Reducing High Blood Pressure from Dietary Sodium
Reducing High Blood Pressure from Dietary Sodium

When it comes to diet, salt is one of my biggest weaknesses. I’m a saltaholic for sure. I think that most Americans are and they don’t even know it. Food manufacturers dump salt into their products by the truckload, and most people have no idea what they are eating and how much damage it could be doing.

Ever wonder why lunch meat tastes different than slicing the same meat off the bone? Because it’s soaked in a salt solution. How about those restaurant soups and mashed potatoes? They are loaded with incomprehensible quantities of sodium. Some items have more salt that you could ever fathom adding yourself. I recently got some soup from a grocery store that had 1000mg of sodium per cup. A two-cup bowl of soup would contain your entire days worth of sodium under the more relaxed US guidelines! That’s about one full teaspoon of table salt…

The obvious answer is to eat less processed foods and add the salt yourself so you can keep track. This is undoubtedly the healthiest alternative, but it’s much harder to pull off than it sounds. Because I had a real problem with dietary sodium, I looked for alternate ways to reduce the effects of relatively high sodium intake that is common for almost all Americans who eat processed foods or dine at restaurants.

The problem with sodium is that it causes your body to retain a higher level of fluid than it normally would. To simplify the science: it keeps you overly hydrated which means you have a higher volume of blood circulating through your body. When you have more blood in the system, the whole system operates at a greater pressure. This is called hypertension or high blood pressure.

High blood pressure can cause the walls of your arteries to thicken and become more susceptible to blockages (fat build up). This can be even more deadly when it occurs on the coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood. High blood pressure can also increase the risk of an aneurysm (the thin, enlarged section that can rupture), and it can lead to brain damage when blood vessels supplying the brain are affected. High blood pressure can also cause dangerous enlarging of the heart, kidney problems, and even damage to the eyes.

Yes, it’s pretty serious stuff...

Aww... but salt tastes so good!

Several lifestyle changes can lower your blood pressure, starting with exercise (assuming your doctor says it’s safe). Reducing saturated fat intake may also help, but sodium is the most significant dietary factor.

Clearly, if you have high blood pressure, you need to talk to your doctor. One of the first things they do once you pass the mild hypertensive (pre-hypertension) stage is to prescribe a diuretic to reduce the fluid capacity in your body. It would be nice if it doesn’t come to that. I hate taking medicine.
So here’s the big question I spent a long time researching. As an admitted salt addict, is there a way I can still eat some of the salt I crave without the same risk factors for hypertension?

The answer (a definite maybe) is rather interesting. First of all, you should become keenly aware of your salt intake and try to reduce it as much as possible. You may find that if you take a week or so eating very naturally and healthy you can reduce your tolerance for salt.

First thing I suggest you do is to monitor your potassium to sodium ratio. You want to get more potassium than sodium. In our caveman days it’s estimated humans took in around 16x more potassium than sodium, but today this ratio has been flipped around. More natural foods (especially fruits and vegetables), prepared the natural way, tend to be low in sodium and high in potassium.

In limited quantities, there are some supplements you can take that are essential to the body and have very mild diuretic effects that can counteract dietary sodium. Most notably these are the vitamins C and B6. I suggest you take at least 1000mg of vitamin C twice per day, and up to 25mg of B6 in a day. Vitamin B6 is one of the very few water-soluble vitamins that does have the capacity to do damage (neurological damage) in high doses. Generally, this is said to dose above 100-200mg, so don’t overdo it.

Some other potential candidates include Coenzyme Q10 which has been suggested to help reduce blood pressure, as well as the natural sweetener Stevia, which has been used by native cultures in South America to treat high blood pressure and other ailments.

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