Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Salt of the Earth

If we didn't have salt we would be dead.  No.  Really.  This isn't an exaggeration.  Salt allows our nerves and muscles to work properly.  It allows our brain to talk to the rest of the body.  It is so valuable to life that it is transported across the desert on the backs of camels for trade.  Salt has gotten a bad rap and I fell for it.

Many years ago, about the time of the low fat craze, we were told that salt was bad for us.  That we had to eat low salt diets so that we wouldn't have heart attacks or strokes.  So about the same time I went low fat I also went low salt.  I stopped using salt in my cooking.  That was roughly 20 years ago.  About ten years ago I ditched the iodized Morton's and switched to healthy sea salt for the few odd times I really did need to add a little bit to my cooking.  Mostly it got used for chocolate chip cookies because they just don't taste right without it.

So 20 years of low salt cooking later, I have CFS with bad orthostatic intolerance.  I had noticed the weird dizziness and brain fog years before I had CFS.  My friend told me I probably needed some salt.  She was from India and she was right.  One serving of salty french fries later I felt way better.  So I was definitely short in the salt department even before I came down with CFS.

Now, with my dizzy spells, I've been told to eat more salt.  This works somewhat.  I've been adding salt to the vegetable water and to the meat before and during cooking which is going fine but I'm having trouble readjusting to salty foods.  I've been low salt for so long anything with lots of salt just tastes nasty to me.  This is one of the big reasons I haven't been able to add fermented vegetables to my diet.  They are fermented with salt and lots of it.  Ick.

Okay, so I'm adding salt to my food.  Hopefully I've been building it up a bit.  I've been eating fries more often and making sure they are salted.  I know I'm still not getting enough but I refuse to add potato chips to my diet.  I will continue to slowly increase the salt during cooking.  I'm up to two pinches instead of one so things are moving in the right direction.

A low salt diet also means a diet low in iodine unless you eat a lot of seaweed.  Yuk!  Can't stand seaweed.  For one thing it is too salty.  Ironic huh!  A few weeks back I read an article on Mark's Daily Apple regarding iodine deficiency.  Apparently it causes hypothyroidism in some people.  This results in cold hands, cold feet and fatigue.  There are some other symptoms but these match my case perfectly including borderline hypothyroidism.  Now supplementing with iodine can be hazardous for anyone with Hashimoto's Disease, which is an illness of the thyroid, but I've been tested for that already when they did the thyroid panels.  Because I'm such a close match to the symptom list and the fact I haven't had anything with iodine in it for years (I don't eat seaweed which is the food source for it other than iodized salt), I decided to give supplementation a go.

The experiment turned out much more successful than I expected.  I got the potassium iodide version in 225mcg (microgram) pill form.  That is 150% of the RDA.  I figured start small.  My system is messed up enough I want to start with small doses of things.  Boy was that a good guess!  I took one pill and within the hour was sweating up a storm.  Later I read on Mark's blog that if you have been deprived of iodine for a long time then your system can over react to it.  No kidding.  I skipped a day and then took a half pill.  Same reaction.  Sweating and sweltering hot.  Although this was  a dramatic reaction I knew I was on the right track.  I have probably been deficient in it for years.  I'll just take a half pill every other day or so until things calm down.

It took two weeks but they did eventually calm down.  I now take a whole pill every day in the morning.  I no longer have the instant "hot flash" reaction to them.  My hands and feet and even my whole body is no longer cold all the time.  I'm quite warm.  Even my hubs noticed that my skin is really hot now.  Of course this miracle has occurred at the exact same time as a heat wave so I'm totally miserable.  I'm hot and the weather is hot so I'm melting but I'm very happy that things are going so well.  I even checked with my CFS doc and he is fine with me taking the supplements.

Now one more thing I need to mention is that iodine needs to be taken with selenium.  The perfect food source for selenium is Brazil nuts.  You only need one per day.  Mine arrived in the mail today. I had forgotten how much I love these nuts.  I haven't had them in years.  So I ate TWO before my breakfast.  Woohoo!!

I'm feeling better these days.  Since iodine is the only thing that has changed I am attributing the increase in energy to the supplements.  At least for now.  I've been doing a tiny bit more housework. I cooking more often.  I'm walking longer distances.  My chiropractor even noticed that I've been doing better.  First time I've walked into his office unassisted in months.

Things are looking up!

More on Selenium supplementation.  Turns out it helps with autoimmune disorders.  CFS maybe??
List of great articles on thyroid problems.
List of article on salt.
More on OI, salt and CFS
Doctor written article on OI and salt


  1. Congratulations on being chosen as one of the 21 best Fibromyalgia blogs of 2012 at Heathline.

    1. Thank you for telling me! How awesome is that!?! Here is the link to Healthline:

  2. A very familiar story!! Same happened with me - I went low-salt when I went low-fat many years ago, always bought low-salt or no-salt products, never added salt at the table. And now here I am needing LOTS of salt!

    You DO get used to salt (or its absence) pretty quickly. I used to hate salty things and now I love them! But you really can't get enough sodium for CFS/OI just by adding salt to your food. Try drinking V-8 or tomato juice - healthy and loads of sodium (with plenty of potassium to balance it out) it's an instant pick-me-up! Pickles and olives are good, too. And don't forget LOTS of fluids to go along with all that salt. It really does help!

    I've never heard all of that about iodine - may have to look into that...


    P.S. Congratulations on the above award - you deserve it!!

    1. Thanks Sue. I like your suggestion regarding the V8 juice. I haven't tried it since I was a kid so it is time to give it another go. Your post on sodium was the kick off point for my research into this. Thanks for your great blog and all of your help!

  3. Congrats on the award! In winter I add kelp to my salads and soup because it makes me flare up like a furnace!

    - Square Peg Guy

    1. Thanks! The first thing I tried was kelp pills but they didn't agree with me. Sad face. Turns out cruciferous veg and I don't get along too well and the pills were just too much. If you can eat the stuff straight up without heartburn afterwards that is definitely the way to go.