Salt is the master of your food. God sent down four blessings from the sky – fire, water, iron and salt – Ibn Majah.

Despite getting a lot of negative press of late, salt can be enjoyed with a clear conscience when it is used in moderation.

A pinch of salt before and after meals was traditionally recommended by Islamic healers. Our sodium RDA in total per day should not exceed 2300-2400 mg per day and it is needed to balance potassium.

1 teaspoon of Iodated salt a day helps us to:

  • Control blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity, which decreases the risk of diabetes.
  • Maintain the right levels of stomach acid needed for good digestion.
  • Reduce stress hormones and improve the quality of sleep. Low sodium causes insomnia.
  • Support a healthy thyroid function to improve metabolism and control weight.
  • Helps the body to retain other important minerals such as magnesium and potassium.

Salt is the key to good digestion

Taking a pinch of salt before a meal and enjoying the taste helps to stimulate the appetite, liven the taste buds and it supports the intensity of stomach acid to digest the meal. A pH of below 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 few grains of salt after a meal can help to prevent acid reflux and heartburn, due to the sodium it contributes to our sodium bicarbonate reserves from the pancreas that alkalize the stomach contents before entering the duodenum.

A salty finish to a meal, (as opposed to sugary residues in the saliva) is thus vital to the ongoing digestion of food. By ending the meal with a few grains of salt in your mouth you eliminate the desire for more and more sweet things and this also helps to prevent tooth decay. (Do not do this with potassium chloride or magnesium chloride-based salts because they can burn the tongue and skin on the inside of your cheeks.)

Controlling sodium from salt and baking soda

An excess of sodium is associated with many common ailments, particularly cardiovascular diseases and diabetes but this only happens if there is a deficiency of potassium. When taken in moderation and balanced to potassium,  sodium does not harm us and any excess is excreted via the kidneys on a daily basis. But if our intake of potassium (from fruit and vegetables) is too low we retain all the sodium. 70% of our chemical composition consists of a saline solution – so cutting out salt can have serious repercussions. Another source of sodium in the diet is baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate (bicarb).

There are 300 milligrams of sodium in ¼ teaspoon of baking soda (1,2ml). Our sodium RDA in total per day should not exceed 2300-2400 mg. You need at least 4700mg of potassium to keep that amount sodium in balance and more if you take Bicarb. It is recommended for acid reflux by many people but if taken before a meal it can sabotage the acidity of the stomach, raising the pH from the ideal range of 2. This will stimulate the production of more and more acid, making it weaker and weaker and unable to digest fats and protein! Remember that the oesophageal valve will only close when the pH is 2 – acidic, like vinegar or lemon juice.

Alternative treatment for acid reflux – avoid antacids!

If your oesophageal valve is not able to close, due to the weakness of stomach acid intensity (too alkaline) then you will experience the leaking of stomach contents upwards. The burning sensation is from acid rising up an alkaline tube but ironically, the acid is not strong enough to stay inside the stomach and close the valve. Why would you want to make it even weaker with an antacid? If you suspect this is the case, rather take a teaspoon of vinegar or a pickle or a slice of lemon with salt when you experience acid reflux between meals – especially if it only happens when you lie down.

Taking a pinch of salt before and after every meal sharpens up the hydrochloric acid after a few days. Weak stomach acid does not kill germs like helicobacter pylori, so acidify it to prevent stomach (gastric) ulcers. Iodine from salt also kills other types of microbes such as mould or bacteria and thus prevents food poisoning. Few of us know that hydrochloric acid is made by the stomach’s parietal cells and iodine is also required for this. Using cheap, common iodated salt can prevent these problems in the first place and it is important for thyroid health.

Should the stomach contents not be able to pass on to the duodenum due to a lack of sodium bicarbonate then baking soda taken immediately you feel the distension will help to alkalize the stomach contents. This can happen after eating too a lot of rich food – especially too much fat and protein. Something we are advised not to do, according to the Prophet (SAW). But some people suffer from weak acid on a daily basis so taking the extra few grains of salt before and after a meal definitely helps to control acid reflux as well as sugar cravings. They should also have a few teaspoons of vinegar before retiring to keep the upper valve of the stomach tightly closed.

The composition of salt

Salt, regardless of how much you pay for it, is basically 97 – 98% sodium chloride. Positively charged sodium meets the negatively charged hydrochloric acid halfway at a pH of 7. The sodium content is about 40%. Potassium chloride (called salt substitute) is a combination of potassium and hydrochloric acid. In unrefined salt, other minerals and trace elements are present within the remaining 2 – 3 % of its composition. This provides a negligible amount of key minerals that we can easily achieve from a healthy diet providing we eat seaweed. Trace elements of benefit are selenium, boron and lithium but amounts are negligible.

Natural unrefined salts include contaminants from decayed plants or animals, their faeces and other “natural or unnatural” impurities such as micro plastics and heavy metals and even arsenic. Fortunately most germs are killed by sodium chloride. Contamination also comes from the unhygienic habits of people who personally handle the salt at source; during transport or packing. They are thus not suitable for nasal sprays or saline drips, but OK for gourmets, dishwashers and swimming pools.

Keeping our saltiness balanced. On hot days when we sweat we excrete minerals, especially the electrolytes: sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium that are also lost in urine. (That is why they both taste salty.) Our cells are like bags of salty water and need salt for their stability. We also require the other electrolytes namely potassium, calcium and magnesium.

An excess of salt causes a deficiency of potassium, calcium and magnesium. A calcium deficiency accelerates osteoporosis – the collapse of the skeletal system, especially in older women. Bone density can be regained at the rate of between 5 – 10 % per year on supplements of calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, B6, D3 & zinc. Extensive studies on boron show that this mineral inhibits the urinary excretion of calcium whilst it is essential for the production of oestrogen and progesterone.

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. But a sodium deficiency (not enough common salt) upsets the hormonal balance between renin (that eliminates sodium) and aldosterone (that eliminates potassium).

A sodium deficiency called hyponatremia is usually due to heat fatigue or hormonal issues such as adrenal insufficiency but it can also be caused by a decreased salt intake. We can get into the habit of drinking too much pure, clean water plus avoiding salt to the extent that our kidneys lack solutes – or minerals to facilitate osmosis. Low solute intake can cause hypotonic hyponatremia. We should listen to our bodies as a craving for salt is a primal instinct and wild animals set the example, with their need for salt licks. They too, cannot survive without their salt!

Subjects on low-sodium diets (around 500 milligrams a day) woke up during the night almost twice as often and got about 10 percent less sleep than those on a normal diet (2,000 milligrams of sodium a day). A loss of these electrolytes makes the blood acidic. With Addison’s disease excessive stress causes the adrenal glands to malfunction and the body expels sodium at an alarming rate. These patients tend to retain all their potassium but become critically sodium deficient. The subsequent loss of magnesium is very serious. Magnesium acts like a calcium channel blocker to stabilize the contractions (constriction) of heart muscle and vascular membranes.

In fact, magnesium supplementation has been shown to lower blood pressure by about 10 percent. It also helps to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides thus substantially reducing so-called risk of death from cardiovascular disease. (300 milligrams of magnesium a day is usually suggested as an RDA.)

Having lost the magnesium, oxidative stress sets in. Insulin resistance gets worse, as magnesium is also essential for its activation. Muscles cramp up, fingers go numb and the brain begins to swell up in cases of acute natronemia (a lack of sodium –often due to diuretics and Addison’s disease). Symptoms of chronic sodium deficiencies are more common in older people and are expressed as an unsteady gait and falls with bone loss and fractures – especially in women. This is often due to side effects of medications like diuretics and antidepressants that can also cause a drop in potassium.

The onset is gradual – but serious. Cardiovascular diseases especially, are 3 times more likely to cause fatality when we constantly deprive ourselves of sodium from salt or baking soda. (There are 300 mg of sodium in ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. 1/4 teaspoon of salt provides 575 mg of sodium.

Our sodium RDA in total per day should not exceed 2300-2400 mg per day and it is needed to balance potassium.  

The best sources of potassium are from vegetables. On a balanced diet, you should consume more than enough potassium to satisfy your RDA of 4,700mg per day.  Potassium-rich fruits include bananas (500mg), prunes, oranges, melons, avocados, grapes, blackberries and raisins. Examples of vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, artichokes, dried peas and beans, all types of squashes and pumpkins, carrots and spinach. Other high-potassium foods include all meats, dairy products, sunflower seeds, almonds, chicken and some types of fish. 

Salt in moderation. We can enjoy our salt with a clear conscience when it is used in moderation. It is an enjoyable pastime to collect and appreciate different types of salt. I have a collection from around the world and they all taste of salt! If a finely ground natural salt forms big lumps in the shaker then mix in a teaspoon of powdered calcium and magnesium to keep it free flowing – and mineral enriched. This is a great alternative to grains of rice. Keep the lid tightly closed and make sure the kids don’t keep on licking it.

For salt junkies the white salt becomes more visible when sprinkled on food as a reminder to use it in moderation. Some people have a habit of shaking a snowstorm of salt onto food before tasting it. Some chefs will take offence but they season to taste and not all tastes are alike. We have choices and it is easier to top up on salt, rather than trying to remove it.

We need to maintain a good balance of these 4 electrolytes:

  • Sodium RDA: 2300-2400mg (5ml baking soda = 1200mg, 5ml salt = 2300mg
  • Potassium RDA: 4,700mg (2 bananas = 1000mg)
  • Magnesium RDA: 310–420 mg Green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains
  • Calcium RDA 800 – 1000mg Dairy products, leafy greens, nuts, vegetables

The salt cure for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high cholesterol – regardless of diet

During 1996 an experiment in Finland achieved a 60% improvement in cardiovascular health when a new type of salt was introduced nationwide, even on junk food! People still took their medications, were obese, drank and smoked as much as before but they all used a novel salt mixture. Potassium chloride mixed with a little magnesium and l-lysine as suggested by Linus Pauling.

The reduction of the saturated to unsaturated fat ratio was also encouraged. In a follow-up study in 2006 their improvement rose to 75-80% with an increase in life expectancy of 6-7 years. There was an increase in life expectancy of both male and female Finns of six to seven years. Only 10-15 percent of the overall decline could be attributed in any way to patent medicines so 85% – 90% of this dramatic result is due entirely due to reducing saturated fat and changing the salt (reducing sodium and adding potassium, etc).

Wright Salt contains 12% sodium as opposed to the 38-40% present in sea, rock and table salt. As a result of this experiment Jonathan Wright developed his salt and noted the dramatic improvements it made to his patients.

Suggestions for making your own heart-friendly health salt:

  • Add potassium chloride 50:50 to table salt
  • Add magnesium carbonate – it makes it flow freely (or calcium and magnesium supplement)
  • Add a few capsules of L-lysine powder plus vitamin B2, B6 or B3 from supplements
  • Add Vitamin D3 tablets after crushing them or open up a few capsules
  • For salt and vinegar seasoning: Add some Cream of tartar (potassium tartrate) to give a sour taste
  • Grind up your own blend of dried herbs and spices to add. Celery leaves have a natural salty/savoury flavour

Look for unusual salt blends for adding flavour and excitement to food. Some of these even have a smokey taste.

Homeopathic forms of salts – the 12 Tissue Salts. When the body is deficient in any of these nutrients, specific symptoms occur and when you take the correct tissue salt, the problem is solved without the need for medication. They are inexpensive and available at health shops & Pharmacies. They are safe to take, even for babies.

Salt: The homeopathic remedy NAT MUR (natrum muricatum) as well as the tissue salt NAT MUR is a triturated or finely diluted version of salt/sodium chloride. It is used to correct salt imbalances throughout the body. In homeopathy the remedy is a successive dilution that is shaken up and called a potency of the basic substance that causes the diseased state – the original sodium chloride! Examples are: constipation, dry skin, black rings under the eyes, hay fever, hardened joints and blood vessels, a dry mouth, dehydration, dandruff and heat fatigue.

For many victims of mental conditions such as moodiness and depression, sugar and alcohol cravings and obviously an addiction to salty foods the remedy of choice is: NAT MUR, usually in a potency of D6. These remedies are freely available at health shops. Most of the pills have a lactose or sugar base, unfortunately. A homeopath will prescribe the exact potency needed if symptoms indicate a more chronic constitutional condition, especially if mental indicators correspond with physical ones as a NAT MUR patient.

Make your own water-based NAT MUR (salt) remedies

For a first aid NAT MUR treatment free of lactose or sugar, add a pinch of common salt to a litre of water in a bottle. Shake it vigorously. Pour out half the water and replace it with fresh water and shake again. Do this 3x. Sip the treated water throughout the day. When the bottle is halfway down, add more water and shake it up again and this will increase the therapeutic effect. Continue for the next day or two, until your water balance has been restored.

Homeopathic Potassium chloride is the base material for making the tissue salt: KALI MUR. It is the chief remedy for glandular swellings such as mumps. It is a decongestant and is good for liver function, digestion, and the lymphatic system. It controls inflammation as helps maintain blood circulation and nerves. In emergencies, you can buy this tissue salt or make the remedy as for NAT MUR (See above.) I sipped this water remedy treated with potassium chloride for two days, continuously topping up the bottle as it reached the halfway mark. I watched a large, granular lump under my armpit gradually melt away after a few days. But the tissue salts work just as well for mumps, even for adults. This KALI MUR water is also of great benefit to a sluggish metabolism.

1. CALC.FLUOR. (Calcium fluoride)

A major constituent of tooth enamel & collagen tissue. Connective tissues, elasticity, flexibility & strength of muscles & blood vessels. For weak, relaxed tissues, cracked skin on palms of hands & mouth corners, loose teeth, weak gums, piles, varicose veins, hardened glands, spurs (exostoses) blood tumours, sagging breasts, loose flabby skin and excessive wrinkles. As an antidote to toxic fluoride exposure from toothpaste, water or dental treatments.

2. CALC.PHOS. (Calcium phosphate: Lime phosphate)

Found in teeth, bones, blood & especially gastric juice. A tonic, for growth, restores vitality. For teeth & all bone conditions like osteoporosis, osteoarthritis. For poor digestion, anaemia, colds, especially during or after illness.

3. CALC.SULPH. (Calcium sulphate: Plaster of Paris)

Present in all skin cells and in the blood. For purifying the blood, dissolves discharges of pus, drains tissues, heals and cures suppuration, stimulates the flow of oxygen to all parts of the body, especially the skin. Good for liver & bile production. Used for catarrh, lung problems, boils, carbuncles, abscesses, pimples & acne. Often used after SILICEA

4. FERRUM PHOS (Iron phosphate)

A component of red blood cells and needed for all inflammatory & febrile conditions. Anti-inflammatory properties, expelling heat, swelling with redness & pain. Helps to strengthen blood vessels & form new red blood corpuscles.

5. KALI.MUR. (Potassium chloride: Salt substitute)

Present in all body tissues except bone. Decongestant, anti-inflammatory, blood & lymphatic conditioner, digestive & good to strengthen nerve tissue. Used to relieve glandular swellings and lumps. Main symptom: a white coating on tongue & back of throat, glandular swellings and lumps.

6. KALI. PHOS. (Potassium phosphate)

Controls nerve function, especially brain tissue & intracellular fluids. Relieves brain & emotional fatigue, depression, sluggishness & confusion. A general pick me up to lift the spirits, calm nerves and focus concentration. Deficiencies indicated by: fatigue, depression, confusion, loss of memory, offensive breath & flatulence, partial paralysis.

7. KALI.SUPLH. (Potassium sulphate)

Oxygenates the cells, supports liver function and clears out mucous. Vitalises the skin, good for offensive discharges or yellow pimples. Deficiencies show up as: dandruff, eczema, catarrh (mucous) of the lungs and digestive system.

8. MAG.PHOS. (Magnesium phosphate)

Controls the nerve fibres. A deficiency results in a contracted nerve fibre and causes cramps, spasms, convulsions, sharp shooting neuralgic pains, hiccoughs & stress related pains & tensions. MAG PHOS relaxes muscle cramps, menstrual pains, abdominal discomfort, colic, twitching, curled fingers, restless legs.

9. NAT.MUR. (Sodium chloride: Salt)

Regulates water balance in the body, preventing dehydration, bloating and water retention, dry skin & hair. It controls the mucous membranes and distributes water between the cells. Symptoms appear as wet: runny nose, diarrhoea, oedema, etc. or dry: constipation, wrinkles & dry hair & skin. Emotions of anger, irritability, withdrawal.

10. NAT.PHOS. (Sodium phosphate)

Controls the acid balance, keeping the blood at an ideal pH. Deficiencies show as heartburn, acid belching, vomiting, indigestion, arthritic pains & stiffness. Used for nausea, arthritis, gout (with NAT SULPH) biliousness or travel sickness and to alkalize the body, helping to prevent worms and other parasitic invasions. The tongue usually has a creamy yellow coating.

11. NAT.SULPH. (Sodium sulphate)

Controls the fluid levels within each living cell and the secrtetion of bile. It regulates all the secretions in the body and works with NAT MUR in expelling excess fluid and detoxifying the body. Deficiencies show as: a dirty greenish yellow coating at the back of the tongue, diabetes (insufficient pancreatic juices) jaundice, dropsy, vomiting especially during pregnancy. Can be used with NAT PHOS for morning sickness.

12. SILICEA (Silica: quartz)

Eliminates pus & toxins from tissues and strengthens, supports & sustains connective tissue. Important for strong hair, nails, teeth, nerves & bones. It promotes the discharge of pus and is used for boils, cysts, abscesses, nasal catarrh, and sceptic tonsils. Follow up with CALC PHOS to resolve infection. Used for profuse night sweats & debility

More information is available from: www.naturefresh.co.za

AUTHOR: Sue Visser, healthcare researcher