Tanya Wyatt, Happy Valley pond

Sodium chloride (AKA salt) is an imperative part of the human diet since our bodies require a constant concentration of it in the blood.  It is also critical for digestion and brain development. Mainstream media may suggest that salt be avoided at all costs. This is a grave mistake and can lead to potential health problems. 

Certainly, commercial salt is boiled at high temperatures, bleached and stabilisers are added. In some cases, it has certain chemicals added to it to prevent the salt from absorbing water while it’s in storage.  When all is said and done, basic free-flowing table salt has over 95% of its original minerals extracted.  You’re left with a pretty toxic, processed and unusable substance, so avoid it altogether. Unprocessed salt is, amongst other things, a natural antihistamine.  It helps with extracting excess acidity from inside the cells. Salt is also vital for preserving levels of serotonin (your ‘happy hormone’) and melatonin (your sleep hormone) in the brain.

How salt works in the body

There are two oceans of water in the body.  One is inside the cells, held there by potassium.  Vegetables and fruits are high in potassium, which is why it’s so important that your diet contains these foods.  The second ocean is outside of the cells, held there by sodium chloride or salt. Simply put, every molecule of salt ‘picks up’ a certain number of water molecules. It is therefore the only way to get water into the body to hydrate it effectively.

Because osmotic pressure exists between these two oceans, it’s vital that a good balance between potassium and sodium chloride is found.  If the pressure’s disturbed – let’s say by the fact that you don’t take enough salt in your diet – the salty ocean will diminish and cause a ‘leaching’ of water from within the cells. When cells are chronically dehydrated serious irreparable damage can occur. When the brain is just 1% dehydrated, it calls for emergency re-hydration processes to begin. This results in ‘stealing from Peter to pay Paul’ … Water is stolen from ‘non-essential’ processes to ensure that vital areas are adequately supplied.

How much salt do you need?

In order to re-hydrate yourself, use the following formulas: 0.033 X body weight in kg = amount of water in litres daily.  Multiply this by 2.2 to get your ideal daily salt intake.  For example, 60kg X 0.033 = 1.98L water daily X 2.2 = 4.35ml salt daily. Look for unrefined salt. It should preferably be washed in cool water, as this preserves the mineral content.  The brand I recommended is Universal Vision’s Himalayan Crystal Salt. This is found at most health shops. The Happy Body also stocks this salt.

Salt-related conditions

If you experience water retention, you can reduce this condition by consuming water and salt. Let me explain. Water your body retains is ‘emergency’ water held in the tissues.  Once your body registers re-hydration, it should release this excess water. Be sure to take good quality salt and water in your diet if you experience high blood pressure.  This condition is caused by an increase in cellular and vascular pressure and can be as a result of dehydration.  The logic is easy to understand. Decreased water = higher pressure building within the body to perform the same functions with less water = high blood pressure.

With regard to this last point, Dr Hilda Landman, a general practitioner based in Stellenbosch agrees and adds: “Natural sea and rock salt contains all the natural minerals and trace elements identical to those found in the human body.  It promotes a good water balance and does not contribute to high blood pressure like typical table salt. It is very difficult for the body to absorb too much natural salt since there are powerful and effective feedback loops that regulate this process.  In conjunction with water it is very beneficial for the regulation of healthy blood pressure.