Do we need salt ?
I have already explained in my previous blog, “ Importance of water and electrolytes” that sodium or Na is an electrolyte which is a good conductor of electricity. This blog will focus on the relationship between High blood pressure & Sodium (Na). Does salt increase our blood pressure? Is it unhealthy? Do we really need salt or sodium? Let us understand the basic first.
Salt is responsible for the flow of electricity within the body due to its charges. And that is why each cell of our body holds salty water naturally. Here the salt which I am referring to is the black and white salt available in every household. White salt is also known as table salt or NaCl (sodium chloride). Another name for black salt is KCl (potassium chloride). Remember, these two salts make the flow of electricity efficient helping our body systems to function in an efficient way. That is why our body consists of salty water within and outside each cell.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
What happens in our blood vessels when we eat salt with sugars? What is the reason behind increase in blood pressure? I will try to answer it in a very simple way.
Whenever we eat food, nutrients travel from blood vessels (small intestine) to the target cells and later they enter the target cells in order to perform further actions. Just imagine, if the nutrients fail to reach the target cells and they stay in blood vessels for longer duration then the pressure of blood within the blood vessels starts increasing.
Nutrients such as glucose and sodium accumulate within blood vessels. Through the process of osmosis, nutrients ideally travel from a solution of lower solute concentration to higher solute concentration. When the concentration of solute particles near cells increases, they attract the solutes such as glucose and sodium from blood vessels towards cells so that later these nutrient can enter these target cells.
But due to carbohydrate dominant diet, lot of glucose molecules along with sodium enter our blood vessels affecting the normal process of osmosis. This also affects the consistency of our blood leading to increased pressure of blood within the blood vessels. Rather than movement of solute particles from blood vessels towards the target cells, the movement occurs opposite i.e. the solute particles around the target cells travel towards the blood vessels thus overpopulating the blood within vessels.
Types of Salts and Role of Sodium
There are different type of salts like white salt (table salt), black salt, pink salt etc. Each salt has its different mineral composition which makes the taste different. We mainly focus on the requirement of sodium as it is the main salt found in the extracellular compartment and it is mainly responsible for managing the water level in this compartment. Your body gives indications or signals whenever salt is required by the cells. You must have noticed sometimes that you find the salt in your food either in excess or too less. But the other members of your family find it appropriate.
Have you ever given it a thought that why is it so? This is because of the salt availability in your body. Whenever the level of the salts are adequate in your body, you do not need extra salts. I will give you another example. You reach home after a good physical activity where you lost lot of sweat. Losing sweat means losing water and salts present inside the body. It is natural that you feel thirsty and want a glass of water but sometimes that glass of water may not quench your thirst.
Moreover you have feeling of dryness in your mouth. The reason behind it is your body has lost not only water but also salts in the form of sweat. Now, it is giving you an indication to retain the salts levels through your taste buds. When you provide salty lemon water to your body, you do not feel thirsty again as you gave the right solution as per the body’s demand.
Does salt or sodium increase blood pressure ?
Our nerves continuously send impulses or messages to different organs like muscles, organs etc. due to which they function in an organized manner. Sodium or Na conduct electricity within the body as they have electric charges on them (+ or -). They act as a medium to transfer such messages. Deficiency of electrolytes can hamper transfer of messages leading to improper functioning of the muscles as well as other organs. Sodium is also a mineral that maintains the homeostasis in body but still it is always blamed for increasing the blood pressure inside a human body.
Let’s find out whether the statement is actually true or it is a result of herd mentality!
We all know the taste of salt or sodium (Na). Salt is a mineral that occurs in nature. But why so? It is because a human body needs it. We can never eat salt in excess. If I ask you to consume 15 gm of salt that is one tablespoon directly, you will not be able to eat it. The question is if we can not eat salt in excess, then how is this possible that salt is creating blood pressure issues? The answer lies in our eating habits. We manage to eat salt in excess when it is clubbed with something hazardous like sugars or carbohydrates!
Some of the examples include salts in french fries, noodles, pizza, sugar lemonade with extra salts, tamarind with salt etc. At the same time, if even 1 gm of extra salt is added to our food, we will not prefer to eat it and this is natural. Salt is always over eaten with sugars or carbohydrates.
As per RDA guidelines the recommended dosages of sodium or Na is 1.5- 2 gm daily. But because of the fear of blood pressure issues, people are not even consuming the daily recommended dosages of sodium or Na. This is further leading to other diseases and malfunctioning of body where the symptoms include dizziness, weakness, muscle cramps etc.
The motive of this article is to convey the message that it is not the salt which is the main culprit for high blood pressure or high pressure of blood within the arteries but sugars, the carbohydrates.