Salt: The Shocking Truth
by
Healthy Guy, M.A.

           Are you slowly losing your eyesight or hearing as you age? Do you seem to be experiencing erectile dysfunction, prostate difficulties, or other organ and sexually related problems as you grow older? Well, it may be related to your salt consumption.

           A slow deterioration of eyesight, hearing, prostate problems, erectile dysfunction, and premature aging are all problems related to smoking, however if you don't smoke and are still experiencing some of these problems as you grow older, you might want to examine your salt consumption. Smoking destroys the elasticity of the arterial walls throughout the entire body and restricts blood flow through the smaller capillaries causing an eventual deterioration of the eyesight, hearing, prostate, and subsequent erectile dysfunction due to an abundance of free radicals 1 from constituents of the gas phase of tobacco smoke 2 which are deposited in the arteries. This creates serious problems throughout the body and especially to life sustaining organs due to diminished blood flow and lack of oxygen.

           Salt also destroys the elasticity of arteries and capillaries just as smoking does except that salt is a totally different constituent. The common name for the damage which salt does to the arteries is hardening of the arteries, and it will ultimately cause a stroke and possible death when an artery eventually becomes too brittle and breaks from the hardening effect that is taking place. This damage to the arteries is very similar to the tobacco smoke damage. When arteries lack the proper elasticity, blood has a difficult time getting into the capillaries, the small thin-walled vessels, in route to a healthy organ because efficient blood flow is dependent upon proper expansion and contraction of arteries and capillaries. The organ becomes even more effected when the size of the artery decreases due to excessive salt or free radical deposits on the arterial walls. The blood flow through the capillaries diminishes causing deterioration of the eyes, hearing, prostate, and sexual organs. The results can be devastating if an organ cannot get proper blood flow.

           The process of aging is directly correlated to the condition of the arteries. 3 Deposits from salt and other free radicals form on the arterial walls and are a major contributor to aging. Keeping the arteries clean is the key to longevity and good health.

           You have probably been told that you need salt for your body or that a little bit of salt will not hurt you. Well, the truth is that you don't need salt at all. You need sodium! So why all the confusion about needing salt in your diet? It is like this. Sodium is an important mineral in the body as it is responsible for sending the message from the brain to muscles through the nervous system so that your body will move its muscles on command. When you want to move your arm or any muscle in the body, the brain sends a message to a sodium molecule who passes it to a potassium molecule and then back to a sodium molecule etc., etc., until it gets to its final destination and the muscle moves. This is known as the sodium-potassium ion exchange. Therefore without sodium, you would never be able to move one muscle of your body. Regardless, it is not common table salt that the body needs in order to sustain life. It is sodium. Sodium just happens to be an element in common table salt which is known as sodium chloride and that is where the confusion exists. Therefore, salt is not a necessary compound in order for the body to survive, but rather sodium is the necessary life sustaining element. Ironically, sodium is found in all plants so you are getting plenty of sodium everyday without even realizing it every time you eat a food that comes from a plant. Studies by the Department of Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin have shown 4 that blood pressure is not increased by a high sodium intake unless it is accompanied by chloride. Common table salt being sodium chloride, therefore, actually destroys life rather than sustains it as we are led to believe.

           Are you addicted to certain foods because they appear to taste so good? Well, they may be loaded with common table salt. Bertino, Beauchamp, and Engleman 5 have shown that the amount of salt preferred is dependent on the amount of salt consumed. In other words, if you are used to eating high amounts of salt, you will be more likely to choose other foods for your diet which are high in salt. The types of food you choose may be entirely dependent on the amount of salt you are consuming. Food appears to taste better with salt, but it is only an illusion. It is the salt you like and not the food. Have you ever noticed how much more of a certain type of food you will eat when it contains just the right amount of salt? You are convinced that it tastes delicious, but it is only the inclusion of just the right amount of salt that tricks the brain into believing that the food tastes better. Does the food actually taste better or is it just that you like the taste of common table salt? After all, it's no secret that salted food tastes better. The million dollar question is, "Do you really want to include common table salt, a substance that slowly destroys the body over time, in your diet everyday and never give your body a break from it?" It can take as long as two to four days to get all the salt out your body but the first thing you will notice is that, your extremities, your hands and feet, will become thinner. You will instantly realize just how swollen your extremities become from including salt in your diet everyday. How do you know if you are eating too much salt? Under normal conditions, if you become very thirsty after a delicious meal, chances are that meal contained large amounts of salt. By this time the salt has already entered every cell in your body because salt molecules are smaller than the hole in the cell wall and will literally pull water into the cell. Salt molecules esentially become trapped within the cell and osmosis causes the cells to swell, taking water away from other parts of the body, and making you thirsty until you drink enough water so that equilibrium is established and there is the same amount of water on the outside of the cell as there is on the inside. This is the process of osmosis that takes place inside the body when you consume table salt.

           Cheese is an excellent example of how the brain can be easily tricked. It is difficult to stop eating cheese with only one bite because it tastes so good. However, have you ever eaten saltless cheese? I guarantee that you will not want a second bite of saltless cheese unless you have previously acquired a taste for it. It is extremely bitter and something you would definitely have to acquire a taste for in order to enjoy it. Another example is butter or margarine. Try using saltless butter or margarine on your toast. You will find out that your toast is absolutely tasteless, and you will realize how you have been tricked all your life. So if you are addicted to salt without knowing it, there is hope. Once you are eventually aware of your high salt intake, you can then create change. Your preferred salt level can be lowered simply by reducing your overall salt intake. 5 In other words, your taste buds can easily adapt to changes if you give them a chance. Restricting salt exposure for 8-12 weeks6 enhances the normal taste of foods and lowers your preferred salt level. Foods extremely high in salt include cheese, butter, margarine, chips, ham, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, salsa, soy sauce, canned, and packaged foods. You might have found yourself saying, "I don't ever salt my food." Well, when you're able, read the label. Start looking at the ingredients of all the foods you eat, and you may just find that common table salt is in everything you eat. If it tastes too good to be true, you can bet it's the salt.

           Getting your sodium from plants rather than from common table salt is one of the better choices you can make. It has been demonstrated that sodium from plants will not cause high blood pressure. Not only does common table salt, sodium chloride, cause high blood pressure7 and hardening of the arteries, but it also causes unnecessary swelling in every cell of the body and overworks the heart. Getting minerals, like sodium, from plants will help keep your arteries young and elastic. Your blood will flow more efficiently helping to rejuvenate your life sustaining organs, and your sense of smell will improve significantly. Reduction of table salt will assist in prolonging your health, well being, and reduce the risk of strokes which are associated with high levels of common table salt. If you are concerned with longevity and good health, limiting the amount of common table salt in your diet is one of the better choices you can make in your lifetime in order to maintain a healthy and youthful body inside and out.

REFERENCES
  1. Eiserich, J.P., van der Vliet, A., Handelman, G.J., Halliwell, B., and Cross, C: Dietary antioxidants and cigarette smoke-induced biomolecular damage: a complex interaction. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 62, 1490S-1500S, 1995.
  2. Eiserich, J.P., van der Vliet, A., Handelman, G.J., Halliwell, B., and Cross, C: Dietary antioxidants and cigarette smoke-induced biomolecular damage: a complex interaction. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 62, 1490S-1500S, 1995.
  3. Cutler, RG: Antioxidants and aging. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 53, 373S-379S, 1991.
  4. Kotchen, TA and Kotchen, JM: Dietary sodium and blood pressure: interactions with other nutrients. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 65, 708S-711S, 1997.
  5. Bertino, M., Beauchamp, G.K., and Engelman, K: Long-term reduction in dietary sodium alters the taste of salt. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 36, 1134-1144, 1982.
  6. Mattes, RD:The taste for salt in humans. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 65, 692S-697S, 1997.
  7. Sacks, Frank M., et.al.:Effects on Blood Pressure of Reduced Dietary Sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 344, No. 1, January 4, 2001.
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