Watch your salt intake!

By Henrylito D. Tacio


A salty, mineral-rich fluid constantly bathes the cells of our bodies.  Scientist Claude Bernard made that discovery in the mid-1800s, and he realized the fluid must contain the right amounts of sodium, chloride, and potassium to allow our cells to grow, work, and survive.  One hundred years later, researcher Homer Smith theorized that the cell-bathing fluid contains similar to the salty seas that bathed and nourished the earliest one-celled organisms.


In order to keep that cell-bathing fluid in balance, what goes in must come out.  A person takes in sodium and chloride (when these two elements combined, the result is table salt) in his diet and more than 98 percent comes out in his urine.  All creatures, including human beings, have kidneys that strictly regulate the mineral and water balance in the body.


A person’s average daily intake of salt is 3,900 milligrams, although some people get a lot more than that.  If you have normal blood pressure, experts recommend that you should limit your sodium intake to 2,400 milligrams (just over one teaspoon of salt) a day. 


“Limiting salt may be a good idea,” the editors of Super Life, Super Health point out.  “It could affect your blood pressure someday, and it may affect other parts of your body, like your bones.  But don’t make a huge effort to cut back to less than the recommended limit unless you have high blood pressure.”


Recent studies have shown that taking too much salt is not good for your health – especially if you have some health problems.  Sure, you like your French fries covered with salt, but if have hemorrhoids, salt can make it worse.  Excess salt retain fluids in the circulatory system that can cause bulging of the veins in the anus and elsewhere. 


High salt intake can also trigger migraine in some people.  Migraine is a throbbing headache, usually occurring on only one side of the head.  (A woman who had suffered with migraines for 16 years finally experienced relief when researchers from Denmark’s Odense University gave her 500 to 600 milligrams of powdered ginger whenever she felt a headache coming on.  Within 30 minutes, her migraine would be gone.)


In a study conducted at the Department of Community Medicine of St. Thomas Hospital in London, researchers discovered that salt could have a life-threatening effect on people with asthma.  “A strong correlation was found between table salt purchases and asthma mortality in both men and children,” reported the researchers.  Buying the salt wasn’t killing people; eating it was.


Anyone who has passed a kidney stone can verify that this is an experience he never wants to repeat.  Most stones are calcium-based, so it’s essential that you avoid excessive intake of table salt and condiments high in sodium.  Salt restriction will help decrease the concentration of calcium in the urine.  According to US National Kidney Foundation, you should reduce your sodium intake to two to three grams per day.


Women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) should avoid salt at all cost.  “People don’t realize that foods with high salt content can contribute to water retention,” says Dr. Susan Clark, medical director of PMS and Menopause Self-Help Center in Los Altos, California.


Most snack foods and other processed foods are high in salt – and some fast-food meals can be extremely high.  So, women with PMS should stay away from these foods.   Before buying packaged and processed foods, be sure to read the labels and whenever possible, choose fresh fruits and vegetables.


Instead of piling salt on to enhance flavoring of your food, why not try cloves, ginger, garlic and thyme instead?  They’re better for your health.  Cloves, for instance, may relieve asthma and bronchitis, arthritis and rheumatism.  Ginger can ease nausea and may help protect against cancer.


Garlic, on the other hand, may lower cholesterol and help prevent cancer.  You may use it in stews, soups, stir-fries and pasta sauce.  Thyme, which can treat colds, coughs, and bronchitis, can be use in vegetable dishes, meat, poultry, fish, stews, and tomato-based sauces.


Experts warn that no one should try to cut out salt completely from his or her diet.  That would be dangerous!  In fact, there are also good things about salt, health-wise.   For instance, if you are suffering from stuffy nose, why not try saline solution?  Here’s how to do it: Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a pint of water, and then use a nosedropper to drop it in your nose.  Gently blow your nose on a tissue.


Having a gum pain?  Try a warm saltwater rinse.  “Take a few swigs of warm salt water and swish it between your teeth and gums,” advises Dr. Leslie Salkin, director of post-graduate periodontics at the Temple University of School of Dentistry in Philadelphia.  “It has a general soothing effect.  If you have an abscess, the salts will help draw it out and drain it.”  He recommends one teaspoon of salt in a glass of lukewarm water. 


Salt can also be used as a first line of defense against sore throat.  While gargling won’t kill off the germs causing sore throat, it will moisturize and temporarily soothe the upper throat.  While there are many possible gargles on the market, salt water is as good as any, and it’s cheap.


Dr. Michael Benninger, chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, instructs: Mix one teaspoon of salt (no more or you’ll dry out your throat!) in a pint of warm (never hot) water.  To gargle, start by taking in a deep breath.  Pour a small amount of salt water into your mouth and tilt your head back.  Let stir bubble out slowly to create the gargling effect.  If it’s noisy, it’s right.  Gargle as often as you like.


Warm salt water is also good for those suffering from toothache.  Hot or cold water will only aggravate an already sensitive tooth, but swishing some warm salt water will relieve a lot of the pain, says Dr. William P. Maher, assistant professor of endodontics at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry. 


Here’s what you should do: Mix two to three teaspoons of salt in a glass of water.  The salt draws out some of the fluids causing the swelling and has a general soothing effect.  The saltwater rinse also cleans the area around the infected tooth.  Even unsalted lukewarm water (about body temperature) can flush out an irritating piece of rotting food and provide some relief.


By the way, be sure to consult your doctor before doing what have been stated here.


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