Both sea salt and rock salt were well known to the ancient Greeks who noted that eating salty food affected basic body functions such as digestion and excretion (urine and stools). This led to salt being used medically. The healing methods of Hippocrates (460 BC) especially made frequent use of salt. Salt-based remedies were thought to have expectorant powers. A mixture of water, salt, and vinegar was employed as an emetic. Drinking a mixture of two-thirds cow’s milk and one-third salt-water, in the mornings, on an empty stomach was recommended as a cure for diseases of the spleen. A mixture of salt and honey was applied topically to clean bad ulcers and salt-water was used externally against skin diseases and freckles. Hippocrates also mentions inhalation of steam from salt-water. We know today that the anti-inflammatory effects of inhaled salt provide relief from respiratory symptoms. Thus, 2000 years ago, Greek medicine had already discovered topical use of salt for skin lesions, drinking salty or mineralized waters for digestive troubles and inhaling salt for respiratory diseases!
The doctor and alchemist Paracelsus (1493–1541 A.D.) introduced an entirely new medical concept. He believed that external factors create disease and conceived a chemically oriented medical system which contrasted with the prevalent herbal medicine. Only salted food could be digested properly: “The human being must have salt, he cannot be without salt. Where there is no salt, nothing will remain, but everything will tend to rot.” He recommended salt water for the treatment of wounds and for use against intestinal worms. A hip-bath in salt water was a superb remedy for skin diseases and itching: “This brine – he said – is better than all the health spas arising out of nature.” He described the diuretic effect of salt consumption and prescribed salt preparations of different strengths that were used for instance against constipation.
“In recent years there has been much publicity about the need to reduce salt consumption in societies where salt is added to many processed foods (Denton 1984, 584-7). It has tended to be forgotten that some salt intake is absolutely necessary; that people need salt, sodium chloride, to survive: The chemical requirements of the human body demand that the salt concentration in the blood be kept constant. If the body does not get enough salt, a hormonal mechanism compensates by reducing the excretion of salt in the urine and sweat. But it cannot reduce this output to zero. On a completely salt-free diet the body steadily loses small amounts of salt via the kidneys and sweat glands. It then attempts to adjust this by accelerating its secretion of water, so that the blood’s salt concentration can be maintained at the vital level. The result is a gradual desiccation of the body and finally death.”
An eight-year study of a New York City hypertensive population stratified for sodium intake levels found those on low-salt diets had more than four times as many heart attacks as those on normal-sodium diets – the exact opposite of what the “salt hypothesis” would have predicted. (1995)
Dr. Jeffrey R. Cutler documented no health outcome benefits of lower-sodium diets. The past president of the American Heart Association, Dr. Suzanne Oparil of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, said her personal view is that the government may have been too quick to recommend that everyone cut back.
An abundance of the ingredients in unrefined salt are as synonymous with life today as they were a billion years ago before single cells appeared here. Lack of them is synonymous with birth defects, organ failure, decay, diseases, premature aging and death at a young age.
The real problem with salt is not the salt itself but the condition of the salt we eat – refined! Major producing companies dry their salt in huge kilns with temperatures reaching 1200 degrees F, changing the salt’s chemical structure, which in turn adversely affects the human body. The facts are that in the heating process of salt, the element sodium chloride goes off into the air as a gas. What remains is sodium hydroxate which is irritating to the system and does not satisfy the body’s hunger and need for sodium chloride. Sodium chloride is one of the 12 daily essential minerals. In countries which do not alter their salt supply, heart disease and arthritis is so rare that many doctors have never seen a case. Their salt is dried from the ocean by the sun. Many people believe that salt is harmful to the human body. The truth is we cannot live without salt (sodium chloride). From salt the body makes hydrochloric acid which is one of the essential digestive fluids. There is not enough natural salt in our foods, so we must supplement our diet. When salt is withheld, weakness and sickness follow. Try this experiment: Mix a spoonful of salt in a glass of water and let it stand overnight. If the salt collects on the bottom of the glass, it has been processed. NATURAL SALT DISSOLVES! Salt that will not dissolve in water cannot dissolve in your body. Any foreign substance that collects in the body organs and tissues will eventually result in malfunctioning of essential body processes: heart disease, arthritis, hardening of the body tissues and arteries, calcium deposits in the joints, etc. Natural organic salt (saline) will not cause calcification in your body and can actually help dissolve damaging calcium deposits in the body.
Science and medicine have tried to define the precise roles of salt in the healthy and diseased human organism. Blood, sweat, and tears all contain salt, and both the skin and the eyes are protected from infectious germs by the anti-bacterial effect of salt. When salt is added to a liquid, particles with opposite charges are formed: a positively charged sodium ion and a negatively charged chloride ion. This is the basis of osmosis, which regulates fluid pressure within living cells and protects the body against excessive water loss (as in diarrhea or on heavy sweating). Sodium and chloride ions, as well as potassium ions, create a measurable difference in potential across cell membranes. This ensures that the fluid inside living cells remains separate from that outside. Thus, although the human body consists mainly of water, our “inner ocean” does not flow away or evaporate. Sodium ions create a high pressure of liquid in the kidneys and thus regulate their metabolic function. Water is extracted through the renal drainage system. The body thus loses a minimal amount of essential water. Out of 1500 liters of blood which pass daily through the kidneys, only about 1.5 liters of liquid leave the body as urine.
Salt is “fuel” for nerves. Streams of positively and negatively charged ions send impulses to nerve fibers. A muscle cell will only contract if an impulse reaches it. Nerve impulses are partly propelled by coordinated changes in charged particles.
“Fish from the ocean will die quickly if placed in a solution of refined salt and water. The sodium chloride, in its form as it comes from the refinery, is actually poisonous to them. Bottom line, is that yes it can be harmful to consume too much refined salt, but you cannot consume too much natural unrefined salt.”
Salt Intake is Vital
Salt is a vital substance for the survival of all living creatures, particularly humans. Water and salt regulate the water content of the body. Water itself regulates the water content of the interior of the cell by working its way into all of the cells it reaches. It has to get there to cleanse and extract the toxic wastes of cell metabolisms. Salt forces some water to stay outside the cells. It balances the amount of water that stays outside the cells. There are two oceans of water in the body; one ocean is held inside the cells of the body, and the other ocean is held outside the cells. Good health depends on a most delicate balance between the volume of these oceans, and this balance is achieved by salt – unrefined salt.
When water is available to get inside the cells freely, it is filtered from the outside salty ocean and injected into the cells that are being overworked despite their water shortage. This is the reason why in severe dehydration we develop an edema and retain water. The design of our bodies is such that the extent of the ocean of water outside the cells is expanded to have the extra water available for filtration and emergency injection into vital cells. The brain commands an increase in salt and water retention by the kidneys. This is how we get an edema when we don’t drink enough water.
Initially, the process of water filtration and its delivery into the cells is more efficient at night when the body is horizontal. The collected water, that mostly pools in the legs, does not have to fight the force of gravity to get onto the blood circulation. If reliance of this process of emergency hydration of some cells continues for long, the lungs begin to get waterlogged at night, and breathing becomes difficult. The person needs more pillows to sit upright to sleep. This condition is the consequence of dehydration. However, you might overload the system by drinking too much water at the beginning. Increases in water intake must be slow and spread out until urine production begins to increase at the same rate that you drink water.
When we drink enough water to pass clear urine, we also pass out a lot of the salt that was held back. This is how we can get rid of edema fluid in the body; by drinking more water. Not diuretics, but more water! In people who have an extensive edema and show signs of their heart beginning to have irregular or very rapid beats with least effort, the increase in water intake should be gradual and spaced out, but not withheld from the body. Naturally, salt intake should be limited for two or three days because the body is still in an overdrive mode to retain it. Once the edema has cleared up, salt should not be withheld from the body.
Salt has many other functions than just regulating the water content of the body. Here are some of the more vital functions of salt in the body:
1. Salt is most effective in stabilizing irregular heartbeats and, contrary to the misconception that it causes high blood pressure, it is actually essential for the regulation of blood pressure – in conjunction with water. Naturally the proportions are critical.
2. Salt is vital to the extraction of excess acidity from the cells in the body, particularly the brain cells.
3. Salt is vital for balancing the sugar levels in the blood; a needed element in diabetics.
4. Salt is vital for the generation of hydroelectric energy in cells in the body. It is used for local power generation at the sites of energy need by the cells.
5. Salt is vital to the nerve cells’ communication and information processing all the time that the brain cells work, from the moment of conception to death.
6. Salt is vital for absorption of food particles through the intestinal tract.
7. Salt is vital for the clearance of the lungs of mucus plugs and sticky phlegm, particularly in asthma and cystic fibrosis.
8. Salt is vital for clearing up catarrh and congestion of the sinuses.
9. Salt is a strong natural antihistamine.
10. Salt is essential for the prevention of muscle cramps.
11. Salt is vital to prevent excess saliva production to the point that it flows out of the mouth during sleep. Needing to constantly mop up excess saliva indicates salt shortage.
12. Salt is absolutely vital to making the structure of bones firm. Osteoporosis, in a major way, is a result of salt and water shortage in the body.
13. Salt is vital for sleep regulation. It is a natural hypnotic.
14. Salt is a vitally needed element in the treatment of diabetics.
15. Salt on the tongue will stop persistent dry coughs.
16. Salt is vital for the prevention of gout and gouty arthritis.
17. Salt is vital for maintaining sexuality and libido.
18. Salt is vital for preventing varicose veins and spider veins on the legs and thighs.
19. Salt is vital to the communication and information processing nerve cells the entire time that the brain cells work – from the moment of conception to death.
20. Salt is vital for reducing a double chin. When the body is short of salt, it means the body really is short of water. The salivary glands sense the salt shortage and are obliged to produce more saliva to lubricate the act of chewing and swallowing and also to supply the stomach with water that it needs for breaking down foods. Circulation to the salivary glands increases and the blood vessels become “leaky” in order to supply the glands with water to manufacture saliva. The “leakiness” spills beyond the area of the glands themselves, causing increased bulk under the skin of the chin, the cheeks and into the neck.
21. Sea salt contains about 80 mineral elements that the body needs. Some of these elements are needed in trace amounts. Unrefined sea salt is a better choice of salt than other types of salt on the market. Ordinary table salt that is bought in the super markets has been stripped of its companion elements and contains additive elements such as aluminum silicate to keep it powdery and porous. Aluminum is a very toxic element in our nervous system. It is implicated as one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
22. Twenty-seven percent of the body’s salt is in the bones. Osteoporosis results when the body needs more salt and takes it from the body. Bones are twenty-two percent water. Is it not obvious what happens to the bones when we’re deficient in salt or water or both?
* The information on salt intake is taken from Dr. Batmanghelidj’s book, “Water: Rx for a Healthier Pain-Free Life.