Salt is an interesting topic. Like sugar, fat, and protein, it is one of the most controversial topics in the world of health and nutrition. When it comes to salt, most of the conventional information is inaccurate. Salt is actually an essential nutrient for skin health.
The cooks and chefs reading this might have never fallen for the conspiracy of a salt-free diet. However, plenty of people have been misinformed on the importance of salt and consequently given this essential nutrient up in their diet.
The Great Importance of Salt
Most would agree that salt has an outstanding ability to transform ordinary food into delectable delights. Yet, fewer people are aware of the significant roles that salt plays in human health.
For instance, when thyroid function is low, also known as a condition called hypothyroidism, the cells have a very difficult time retaining salt. The thyroid governs the rate of metabolism, and the lower the metabolism, the greater the predisposition the body has to develop hyponatremia (sodium deficiency).
You think this is a good thing as retaining salt leads to puffiness (edema). However, the inability to hold onto salt causes immense stress on the body. Hyponatremia is the leading cause of migraine headaches. When severe, it can lead to seizures and eventually epilepsy. Not surprisingly, people with epilepsy are known to have hyponatremia. It’s likely that hypothyroidism is an early indicator of this condition, if not a prerequisite.
If you are familiar with hypothyroidism or are one of the 80% who suffers from it, then you know that a craving for salt is one of the key symptoms. This should come at no surprise considering that this is merely your body attempting to regulate itself. The body is attempting to acquire more salt to both correct the deficiency and to also stimulate the metabolic rate.
Although salt has many broad range effects, its primary effect is on the thyroid. Salt or sodium boosts the metabolic rate mostly by decreasing the production of the stress hormone aldosterone. Aldosterone depletes potassium and magnesium, where salt inhibits this loss, which in turn helps the cells to better respond to thyroid hormone.
Good thyroid function is key for good health as well as good skin health. Ultimately, most of salt's beneficial effects on the skin are due to its toning effects on the thyroid. Low thyroid can cause dry skin, acne, and other inflammatory skin conditions. Salt can alleviate these conditions by supporting good thyroid health.
The Dangers of a Low Salt Diet
As mentioned, hypothyroidism can lead to systemic inflammation, but so can a chronic salt deficiency. When salt levels are low, this activates the stress nervous system, also known as the sympathetic nervous system.
This can specifically activate the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone (RAA) system. In simpler words, this means that low-salt levels can trigger a chain reaction stress response, increasing the production of stress hormones that lead to inflammation.
What’s ironic is that this stress response is implicated in hypertension, a condition that conventional doctors advise the restriction of salt to treat. The physiological fact is, salt is a pro-metabolic, anti-stress, and anti-inflammatory nutrient that will improve your overall health, thyroid function and even benefit your skin! 1, 2, 3
Reaping the Benefits of Salt for Skin Health
If this is the first time you heard that salt is good for you, then you are likely skeptical. We understand and we suggest you do additional research beyond this article. Nevertheless, the actual physiology exists and we’ve shared some of it with you today.
That being said, we also agree with the words of biologist William Blake, “the surest methodology to knowledge, is experiment.” Therefore, we suggest that you try adding or subtracting it from your diet. Keep an open mind and see what happens. If you have been avoiding salt, try adding a ¼ tsp to some water in the morning, and salt your food liberally to taste. If you have consumed a lot of salt previously, try removing it and see what happens either way.
Remember, the body has hundreds of built-in mechanisms for achieving balance or homeostasis. Your hunger and cravings are some of the key ones - listen to your body.
When it comes to the type of salt, there is even more controversy. However, from our understanding, the cleanest and purest salt is good old fashioned pickling salt, which is free of additives and contaminants. Sea salt is considered to be of top quality but not always as it often contains contaminants. Same goes from some deep mineral salt, which can have heavy metals like iron. You might want to avoid salts with added iodine, considering it is very easy to overdose on iodine, and that most of it is radioactive. So also experiment with your type of salt.
In conclusion, salt is an essential mineral that is found in every cell of your body. Your body loves salt and uses it for nearly all of its physiological processes. If you have been struggling with hypothyroidism, dry skin, acne, or other stress-induced skin issues, try experimenting with increasing your salt intake. Remember, stress increases your requirements for salt, so if you get stressed and crave it, listen.
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