Audio FAQs

I recorded an audio with Frank McManus and picked his brain for over an hour about all things salt...

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Followup FAQs

Any time I get submitted questions, I track down the answers for you...

Here is my up-to-date list of FAQs about salt:

What are the dangers of salt?
According to Oxford University, 50 percent of humans will die if they take more than 3gms of salt for every kilogram of body weight in a single dose...

This means that a woman who weighs 121 pounds will have a 50% chance of dying if she ingests 1/3 pound of salt in a single gulp. This is quite difficult to do. Very few people can even hold a teaspoon of salt in their mouth, let alone swallow it.

Warning: Some people may have medical conditions and their body is unable to rid itself of the salt over and above what it needs.

Isn't too much salt bad for our health?
By definition, "too much" implies that we have overcooked the goose.

However, (most) healthy human bodies are easily able to excrete sodium chloride in excess of its needs.

If a human ingests more salt than it needs, the "overdose" will be easily removed from the body.

But, if the human body does not receive sufficient salt, the body is going to react defensively to maintain the salinity of its blood and body fluids to a concentration of 140 millimole of sodium. This includes the production of RENIN (which thickens blood - a dangerous condition) and robs sodium from bones and tissues.

Why are tears salty?
Unlike skin, the surface of eyes is unable to protect itself from the various bacteria and other hostile pathogens of our environment.

To prevent infection, the eyes are protected by a quite astonishing brew of chemicals created by the tear ducts, with salt water being the key component.

Salt water is used because many airborne pathogens are rendered harmless on contact with salty water.

This is why swimming in the sea accelerates the healing rate of skin injuries.

Interestingly, when we cry or something gets in our eyes, the fluid is almost entirely salt water.

My mother suffered from dry eyes in the decade before she died of cancer at the age of 62. It is my conjecture that both of these conditions were caused by lack of salt.

At the age of 55, I do not suffer from dry eyes and my eyes tear readily in response to wind blown dust etc.

What is the perfect amount of salt for me to ingest to stay in great health
Great health does not come about from any one single idea.

The comments that I make about salt are that to MAXIMISE your ability to achieve a continuously healthy state...

You should produce 3 litres of gastric fluid each day with a pH of 1. This requires 17 grams of salt per day spread out during the normal course of the day. (That is a little more than a tablespoon of salt.)

The key takeaway here is that if you are finding that you are otherwise healthy but you are tired, not sleeping well and/or suffering indigestion, then increasing salt intake will relieve these symptoms.

Relax about salt.

Have as much as you feel like.

Have fun playing with the quantity you take.

I think it makes eating so much more pleasurable.

Salt ionizes in water - is this good for us?
Actually, it is ESSENTIAL.

The Na+ and Cl- ions are two of the 3 vital components of cell functioning, with the third being K+. If the salt didn't dissolve into its separate ions in water, humans would not exist in their current form.

What are sodium chloride injections, and are they good for us?
These are injections of sterile injections of a solution of salt in water at a concentration of 154m illimole. This is slightly above the concentration of salt maintained by the body of 140 millimole.

By virtue of the fact that this concentration is ABOVE the natural concentration, it means that, at the point of injection and upstream, some injury to the lining of the veins is likely to occur.

My thinking is that unless the benefits of the medical treatment are clearly in favour, I would not personally undertake it.

There are three types of medically injected saline that I am aware of:

1. The installation of a saline drip in the left or right wrist. This is the most common hospital medical procedure and has saved countless lives in emergency situations and recovery from surgery.

2. The direct injection of saline into the stomach as a dialysis treatment

3. Seawater injections. This has a long history in medical literature, with the debate being about the merits of seawater compared to "normal saline". An example is provided below and I understand that there are many contemporary practioners. Personally, If ever I need this treatment, I would go for saltwater injection.

What type of salt is best to prevent heart disease?
The ingestion of more than adequate amounts of salt is going to maximise the likelihood that any individual living a particular lifestyle will have of maintaining good health.

The newest fad is to drink natural waters containing sodium - are these okay to drink?
Your body maintains its sodium level at 140 millimole pretty exactly, equivalent to about 7gms per litre... quite salty.

When we drink fluids at less than this concentration (called hypotonic fluids), the body excretes the excess fluid it doesn't need for other purposes.

Once this fluid is excreted, it will take other nutrients with it.

If we take too much hypotonic fluid and the body cannot eliminate the excess quickly enough, then a condition called HYPONATREMIA will develop which is often fatal.

The early history of ultra endurance athletics is peppered with stories of men and women who have died from the advice to ensure that they keep drinking water or other hypotonic fluid during their completion who have died from hyponatremia while competing or shortly afterwards.

Are smoked foods high in salt?
As far as I know, smoking food is not related to salt levels or controlled by it.

I have low-blood pressure - should I take more salt?
Without knowing why you have low blood pressure, it would be difficult to know what the effect would be.

With regard to whether or not you should have more salt, your kidneys need to be able to deal with any salt which is excess to the bodily requirements.

I have low-blood pressure. Should I take more salt?
Without knowing why you have low blood pressure, it would be difficult to know what the effect would be.

With regard to whether or not you should have more salt, your kidneys need to be able to deal with any salt which is excess to the bodily requirements.

How much salt should I ingest every day?
A healthy person would benefit from a minimum of 17 grams taken throughout the day. (That is a little more than a tablespoon.)

What is salt? And where does it come from?
Salt in these discussions is crystalline sodium chloride.

Sea salt is crystallised by the careful evaporation of seawater.

Most food salt in Europe, China and the USA is produced by dissolved underground salt deposits, pumping the brine to the surface, treating the brine with caustic soda and soda ash, and then crystallizing the salt in Vacuum evaporation facilities.

Food salt in Japan is produced by reverse osmosis of seawater and gas re-compression crystallization.

I get muscle cramps a lot. Does this have anything to do with the amount of salt I take?
Cramping is normally related to an imbalance of magnesium, provided your sodium chloride intake is otherwise reasonable.

Can salt cure ebola?
Salt intakes of 17 grams per day or more, exposure to the sun and diet which contains the vital nutrients that humans need will keep the human immune system in really good shape.

Personally, I have no fear of having contact with a person who is said to have ebola.

What is the difference between table salt, kosher salt, sea salt and Epsom salt?
Table salt is the generic name for sodium chloride.

In chemistry, many organic and inorganic compounds are called "salts" of one kind or another.

For example "EPSOM SALT" is magnesium sulphate, and is usually consumed as a laxative or as a bath salt.

Usually, salt sold for household consumption contains and anti-caking agent to minimise the chance of the salt going hard... eg. Morton salt "When it rains, it pours!" Kosher salt is table salt that has been licensed for sale with Kosher brand.

Products with this licence pay a fee to whatever organisation, presumably a Jewish organisation, that receives this money.

Sea salt is salt which has been produced by evaporating sea water.

As discussed in the example above, Epsom Salt is magnesium sulphate.

I can't imagine ingesting so much salt each day - how do I make it happen?
I start most days with a salty drink of 6-8 grams of salt, half a juiced lemon and lukewarm water to fill to 2/3 of a glass.

I use an immersion blender to dissolve the salt and drink it... sometimes in a gulp and sometimes more slowly.

During the day I use anything I eat as an excuse to get more salt.

I usually have another salt drink before I sleep.

Boiling green vegetables is great way to add a lot of salt.

Salt suppresses the bitterness of green vegetables and makes them much more palatable.

How can I tell if salt is safe to ingest?
Never forget that a saline drip is the most common medical procedure in any hospital. And, the same saline drip is credited with saving more lives than any other procedure.

No matter what source or point of view any person or group may have with regard to salt, all of them agree that salt is essential, in some quantity or another, to maintain human life.

Should I go slow or quick to reach the proper level of salt intake?
I don't know of any research on this topic and I would be amazed if any such study were ever undertaken.

No one is suggesting that a single dose of 17 grams is fatal, particularly with water... but it isn't very pleasant...

I would suggest that winding up salt intake over a month by putting more and more on your food and drinking salt and lemon/lime drinks would probably be the most enjoyable.

These questions make me smile, because I really enjoy salty food.

Food without salt is just bland for me or worse, in the case of vegetables, bitter.

One of my favourite foods is salty brussell sprouts boiled until they are really soft and then mulched up with an immersion blender with butter and coconut oil.

Exactly how do you ingest salt?
See the above discussion plus I often put salt in tea, coffee and beer.

Any bitter drink will taste less bitter with salt added.

How does salt improve erections or any dysfunction in this area?
My understanding (and I have no formal training in matters medical) is that erectile dysfunction can be the result of psychological as well as physical causes.

Assuming that the cause is physical, then I would expect a salt intake of 17gms per day or more to ameliorate this condition in the following ways: maximise the internal pH of your bodily fluids towards the high end of the normal human range i.e around 7.45. This maximizes the immune response and healing response. Higher chloride availability will increase the efficiency of the "chloride shift" and increase the efficiency of the respiratory cycle... this means more oxygen to keep cells healthy.

Higher salt intake will increase the proportion of intracellular water and increase the volume of blood. This should result in a DECREASE in the viscosity of your blood, allowing it to flow to the finest capillaries in the body, including those related to erectile function.

I would also expect that your stomach will work at its highest efficiency and that an improved level of nutrition would result in the reparation of damaged areas.