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Can high salt intake be healthy, and necessary, for some people?

By: Luke Hassan

Were you often scolded as a child for putting too much salt on your food?

For years, public health policy has told us that too much salt (sodium) in our diets is bad for our health, putting us at higher risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

While this is true for many people, at Active Health Clinic, we are most likely to tell our patients to INCREASE their salt intake.

So why the conflicting advice?

Well, it is true that for some, eating excessive amounts of salt in the diet can lead to a higher risk of chronic disease. However, there is a significant percentage of people where an increased amount of salt in the diet can be beneficial for health, and times where it might even be crucial to improving a patients’ capacity.

Here is why:

Salt, specifically the mineral sodium, is good at increasing blood volume. Sodium helps us to retain plasma fluid volume in the blood stream, and this enables us to pump blood around our body more efficiently. In people with high blood pressure, or people who are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease because of genetics or otherwise, this is not ideal – however in many conditions of Dysautonomia, such as Orthostatic Intolerance (OI), Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) or Neuro-Cardiogenic Syncope (NCS), low blood pressure can be common across the day, and notably in many conditions of Dysautonomia, worse around postural change (going from lying to sitting, or sitting to standing). It might also be compromised in and around the menstrual cycle.

Therefore, increasing salt intake with higher-salt food and drinks in the diet to increase blood pressure would be good for someone who is living with these conditions. It will also be beneficial for athletes in and around training and competition, who need extra support for their hydration.

This information is important for health care providers to consider as there is a large and negative stereotype that exists around salty foods. This stereotype can and does impact on the ability of people who live with these conditions to engage in this simple activity that can dramatically increase their capacity.

If someone you know/care for lives with one of these conditions and:

Is feeling conflicted about increasing their salt intake, or;
Wants to know more about how much they should increase their salt intake, or;
Wants to know the best ways to do this,
Feel free to reach out and we would be more than happy to assist.

About the author:

Luke’s mission is to ‘make invisible illnesses visible’ by advocating for those with Invisible Illnesses and supporting them in their nutritional health. He is the lead dietitian at Active Health Clinic in Melbourne, where they specialise in providing care to people who live with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Pain conditions, Dysautonomia and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders. He is passionate about making quality nutrition accessible for every BODY, no matter their functional capacity.

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