and succinct. I’ve always loved that about your blog.
Kirbi, thanks for your comment! I seem to be chronically low in magnesium as well and my doctor and I are focusing on that too. Potassium seems to be ok, but I need to look more into the ratios and how they all work together. Thanks for bringing this up :-)
I have dealt with low sodium levels confirmed by bloodwork. I worked with Dr. Hal Huggins to get my numbers back in line. He taught me to use canning and pickling salt–it is pure sodiun chloride. My body could utilize it. I had been using Redmond’s red salt exclusively thinking I was doing the healthier thing. My body did not recognize and use it as salt. He also told me not to use sea salt as it has many contaminants in it. He tested many samples to determine that conclusion. I had to also take potassium as it was also low., but the sodium was lower than the potassium. He said that was the harder combination to correct. I took 2 of the 00 empty capsules a day to bring up the sodium. I have also since learned that deficiency in B6 can impact your potassium and sodium levels, especially if you have MTHFR. tell me if you want more info.
Kathy, thanks for sharing all of this incredible info!I am currently somewhat deficient in B6. Love learning about the link between B6 and sodium and potassium. Again, thank you!
Hi Elena, Thanks for your very interesting post on a topic that’s probably little understood by many. There are some helpful videos re the current science on salt intake on the site nutritionfacts.org that help to demystify many of the questions we may have about dietary salt intake.
The information you share in your quest for better health is always valuable and much appreciated, Jo
Jo, thanks so much for your great comment!
Teresa Hernandez says
Elana, I too always have a below average reading with sodium. I have mainly used celtic sea salt in water to dissolve and then add a tablespoon or two Of the concentrate to my water glass throughout the day. This seems to help me! What salt do you recommend?
Thank you for sharing your insights!!! I greatly appreciate it!
Teresa, I use a salt based electrolyte called LMNT. I link to it in the paragraph titled “LMNT” and if you click the highlighted link you can find out more about it. Before I started using this electrolyte I simply put a pinch of Celtic Sea Salt in my water. Let me know if you have any other questions, I’m happy to help :-)
Elana –such an important health post, as usual! We are taught to avoid salt, but for those of us on whole foods, unprocessed diets, that is disastrous advice. My elderly mother (and fellow health nut) was in that category (under doctor’s direction to avoid all salt, for years) until one night when she was rushed to the ER with a “stroke”. Right before they administered dangerous anti-stroke drugs to her, the astute ER doc quickly discovered her sodium level was sub-100!, put her on a sodium drip and within minutes, her stroke-like symptoms vanished. That near fatal experience was a wake up call for her and the rest of us.
I’ve suffered from migraines since my late 20s, and after almost 30 years of finding no relief from them, about 7 years ago I discovered that proactive salt use was the best way for me to avoid getting them. I now consume at least 1/8t of salt at each meal (morning most important) and let my taste buds tell me if I need more. I also eat some fermented veg and cheese, both of which contain some. I use any good quality sea salt — Real, Celine, Himalayan, Hawaiian, French — a variety. I also get rid of existing headaches (now rare) with salt. This is almost always successful for me within 15-30 mins of taking the salt — I sprinkle about 1/8 t on the back of my hand, lick it off and chase it with some spring water. (Although these days I’d probably lick it off a spoon instead!)
Re: electrolyte drops — I find them immensely helpful in rapid recovery on the rare occasions when I’m ill. I also take mineral drops at those times too.
Susan, yes avoiding salt would have been disastrous for me. Thankfully I listened to my body and also regularly check my blood levels of sodium to back up this hypothesis. The story about your mother is crazy and I’m so glad she had a good doc in the ER, thank heavens! And same here in terms of headaches, mine are in general easily treated with proper hydration –for me that is water, salt, and electrolytes. So glad we are all sharing such important experiences here and that we can learn from each other :-)