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Thermo Diet Podcast Episode 23 - Salt & Sodiums Real Story

Thermo Diet Podcast Episode 23 - Salt & Sodiums Real Story

In this episode of The Thermo Diet Christopher Walker and Jayton Miller talk about the history behind the salt myth, why salt is actually beneficial for you, and what the best types of salt are! Check it out and let us know what you think!

 

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Full Transcript:

Chris:
Everyone, welcome back to the Thermo Diet Podcast. I'm your cohost Christopher Walker with my cohost, Salty J, Jayton Miller.

Jayton:
How's it going?

Chris:
Today we're going to be talking about salt as you could probably guess by Jayton's new nickname. Basically everyone now, if you ask just any general person off the street, they're going to say, "Oh yeah, I've got to eat less salt." And I'm always curious when we run into widespread beliefs like that, especially about health. Like where'd this come from? And then is it true? And if you can look at both of those things, it turns into quite an interesting story usually. So today we're going to be discussing that story, the backstory, and then what is true about it, in terms of salt, what's the truth about salt?

Jayton:
The main thing that's demonized is usually not the salt itself, but the sodium. So what's the backstory of that?

Chris:
I don't know, it's interesting, this is one of those weird backstories where if you look at the origin of it, is totally not something you would've ever thought, namely syphilis. For hundreds of years in Europe, the European doctors, physicians, whatever, they would treat syphilis with mercury and arsenic, but mostly mercury. And syphilis actually is recorded as having come to Europe in 1497 when Christopher Columbus returned from the New World on his second homecoming back to Spain. So then after that, apparently there was a massive outbreak of syphilis all across Europe starting in Spain.

Chris:
And then they didn't really know how to treat it so that what they did was they were using mercury. And this isn't the only thing they used mercury for. If you look at some of these old medical techniques are pretty ludicrous looking back, but they didn't know any better. I mean, they didn't really know that mercury could cause poisoning I guess. But they would use mercury to treat syphilis in that region. So, genital region, rectum and mouth. They would actually just put mercury on that area and use it as an antibiotic because clearly it's going to kill the bacteria.

Jayton:
Didn't you say that one of the side effects was sudden death?

Chris:
Yeah. So one of the side effects was sudden death with no indicators. Which is not surprising. I mean, especially if someone was doing it over a long period of time. There're recorded incidences of people just dropping dead out of nowhere when they're using these mercury treatments. And it really, it isn't surprising. However, this persisted for hundreds of years, literally from 1500s until the early 1900s when in 1928 they discovered penicillin. And then switched off of using mercury and arsenic for these treatments and actually started using penicillin for it as an antibiotic.

Chris:
So, penicillin in that sense definitely changed the way things operated in terms of antibiotics. But here's how it transitions to salt. So the salt thing didn't start to happen really until the 1950s I think. Let me look at my notes.

Jayton:
Yeah, it was in the 50s.

Chris:
Yeah, it was the 50s because ... So one thing to understand about mercury is the way that they were using mercury was as a diuretic. So there were officially these drugs that they would develop back through that period of a couple hundred years, they were referred to as mercurial diuretics. And they started to use these diuretics for a lot of other purposes as well, because diuretics were seen as, and probably still are seen as ways to treat these other things like high blood pressure, water retention, that sort of thing.

Chris:
So that was the common thought was like, okay, there's a diuretic here that is very widely used for a lot of different clinical applications, but it is mercury. So we can't be using this. So once penicillin was invented, they stopped using mercurial diuretics for STDs. And then they actually started the development of other diuretics that they could use in its stead.

Chris:
So these diuretics, the first one actually was in the 1950s, it was called acetazolamide. And that was their first move into that diuretic drug development. And then they subsequently started making a couple of other ones during the 50s. And they were using them basically for hypertension, heart failure, edema, and general swelling. And I even found some notes on, they were using it to treat obesity, which I'm not really sure how that works. Obesity is not caused by water.

Jayton:
Well, I guess if you die then you're no longer obese.

Chris:
That well, that's true. But one really bad thing that started happening was they were using it for pregnant women, the diuretic drugs in the 50s?

Jayton:
For the hypertension?

Chris:
For swelling, water retention. And water retention is an interesting thing that comes into play with salt because a lot of people think that salt causes the water retention. So as this theory started to develop in the 50s and 60s, they were using these drugs, these diuretics for pregnant women. And what was happening, what really happens when you use a diuretic in pregnant women is that the fetus cannot get enough oxygen to its brain. And that's basically because there's lower blood volume, like they're using this for lowering blood pressure as well. So there's less blood volume, so therefore less oxygen is actually getting to the fetus. And this is a critical time that the fetus is developing its brain and needs as much oxygen as possible. So this is not a cool thing.

Chris:
Couple that with, exactly the same time basically in the 50s there was a scientist named Walter Kempner who worked at Duke. And he actually had fled during World War II, he'd fled Nazi Germany and set up shop at Duke University in North Carolina. He himself personally had high blood pressure issues. So he was really interested in figuring out a diet specifically to treat high blood pressure and lower it. So what he ended up settling on was a diet that's actually pretty famous now. I think it's just called the low-salt diet.

Jayton:
The rice diet.

Chris:
Yeah. It was focused on white rice and fruit and that was it, in clinical applications to lower blood pressure quickly in patients. So he was using it at Duke in his research studies. He had a bunch of subjects on the rice diet or low-salt diet and it's quite simple. I think he was almost, he was taking the first steps into Thermo, white rice and fruit. But the interesting thing is that he excluded salt from the diet. He started publishing papers on it and it started to circulate in the medical literature around this time. Especially with diets, being in medical literature, they get attention from doctors because you don't find much in terms of full on dietary protocols in medical literature, especially probably back then.

Chris:
So this is the 50s and these physicians are all reading this literature about how his diet doesn't have any salt in it. And it's lowering people's blood pressure, though, and we can get into it a little later in the podcast. It's probably, it's definitely not the salt that was the linchpin in this whole thing because you look at how sparse this diet is in general. There also was no polyunsaturated fat, but they clung to the salt thing. And it just became an urban legend actually at that point.

Chris:
The problem, especially with the pregnant women at this time was that while they're being prescribed these diuretic drugs to lower their swelling during pregnancy, which naturally is going to lead to that less oxygen availability for the fetus. The doctors were also saying, giving the advice for them to stop eating salt. So doctors would prescribe diuretic drugs and they would say, don't eat salt. "Oh there's this new diet. It's saying that when you don't eat salt it lowers your blood pressure," whatever. So women were actively not eating salt and taking the diuretics.

Chris:
And that's where we get into some real bad problems because there's no sodium present in the blood, which the fetus also needs. And what happens is, this causes the kidneys to start releasing an enzyme. It's a signaling enzyme called renin, which basically the body uses this enzyme in order to signal to increase blood pressure so that it can circulate blood more quickly. So it's a compensation mechanism for the fact that their blood pressure was so low and there was no sodium present or not enough sodium present in the system.

Chris:
People were, there were actually a lot of doctors and scientists back in the day even, who were warning against this, especially in terms of the pregnant women of like, you can't be restricting the salt in this way. It's not getting enough oxygen. These signaling enzymes are overcompensating for things. And then, as we know in terms of cellular respiration, if the fetus doesn't have enough oxygen, it's therefore not able to produce enough CO2, which is essentially going to signal into the surrounding cells and tissue. And CO2 is highly necessary in large amounts to fuel healthy development and metabolic rate, all that thyroid, everything.

Chris:
So people were actually having children that had developmental disorders. And then the mother would have postpartum hormonal imbalances, and more drastic issues in that sense. It was leading to a lot of different issues back in the day, but for whatever reason really persisted in terms of, and I think it makes a lot of sense that these sorts of things would persist when they're fueled by drug profits because it's hard to ... If there's no profit involved, it's easy for people to swing their opinions on that sort of thing. But then when you have large-scale drug profits that are fueling a lot of different clinical applications for different groups of people, it'd be hard to stop that ball once it's rolling down the hill. Now the bigger question though is does salt itself actually cause hypertension or swelling, and the answer's no.

Jayton:
So my understanding, it's mainly estrogen that causes the edema, most of the water retention. And then, whenever you do cut out salt from the diet and you don't have enough sodium, the RAAS system, the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system is activated. And then whenever aldosterone goes up to hold on to the sodium that's being flushed out of the system, you have an increase in cortisol as well, which leads to vascular stiffness. And then that vascular stiffness leads to even higher blood pressure over time and lower blood volume. So, that's what I think was actually leading to the less oxygenation of the fetus, was that increase in aldosterone and cortisol.

Chris:
Because they were activating that renin in the kidneys. And when that's chronically activated, it's a bad feedback loop. You're not going to have good results from that.

Chris:
It's interesting, I found some studies, government funded studies, so the main group that seems to be focused on salt studies is called the Cochrane Collaboration. And they're a not for profit organization that the government funds essentially to do these large-scale studies and reviews of clinical trials, and that sort of thing. So the Cochrane Collaboration in 2004 did a government-funded study on, it was 11 trials of salt restriction. And this is what dumped fuel in modern times, this was in 2004, so in the last 15 years, this is what dumped the fuel on the fire for perpetuating the low-salt myth.

Chris:
Because what they found was there was an average of a 1.1 millimeter mercury drop in systolic blood pressure and 0.6 millimeter mercury drop in diastolic blood pressure, with the salt restriction as an average across those 11 trials. So you can imagine what journalists did when you see those results. "Salt causes high blood pressure. When you restrict salt, you drop your blood pressure." But when you actually look at the number, it's one millimeter of mercury. That's nothing, you could do that by doing some deep breathing, you could lower your blood pressure probably further than that.

Jayton:
Yeah, it's not nearly enough to have a good health effect from it.

Chris:
I think that should have been determined as just statistically insignificant on terms of the results. But that wasn't the way it was reported. If you have that much salt restriction in such a controlled environment across 11 trials and you can only drop blood pressure by one point, is that actually statistically significant? Probably not. But that sent things in the wrong direction, in my opinion.

Chris:
And it's interesting because I found a study that that same group did, the Cochrane Collaboration, the year prior. And it was an analysis of 57 salt restriction trials. So, five times as many, and their conclusion that they wrote was there is little evidence for longterm benefit from reducing salt intake. So they had the exact opposite conclusion on a much larger analysis. They said there's no evidence for it.

Jayton:
Yeah. I've also seen a lot of studies that show an inverse relationship between salt restriction and longer lifespan. So people who restrict salt typically don't live as long. So there is a high morbidity rate.

Chris:
Yeah, I actually have that one here pulled up too, there was a 1995 study on 3000 people over four years, and it was by Dr. Michael Alderman on the Journal of Hypertension. And it basically said that people who ate less salt had a higher prevalence of increased mortality rates.

Jayton:
Was it like 36% or something like that?

Chris:
Yes. Yeah, so they found that by adding more salt to the diet, the subjects had a 36% decrease in heart-related mortality events. By adding more salt, they had a 36% drop in heart issues. There's a lot of evidence that show an inverse relationship. Here's another, the Alderman, his team, they published a study three years after that in 1998 and it was a 22-year-long study that they'd been doing with 11,000 people. And it said that there was a clear inverse relationship between salt intake and mortality. So really the more salt people ate, the less likely they were to die of heart-related issues, or have heart-related issues. These are completely, that's a very significant type of study. I mean if you look at a 22-year-long study with 11,000 people, you're going to get some good results from that sort of thing.

Chris:
And their conclusion was that it was inversely related. So literally, the conventional wisdom is completely wrong about that sort of stuff. and then for whatever reason that 2004 Cochrane, those results got blasted out in the media. But salt doesn't lower, by eliminating salt, you're not going to lower your blood pressure. You're not going to have less heart problems or whatever. There's actually plenty of evidence that shows that if you eat more salt, you're going to have less problems.

Jayton:
So what are some of the benefits of salt that we can see?

Chris:
The sodium itself, if you look at a cell, right? So if you just picture a cell in your mind, if you're listening, there's extra cellular fluid, which is the fluid around the cell. And essentially in order for the breakdown of ATP to ADP and phosphate, the body needs sodium present in the extracellular fluid to facilitate that. Which is essentially what allows for the cell to be able to use glucose and oxygen in order to fuel the metabolism in essence. That sodium has to be there.

Chris:
When there's more sodium present in the extracellular fluid, the cell can operate more efficiently. When there's less sodium available, that's where you start to run into these issues. So, that's the core level benefit. The cell needs enough sodium there for a couple of reasons. I mean there's always, the body's always trying to balance charges, but it's also really, really important for regulating calcium in the extracellular fluid as well in the cell. Because if too much calcium enters the cell, it can be toxic to the cell and it can kill it. So you need the electrolytes really in the right balance in this extracellular fluid. So sodium is very, very crucial for that.

Jayton:
You need it for action potentials as well. Like your nervous system can't communicate properly without enough sodium in the extracellular space too.

Chris:
Yep. Exactly. I mean, if you look at just really, really basic, I guess electrochemistry, sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium are just absolutely crucial to have in the right amounts, and enough of them because they balance each other. They are super vital for neuronal functioning like you're saying, in cellular communication. So you don't really want to skimp on any of these things.

Jayton:
So sodium chloride, salt is also necessary for enough stomach acid to be produced, hydrochloric acid, sodium chloride. It actually helps with the digestion process too. So whenever you're eating meat and things like that, that's why salt tends to taste well with meat and things like that. Because it actually helps with that digestion of the amino acids and protein.

Chris:
Interesting. Yeah, because I mean the salt, and if you look at tastes classifications in terms of taste receptors, saltiness is one of the main five. So it's almost like we're wired to need, like we need it obviously. But we're wired to want it as a taste. It tastes good for a reason. I was thinking about this yesterday of like people ignore ... Your body is so smart in terms of all these types of things like cravings and what tastes good, what tastes bad. But most people don't listen to that and they override it with some sort of cultural thought that they believe over and over. "Oh yeah, I can't eat salt, it's bad for me." Even though you crave it, you want it, it makes your food taste good.

Chris:
So sometimes you go through periods, especially if you've ever done a ton of exercise or done some physical event where you sweat a lot, you really want salt afterwards. I'll always just dump salt in my food. I'll drink electrolyte drinks or something, just really, really want it. And that's for a reason. It's not an accident.

Jayton:
Definitely. And I think in a lot of cases salt is guilty by association. So, for a bag of potato chips for example, there's probably a decent amount of salt in there, but there's also a butt-load of polyunsaturated fats that are in that bag of potato chips as well, definitely.

Chris:
It's the same thing with sugar. Everyone's always like, "Oh, how can you say to eat sugar? I ate sugar and it made me feel bad." I was talking to this girl the other day about that, and I was like, "What did you eat?" And she was like, "Oh, I ate six Reese's cups." I was like, "Are you kidding me? That's not sugar." You can't say that's sugar, there's sugar in it, but there're all sorts of other garbage in it. Same with salt.

Jayton:
So what are some of the recommendations as far as salt intake would go?

Chris:
Okay, so I saw some studies about, especially with athletes, if you look at, maybe we could go from the spectrum. There's definitely a spectrum in terms of salt needs. Athletes will lose the most salt, obviously you're sweating the most. If you're actively sweating regularly, they've found that you could lose up to 30 grams of salt a day. Which is a lot if you think 30 grams, like weighing that on a scale?

Jayton:
It's a pile.

Chris:
It's a big old pile of salt. So what they found is that athletes get really heavily supplemented with salt, and they need to restore that or else the athletic performance suffers. The average person, I would say if you looked at, if you were taking table salt, which is basically a 40% ratio of sodium in the salt, you basically need somewhere between 10 and 15 grams a day, which is still a lot. Then baking soda is another good way to get sodium, but that has a lower ratio. It's like 22% or a 27% sodium. So you need more, upwards of over 20 grams a day if you're going to have these lower ratios. So that's probably like good for the average person.

Chris:
And there's research showing that actually the myth about swelling to water retention, it's probably more accurately what you said about excess estrogen causing it. But there's plenty of research showing that water retention actually goes up, it increases with too low of salt levels when you're below three to five grams a day, in the average person, they're going to have more swelling. And actually it was Zack just talking about this morning with magnesium, that being something that if you don't have enough magnesium, you're going to swell as well.

Jayton:
As little as 200 milligrams a day when supplemented can correct that in a lot of cases. Estrogen also causes more vascular permeability, which leads to more of the fluid within the blood leaking into the other tissues, which leads to an increase in swelling and stuff like that too. Especially on the ends of the blood vessels like the capillaries and stuff like that, the permeability of those increases tremendously and then you just have a buildup of fluid within that tissue that can't really go anywhere.

Chris:
So the swelling thing, it's not true about salt. And eating more salt, is actually going to really help with that too because it helps really fuel your glucose metabolism. And it has a thermogenic effect by increasing that body temperature. What actually, what sodium does is it increases the metabolization of brown fat. And basically by increasing the activity of the enzyme that burns brown fat, it requires sodium to operate properly.

Chris:
What happens with that is people also get benefits in their sleep. They sleep better because they're increasing the synthesis of GABA.

Jayton:
They're also decreasing the amount of adrenaline that they have in the system because if you don't have enough sodium in there, adrenaline is going to be high. Cortisol is going to be high, aldosterone will be high again. Then you're going to have insomnia because that adrenaline too.

Chris:
Well and there's other research showing that with that increase in GABA by having more sodium there, in the brown fat burning, you get better slow-wave sleep. So like deep REM sleep, and that's when you start to really recover. And that's when your body's triggering the pulsatile release of growth hormone and all learning and memory consolidation happens in slow-wave sleep. So sodium is vital for that whole process to happen. And a lot of people that are experiencing insomnia issues, like if you're an insomniac you're never going to get slow-wave sleep when you're in that state, right?

Chris:
Like you're saying, the aldosterone, adrenaline, cortisol, they're all high, GABA is low, you're never going to get into that deep REM sleep. And a lot of people, it might be people listening to this that are in that boat and it's like, how much salt do you eat every day? You should probably increase the amount of salt that you're eating because it's going to help with that.

Chris:
And one thing I've also noticed is just anecdotally is, when I'm really dialed in Thermo with good amount of salt, like I throw salt on all the stuff I cook, in grass-fed, beef, eggs, everything. And if I'm also actively really working on sleeping a lot, like get in bed early, get some good sleep, I get lean really fast. Like noticeably every morning, you're dropping body fat and sleeping very deeply and restoratively. And if you look at the sleep cycle app, if you measure that, it's pretty cool to see on certain nights getting into that deep sleep multiple times throughout the night. So there's definitely a good effect for it.

Jayton:
I'd say especially if you're in a hyperthyroid state, you're not able to hold onto minerals that well or electrolytes. So you need to increase it even further in a lot of cases. And usually with hypothyroid people, you have an excess of estrogen, and your progesterone is typically low. So a lot of the swelling that you see in the mornings, whenever you're waking up, especially in the face and the fingers and stuff like that, that's due to that excess estrogen. It's not the salt that's causing that.

Chris:
Yeah. So the moral of the story is eat more salt.

Jayton:
Definitely.

Chris:
Stop restricting your salt. It not only is illogical but there's actually really no evidence demonstrating that it's going to be helpful. I just looked at another study here, there was an analysis on 78 million Americans. So if you want to look at a big study, there was that. And their conclusion was that there was no correlation between salt restriction helping these cardiovascular issues. And that there was again, an inverse relationship in terms of consuming more salt and having better, like the more salt people consumed, the better health they had.

Jayton:
So what are the best types of salts that you'd recommend somebody intake?

Chris:
Good question. So obviously again, I think anything, especially in Thermo quality does matter. I'm a big fan of, I have this French maritime sea salt I got from a chef friend. I've been using that for the last couple of years. It's amazing. Sea salt in general, if you get a good sea salt, that will do the trick in terms of a good salt. People also liked that Himalayan salt a lot, the pink Himalayan salt.

Jayton:
We actually got that in this bone broth too, don't we?

Chris:
Yep. You got a whole bunch of sodium in the UMZU bone broth protein, Zu Broth. And it's part of what makes it so damn delicious.

Jayton:
Definitely.

Chris:
Yeah, you've got a bunch of sea salt in here, and also really good amino acid profile, an amazing amino acid profile. Which we can get more into those topics in future episodes too, like how awesome glycine is for example. So if you want an easy way to spice your food up, make it good, there's a lot of people in the Thermo group that are using bone broth as a spice. I mean it's a great spice because we have a couple other herbs in there, and it just tastes so good.

Jayton:
Yeah, it tastes really good.

Chris:
Use it on your beef. I like to, when I eat white rice I like to do the bone broth rice. Cook the white rice in the bone broth on the stove.

Jayton:
A little bit of butter.

Chris:
Tastes so good. But it's an easy way to just get not only extra salt but also good protein from the right amino acids that are typically pretty hard to find in the general diet, that are required to have a healthy metabolism.

Jayton:
Thank you.

Chris:
Yeah. What kind of salt, do you use any other types of salt?

Jayton:
Let's see, I've actually been using the Redmond Real Salt that's from the salt beds in Utah. That stuff is really good. I've also tried the Celtic Sea Salt. That's pretty good.

Chris:
Have you tried Aztec Sea Salt?

Jayton:
No, I haven't.

Chris:
I tried that years ago, it was so delicious. It's from lagoons, these saltwater lagoons dried up in Mexico. And they were scraping it all out of the lagoon. They were flaky salt crystals, tasted awesome.

Jayton:
Another thing that people might try is magnesium salt flakes for a magnesium salt bath. I feel really good whenever I do that.

Chris:
Yeah, good foot bath?

Jayton:
Yeah, definitely.

Chris:
Cool. Well thanks for listening to this episode of the Thermo Diet Podcast. Leave a review wherever reviews are left and join the Thermo Diet Group on Facebook. We'll see you over there.

Jayton:
Yep. Have a good one.

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