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Lymphedema and Salt

Should people with lymphedema stop using salt?

Is it safe for people with lymphedema to use salt?

Everywhere in todays media, we are warned against the evils of too much salt in our diets. In all the lymphedema online support groups, you'll find the same dire warnings that we should avoid it as a poison. On one website we are even warned that lymphedema people report increased swelling when they eat a lot of salt (some things really are self evident).

But, what is the truth? Where in the midst of all this negative portrayals of salt is the truth?

As I reformed salt junkie, I can remember the time when I even would salt ham and pizza. My motto was a little food with my salt. It really never seemed to bother me until a couple years ago. My blood pressure has always been super good, not even a hint of any cardiovascular problems associated with salt and even my blood tests showed a normal amount of salt in my blood, despite the horrendous amount I ate. Also,however, blood Sodium does not indicate what we are ingesting or the sodium we are concerned about unless we get too little or far too much. The kidneys keep the blood sodium constant within narrow limits, and they do it by dumping all surplus sodium into the urine. That is why a blood test tells you nothing about your sodium intake except that you are getting enough. [4]

A couple years though, I did start noticing a weight gain after I consumed much of it. Surprisingly, I did a complete reversal and now rarely add salt to my food. After awhile, I even found some food too salty to eat - like that pizza.

From my understanding though, the reality lies somewhere between over indulgence of salt and abstaining from it.

Surprisingly, it does play a vital role in our health and recently studies have shown that too little salt can bring as many problems as too much.


What is salt?

Salt, also known as table salt, or rock salt, is a mineral that is composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of ionic salts. It is essential for animal life in small quantities, but is harmful to animals and plants in excess. Salt is one of the oldest, most ubiquitous food seasonings and salting is an important method of food preservation. The taste of salt (saltiness) is one of the basic human tastes. [1]

The main type of salt we use today is refined salt, which is sodium chloride and has been mined for thousands of years all over the world.

In the processing of table salt we add iodine, iodide, fluoride, and anti-caking agents such as sodium ferrocyanide.

Today, sea salt, salt derived from the evaporation of ocean water is becoming more and more popular for cooking. The water Sea Salt is derived from contains (1) Chloride, (2) Sodium, (3) Sulfate, (4) Magnesium, (5) Calcium, (6) Potassium, (7) Bicarbonate, (8) Bromide, (9) Borate, and (10) Strontium.[2]

Of course, the proponents of sea salt claim it is more nutritional and safer then regular table salt. But, according to the Mayo Clinic [3] “Sea salt and table salt have the same basic nutritional value, despite the fact that sea salt is often marketed as a more natural and healthy alternative. The real differences between sea salt and table salt are in their taste, texture and processing, not their chemical makeup.”, “By weight, sea salt and table salt contain the same amount of sodium chloride.”

Daily Salt Requirements

Under ideal conditions, the minimum sodium requirement is about 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. This is less than 1 teaspoon of table salt. The maximum recommended level of sodium intake is 2,300 mg per day. Actual consumption though us American men consume between 3,100 and 4,700 mg of sodium per day, while women consume between 2,300 and 3,100 mg.

Actual consumption in the US, according to the CDC is around 3,436 mg per day.

If you have health problems that require limiting your salt, you may need to consume less the the standard amount. However, before doing that you need to discuss your health and diet with your physician to see what would be best for you.

The problem too is that almost all prepared foods we buy in the store, and restaurant foods are heavily salted before we add more. When you buy a can of food, look at the label for the sodium content. It should tell you specifically how much is in a serving. If you are trying to limit or reduce your salt intake, you will need to do that on a regular basis.

Benefits of Salt

Considering all the bad warnings about salt consumption, are there are real benefits to salt? Yes, it has important functions in our body and we would not be able to live without it.

Some of the things it does include regulating blood pressure and fluid volume, helps carry nutrients into the cells, aid in keeping calcium and other minerals soluble in the blood, helps regulate muscle contractions, maintains fluid balance in the cells themselves, helpss regulate fluid balance when the temperature rises. [5]

Complications of too Much Salt

Health risks or complications from excess salt consumption can include fluid retention, high blood pressure, cardio vascular disease, increases chance of strokes, it has been associated with high levels of stomach cancer, compliactes renal disease, cardiac hypertrophy. But remember, even these are controversial and there are many that would disagree.

Study Shows Low-Salt Diets Increase Cholesterol, Triglycerides, and Other Risk Factors

Quality Assurance and Food Safety magazine 12/15/2011 8:07 am According to the Salt Institute, a meta-analysis of more than 160 studies published November 9 in the American Journal of Hypertension confirms what it has been warning for years: Low-sodium diets trigger a negative chain reaction in the body that increases the risk of diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and heart disease, the Institute said, adding that contrary to the conventional wisdom of federal agencies overseeing nutrition and health, sodium has only a “small effect” on blood pressure.

Although blood pressure reduction may be beneficial to a limited number of individuals, a peer-reviewed study on the impact of low-salt versus high-salt diets on health published in the American Journal of Hypertension, concluded that dramatic salt reductions achieved only a slight reduction of 3.5 mmHg in mean blood pressure for individuals with hypertension, and not more than 1 mmHg in people without hypertension. The authors from the Copenhagen and Bispebjerg University Hospitals in Denmark provided an update of the Cochrane Systematic Review of 167 clinical studies. The researchers then took the study a step further by looking at the other impacts that occur when individuals are placed on a low-salt diets (defined as 1,600 mg sodium per day—a level that is consistent with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans).

Individuals placed on low-salt diets had a significant increase in plasma renin, plasma aldosterone, plasma adrenaline, and plasma noradrenaline levels —all risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In addition, those placed on the low-salt diets developed significantly increased cholesterol, particularly low-density cholesterol, and large increases in triglycerides, both of which increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

The authors said the body's physiological mechanisms (renin, aldosterone) immediately kick in to retain salt when the body detects lower than required salt intakes. That is very likely the reason why enormous salt reductions have demonstrated little effect on reducing blood pressure.

Quality Assurance Magazine

Table Salt

Table salt is refined salt, which contains about 97% to 99% sodium chloride.[25][26][27] It usually contains substances that make it free-flowing (anticaking agents) such as sodium silicoaluminate or magnesium carbonate. Some people also add a desiccant, such as a few grains of uncooked rice,[28] or a saltine cracker[29] in salt shakers to absorb extra moisture and help break up clumps when anticaking agents are not enough. Table salt has a particle density of 2.165 g/cm3, and a bulk density (dry, ASTM D 632 gradation) of about 1.154 g/cm3.[30].

Most table salt sold for consumption contains a variety of additives, which address a variety of health concerns, especially in the developing world. The amounts of additives vary widely from country to country. One needed additive is Iodine. It is popular today to critize the addition of iodine, but before this was done, there was a serious problem with goiters.

Also, iodine deficiency affects about two billion people and is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation.

Iodized salt is used to help reduce the incidence of iodine deficiency in humans. Iodine deficiency commonly leads to thyroid gland problems, specifically endemic goiter, a disease characterized by a swelling of the thyroid gland, usually resulting in a bulbous protrusion on the neck. Iodized table salt has significantly reduced disorders of iodine deficiency in countries where it is used.[33] Iodine is important to prevent the insufficient production of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism), which can cause goitre, cretinism in children, and myxedema in adults. (Salt)

Other additives maya include flouride, anti-caking agents, iron, NS folic acid (B9).

Sea Salt or Table Salt?

It is very fashionable in today's media to condemn regular table salt and to praise sea salt. Sea salt, according to some is an incredibly healthy substance that brings all kinds of good nutrients to you body while not poisoning your like that nasty old sodium chloride. It's also being called “all natural” as if the salt that is dug from the ground isn't.

But is it really better for you and your health?

Not according to any research that has been done on the subject. In researching this, I tried again and again to find anything that would substantiate claims that it is healthier for you.

Sea salt and table salt both have the same basic nutritional value. The only real difference is oing to be in the taste, texture, amd processing. Sea salt is also quite a bit more expensive and profitable for the company processing it. There is no real difference in their chemical makeup/

Sea salt is produced through evaporation of seawater, usually with little processing, which leaves behind certain trace minerals and elements depending on its water source. The minerals add flavor and color to sea salt, which also comes in a variety of coarseness levels.

Table salt is mined from underground salt deposits. Table salt is more heavily processed to eliminate minerals and usually contains an additive to prevent clumping. Most table salt also has added iodine, an essential nutrient that's lacking in naturally occurring sea salt. (Mayo Clinic)

They also have the same amount of sodium chloride by weight.

Using sea salt isn't going to prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease or any other illness.

Since both salts are basically the same, use both types sparingly. Try learning to not use salt at the table and just consume what maybe in the food already.

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt takes its name from its use in the koshering process. It contains no preservatives and can be derived from either seawater or underground sources. Aside from being a great salt to keep within arm's reach when you are cooking, it is particularly useful in preserving, because its large crystals draw moisture out of meats and other foods more effectively than other salts.

Many people, including my son sear by it for cooking, especially for meats.

Kosher is also different from regular table salt in a couple ways.

(1) It has larger, irregular crystals with lots of surface area, and (2) it does not contain additives (like iodine) that table salt usually has.

It also has it has big crystals with large surface areas. This size and shape allows it to absorb more moisture than other forms of salt, and this makes kosher salt excellent for curing meats. That is essentially where the name comes from. The salt itself is not kosher, meaning it doesn't conform to Jewish food laws, but this salt is used to make meat kosher. The Jewish holy book, the Torah, prohibits consumption of any blood, which is why kosher meat must be slaughtered and prepared in a specific manner. A common way of removing the final traces of blood from meat is to soak and salt it.

Nutritionally, kosher salt, sea salt and table salt all have the same basic composition.

Himalayan salt

Himalayan salt is a new comer to those of use in the “Western” world. According to its supporters it is a “pure, hand-mined salt found naturally; deep within the pristine Himalayan Mountains. Crystallized more than 200 million years ago, ancient sea beds were covered by volcanic lava, protecting the salt from modern-day pollution, and lending to the belief that Himalayan Pink salt is the purest salt to be found on earth.”

Truth or hype?

One interesting little article I ran accross while researching this was called, “The Kangra valley experiment: prevention of Himalayan endemic goitre with iodinated salt.”

Wait a minute, you mean that in the very region of the globe that Himalayan salt is readily available there is such a thing as goitre? Yes, for one simple reason, it does not provide necessary iodine.

According to Wikipedia, Himalayan salt is a marketing term for Halite (commonly known as rock salt) from Pakistan, which began being sold by various companies in Europe, North America, and Australia in the early 21st century. It is mined in the Khewra Salt Mines, the second largest salt mine in the world, located in Khewra, Jhelum District, Punjab, Pakistan, about 300 km from the Himalayas, about 160 kilometres from Islamabad, and 260 kilometres from Lahore, and in the foothills of the Salt Range.

The salt sometimes comes out in a reddish or pink color, with some crystals having an off-white to transparent color. It is commonly used for cooking similar to regular table salt, brine, and bath products.

In 2003 the Bavarian consumer protection agency Bayerisches Landesamt für Gesundheit und Lebensmittelsicherheit analyzed 15 specimens of Himalaya salt sold in Germany and could detect a total of 10 different minerals: sodium and chloride (98%) and other minerals. This agency states that these salts come from Pakistan and can, like all salts, cause hypertension (high blood pressure).[1] German public television broadcaster ZDF presented the analyzed chemical composition of Himalaya-salt which states that the specimen contained 95-96% sodium chloride that was contaminated with 2-3% polyhalite (gypsum) and small amounts of 10 other different minerals.

So, nutritionally, there really is no difference. Medically, himalayan salt, like the other “salts” causes hypertension or high blood pressure. Also, if the German broadcaster is correct, it very much may be contaminated b=with gypsum.

Abstracts, Articles and Studies

Dietary sodium loading in normotensive healthy volunteers does not increase arterial vascular reactivity or blood pressure. Dec 2011

Message about reducing sodium still unclear for many Dec 2011

Salt Consumption Debate: Too Much Or Too Little?]] Nov 2011

Low salt intake linked to heart-disease deaths Nov 2011

Americans Consume Too Much Sodium (Salt)

Is sea salt better for your health than table salt?

Table salt news, articles and information

Sea Salt Vs. Table Salt

Sodium (Chloride) Linus Pauling Institute article

Salt Institute Industry website

Himalayan Pink Salt Benefits Himalayan salts are obtained from mines that are rich in crystal salt which is located on Himalayas foot hills. The color of this salt may range from white to deep red based on the iron and mineral levels. Also known as Halite (rock salt) from Pakistan.

Reduce Salt and Sodium in Your Diet

Low_salt Diet Ineffective, Study Finds. Disagreement abounds.

Salt and Good Health Note site is Salt Works, a sea salt company.

Further reading

Alden, Lori (2005). ”Salt”. The Cook's Thesaurus.

Cowen, Richard (May 1999). ”The Importance of Salt”. Department of Geology. UC Davis.

Zacharias, Patricia (23 January 2000). ”The ghostly salt city beneath Detroit”. The Detroit News.


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lymphedema_and_salt.txt · Last modified: 2012/10/16 14:40 (external edit)