Salt and I have had a bad relationship this past year. After studying Max Gerson's nutritional philosophy, which led to further studies of potassium and sodium, I completely did away with salt and viewed it with negativity and distrust. Now, however, I may be changing my mind - but only slightly.
Potassium and sodium are both very important minerals needed in our bodies. Potassium makes up our intracellular fluid (fluid inside of the cells) while sodium contributes to our extracellular fluid (fluid outside of our cells). Our intracellular fluid is important for detoxification of our cells, as well as holding their electric charge so they can function properly. Too little potassium can create nerve and muscle problems. Things like tingling in the arms and legs, anxiety, and even constipation can be linked to a potassium deficiency. On the other hand, our extracellular fluid is, undoubtedly, equally important as it makes up our blood plasma and lymph fluid. We need this fluid to carry substances throughout the body. Too much of this fluid, from too much salt, is why we see puffiness in the eyes, face, and legs as a result of too much extracellular fluid retention, or edema.
A greater amount of potassium than sodium is required by our bodies to keep both of these fluids in balance, thus creating harmony in our body. All whole, unprocessed plant and animal foods contain more potassium than sodium. While animal foods generally contain 7 times more potassium than sodium, plant foods often contain hundreds of times more potassium than sodium. This proves that our bodies function best on a whole, unprocessed plant-based diet. That doesn't mean you have to be a strict vegetarian, it only means that 75% of your diet, meaning each meal, should be made up of whole, unrefined plant foods. Because each person has a unique biological makeup, it is hard to say exactly how much potassium is needed to maintain the balance of these fluids. However, a diet rich in whole, unprocessed grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and seaweeds will guarantee you that balance.
Disease starts at the cellular level, and Max Gerson believed it started with the sodium and potassium ratios being unbalanced. When potassium levels fall low and sodium levels rise, intracellular fluid is pulled outside of the cell. This creates cell toxicity, swelling, and information. Cells become toxic, then groups of cells make up toxic tissue, and then toxic tissue makes up a toxic organ, and then a system in the body becomes full of toxins. This is the theory of disease originating at the cellular level and I don't think it's too far fetched. This is why our potassium and sodium ratios are so important to maintain in order to keep our cellular fluids in balance. The main word is balance, which is where my original intention for rescuing salt's bad reputation comes in.
First, and most importantly, the only salt I am suggesting is whole, unrefined grey sea salt or whole seaweeds. The wet, grey, large crystals from the sea are the only "real" salts available. Those made from dry salt beds have been too diluted from rain water over thousands of years. Whole, grey salt still contains adequate minerals, so as not to send the body into acidic shock. The mineral content of the sea is almost identical to that of our blood. The alkalizing properties of this salt can actually help to neutralize the acidity in foods like beans, grains, and meats. Salt should only be used in small amounts. So small that you cannot taste the salt itself. We should think of it as a medicine and use it for its therapeutic benefits, rather than as a condiment for a salty flavor.
Salt has a calming effect on the mind, which makes sense of its excess being used in industrialized areas - especially large cities where inner harmony and balance are constantly being sought after. Paul Pitchford states in Healing With Whole Foodsthat "salt relates to the simplest life forms in an oceanic environment and can connect us to our primitive origins". This idea alone makes me want to eat some grey salt in grain dishes, especially since my power animal is octopus. One can think of salt as a crystal and, like most crystals, understand that salt has grounding properties. It is so grounding that excess consumption directs the body's energy downwards and causes too much strain on our stomachs and kidneys.
If salt is not your thing, which it still isn't quite mine, try whole seaweeds. Kelp and dulse are deliciously salty. As the seaweed dries out the seawater evaporates, leaving a coating of whole sea salts and minerals on the plant. They are saturated in potassium, which will balance the sodium that they contain. All seaweeds, with the exception of dulse, must be reconstituted in water. Simply soak them for 10-15 minutes and you will have fresh seaweed that may be eaten plain, tossed with salads, or added to brown rice or quinoa. Kelp is especially detoxifying for infections, heavy metals, radiation, candida overgrowths, and can help treat cases of edema when applied topically. For a DNA activating experience, meditate as you chew the seaweed and allow yourself to connect with your coastal ancestors and oceanic friends.
The source is of seaweeds is very important. Due to the recent nuclear pollution in Japan, I strongly suggest not eating any sea vegetables from the Pacific Ocean. It is a tragic event that will, in time, clean itself up. Until then, we should only be eating sea vegetables from the Atlantic Ocean. Iron Bound Island seaweed company has amazingly fresh seaweed that is hand-harvested from the coasts of Maine. You can buy them in 2oz bags at your local healthfood store, or order them straight from the company in bulk.
So, what are my final thoughts about salt? I believe everyone who has eaten a typical diet, especially those heavy in meats, cheeses, and processed foods, should remove all salt from the diet for at least two weeks. This allows the body to purge excess salts that contribute to edema, high blood pressure, and cellular toxicity. Even better, three months of this salt cleanse will allow the taste buds to change, thus reducing your cravings for salt and having a better gauge has to how much salt you're eating when you reintroduce it back into your diet.
If you're craving salt, or use salt heavily, you most likely have a mineral deficiency and are craving the minerals that your body knows naturally come with organic sodium. For these people, I would recommend adhering to a vegan diet for ninety days. The diet should consist of whole, unprocessed foods like grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and seaweeds. Fifty percent of the fruits and vegetables should be raw. You should also include two servings of seaweed daily. This ninety day diet will refill your body's mineral stores, increase your blood's pH level, cleanse the body of toxins, get rid of excess sodium, and reverse toxicity of your cells.
Salty foods that should be avoided on such a cleanse are meats, cheeses, most restaurant sauces, mustard, pickles, relish, sauerkraut, ketchup, sardines, olives, and capers. Read all labels and make sure that the potassium content is, at least, two times the amount of sodium in the product you're buying. Our bodies need no more than 3000mg of sodium each day, some well known health officials speculate numbers as low as 350mg each day. That's less than 1/4 of a teaspoon.
It's easy to see that our bodies will absorb plenty of organic sodium through whole foods alone. If you're having seaweed on a daily basis you're definitely getting plenty of the sodium that your body requires. Any additional sodium in the diet should only be used in small amounts for grounding your mind and neutralizing acidic foods. The salt should be added to foods when cooking, not as a condiment during the meal, and should always be from whole, unrefined grey salt. As always if you listen to your body it will tell you what you do, or do not need.