Salt substitutes may be source of some fatigue | Columns

Your sea salt or salt substitute may be related to your fatigue

Feeling fatigued? Run down? Poor sleep? Trouble regulating body temperature?

It is important to note these symptoms could possibly be related to many health conditions. It is a good idea to talk to your primary care provider about your symptoms. This article is for general information only and is not intended to be diagnostic or recommend any treatment 

Why would I suggest that your sea salt may be related to fatigue? After all, sea salt is all natural, right?  Aren’t natural things supposed to be good for you?

I often include comments in articles about all-natural solutions such as “Dirt is all natural, too, but you don’t intend to eat dirt, right?” Arsenic and strychnine are all natural as well, but they are poisons. Just because someone can make the claim that a product or ingredient is all natural doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a good idea to consume it.

Sea salt is not a bad thing. In fact, sea salt offers some possible health benefits such as containing additional trace minerals. The main ingredient of table salt is a mineral called sodium chloride or abbreviated chemically as NaCl. That is the ingredient that we are all familiar with as the white crystals we sprinkle out of our salt shakers to enhance the flavor of foods.

Although sodium chloride (table salt) is a very useful ingredient in many foods, too much can sometimes be a problem. For example, too much table salt can be a problem for some people with high blood pressure because it can result in too much consumed sodium. Elevated sodium in the body can increase blood pressure and cause other problems.

That is why doctors sometimes recommend something called salt substitute for people that need to reduce their intake of sodium. In reality, the salt substitute is also a salt, chemically speaking. In most cases the salt substitute sold in stores is potassium chloride, which is chemically a salt. Instead of the sodium ion being part of the salt molecule, the salt is a combination of potassium and chloride. The salt substitute tastes similar to table salt, but some people notice a metallic taste.

Some health experts see the replacement of potassium for sodium in the diet as a good thing.  Increasing potassium consumption may reduce blood pressure for some. There are even some health experts recommending food producers replace table salt with potassium salt in food we buy in the grocery store. As you might expect, there is controversy about that idea. The problem is that the effects of potassium chloride replacing table salt are not universally beneficial.

Since replacing regular table salt with products such as naturally occurring sea salt or salt substitute are suggested as actions being beneficial to health, how can these replacements be related to fatigue?

The answer is that in the majority of packages of Morton’s and other brands of table salt sold since 1924 there was another ingredient that is vital to your health. You may recall seeing the word iodized on the box of salt. That is because iodine is added to the salt.

There is a very important reason iodine has been added to table salt for the past century. Iodine deficiency was once a common problem. The result of insufficient intake of iodine had potentially severe effects on the body.

The most recognizable effect was on the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland needs a certain amount of iodine to produce critically important thyroid hormones. Without enough nutritional iodine, thyroid malfunction will result.  In some cases, a swelling in the neck, known as a goiter, would result as the thyroid gland became enlarged.

The thyroid is a relatively small organ in the front of the neck that plays an incredibly important and sophisticated role in numerous life functions. In cases of insufficient iodine, the thyroid gland cannot produce adequate amounts of the thyroid hormones. Symptoms such as fatigue, poor sleep, weight gain and hair loss can result.

Goiters and other thyroid problems were once much more common than they are now. The national practice of adding iodine to table salt actually addressed a fairly widespread public health problem in a very inexpensive way. For almost a century the average person obtained sufficient amounts of iodine simply by adding salt to their foods.

In the last decade, salt substitutes and alternative products such as sea salt and Himalayan salt have taken the place of iodized salt in the diets of many consumers. As a result of this switch, some people are inadvertently reducing their intake of iodine in measures that could be clinically significant.

If you choose to use a product other than iodized salt, it may be important for you to be intentional about finding another way to ensure adequate iodine intake. Certainly, some seafood choices and plants such as kelp can be helpful. There are also very good iodine supplements available. However, taking too much iodine can be a problem as well.

Although individuals vary, the recommended adult intake of iodine is around 150 micrograms (mcg).  Kids need less, so talk to your child’s pediatrician before supplementing. In the case of health problems such as thyroid or other potential contraindications, it is important to discuss this issue with your primary care provider before supplementing.

Dr. Mark Kestner is a licensed chiropractic physician in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St. Contact him at [email protected]

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