When you have Type-1 Diabetes, you have the unfortunate requirement to pay attention to everything you eat, everything you do and the activities in which you participate and monitor your body closely. Most things tend to hit us harder, and we’re not only hit with a shorter life expectancy but our organs all tend to play Russian roulette with life.
Luckily, some of the things we need to watch for do apply to non-Diabetics as well. One of these things is the intake of salt. For many years, it was believed that the best course of action was to eliminate your intake of salt as much as possible. This is a flawed logic and including salt in your diet is actually important.
First of all, let’s clarify: there’s a difference between salt and sodium. Salt is the combination of sodium and chloride, as well as trace amounts of other minerals. Sodium is a stand-alone mineral, and is usually what is measured in terms of dietary and daily intake requirements.
Salt, as I’ll refer to it for the remainder of this post, is a catch-22 seasoning. Too much can cause a score of health and medical issues. But believe it or not, completely eliminating salt from your diet can cause a number of issues for you, as well.
But since people in general tend to think that salt = bad, let’s examine some of the benefits of including salt in your diet. Some of these healthy uses of salt include:
- Dental Hygiene: Swishing a teaspoon of salt in a half cup of water can help with good oral health by helping with infections, mouth sores, wounds and some forms of gum disease. It’s also a dentist-recommended natural treatment to help heal canker sores, which are a real sore spot for me (see what I did there?);
- It’s a natural disinfectant: It’s no mystery that salt has been used for centuries as a curing and/or preserving agent, as salt prevents certain bacteria from growing and spoiling food. But soaking certain wounds (especially those on your feet) in warm salt water can help with healing;
- It eases sore throats: Gargling with salt water can ease swelling and irritation caused by sore throats;
- It can ease cramps and dehydration: I know that most people tend to think that salt dehydrates you. And this may be true, if you consume heavy amounts of it. But healthy amounts of salt will actually help you to stay hydrated and by proxy, eliminate muscle cramps during physical activities. Salt is an electrolyte and is required in order to keep you hydrated;
- It can help clear your sinuses: Using a saline solution can help to alleviate sinus issues caused by colds or allergies. You can find over-the-counter saline bottles at any pharmacy or if you want to be totally disgusting, you can use a netti pot to pour salt water into your sinus cavities to wash them out.
There are a few good posts that cover further benefits. WebMD has a good one and can be read here: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-salt-uses. HealthLine.com also has a good one and can be read here: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/salt-good-or-bad
As far as eating salt is concerned, the average person pretty much consumes their maximum recommended amount of salt through most of the foods they eat. But if you drink plenty of water throughout your day and are not faced with any outlying medical conditions that prohibit the use of salt, sprinkling a lit bit of goodness on your food is not a big deal. It’s one of those “happy medium” situations where too much is bad, but too little can be just as bad.
According to the HealthLine.com link I provided above, reduced sodium intake can lead to an increase in heart issues, LDL and Triglyceride counts as well as an increase in insulin resistance. So one would likely not want to cut out salt COMPLETELY.
Last but not least, when it comes to choosing your salt, natural salt wins over common table salt. Like most things you find in a consumer’s world, table salt is processed and has a negligible mineral content. Natural salt includes types such as sea salt and Himalayan pink salt.
With salt, much like everything else in life, moderation is key. Although you don’t want to be pouring that stuff freely onto everything you eat, you certainly don’t want to eliminate it completely either. Your doctor or health practitioner should be able to tell you if you need to reduce or increase your sodium intake and as with everything else, drink plenty of fluids along the way. ☯