Monday, February 25, 2013

Salt, Salt, Salt... Fluids, Fluids, Fluids: Part 2

Last time we discussed the dysautonomiac's need for increased fluids, so today we will discuss the need for increased (understatement) sodium.

Salt vs. Sodium

I have read some misleading information on other blogs and even received a handout from the hospital that further confused the topic.  I discussed this with the cardiologist that oversees my cardiac rehabilitation program to make sure I was aiming right.
I love my little owl salt shaker!

In our society's vernacular, salt and sodium are often used interchangeably.  Salt is a common source of sodium, but salt and sodium are not the same thing.  If you remember from high school chemistry (admittedly one of the only things I remember), salt (NaCl) is a mineral made up of both sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl).  For this reason, 1 gram of salt is not equal to 1 gram of sodium.  I was once told (incorrectly) that 1 teaspoon of salt is equal to about 5 grams, so if I just use a teaspoon of salt a day, I will hit my daily recommendation.  In fact, 1 teaspoon of standard Morton's table salt would only be 2360 mg of sodium, which is less than half of what I need each day.

How much sodium is necessary?

This is another area where it will differ per person, and you should seek your doctor's consultation when it comes to starting a high sodium diet.  For me personally, my doctor's have recommended I get 5,000 to 7,000 mg of sodium per day.  I struggled with this increase at first and was only hitting about 3,000 mg per day.  I simply was not seeing the benefits until I found ways to make the jump to at least 5,000 mg.


Use this as a chance to try different
types of salt.  Pictured above:
Coarse Sea Salt. Hawaiian Sea Salt,
and Himalayan Pink Salt.
Finding ways to get the sodium I need and still maintain a healthy diet was a huge challenge for me... especially at first when I was so weak and sick that making it to the kitchen to heat up a microwave dinner or frozen chicken nuggets was a gold medal accomplishment.  Here are some of things I have done to help meet my quota:

  • Chicken Broth: I got this idea from another POTS-y blogger, and it has made a huge difference for me.  I heat up a cup of chicken broth and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to it and drink.  It has now replaced my morning coffee.  You don't want to skimp and get super cheap broth.  It just isn't flavorful enough for straight drinking.  I prefer the College Inn brand, which has good flavor and 930 mg of sodium at only 15 calories.  With the salt I add on my own, my daily chicken broth provides me with 1520 mg.
  • Pickles and Olives: I hope you like pickles and olives!  Lucky for me, I do.  I buy extra large green olives and large chunk pickles.  With the varieties I buy, if I have four pickles and four olives each day, I gain about 1000 mg.
  • Lunch Meat: This is a great source of both sodium and protein.  I tend to stick to the Applegate Farms brand because I believe they are a "cleaner" processed food.
  • Salt: Yes, I still make a point to salt most things.  This is especially important when I eat fresh or frozen veggies to make sure I am getting my nutrients and sodium in one fell swoop.  I always measure out my salt in either 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon amounts so I can accurately calculate the sodium content.
  • Canned Beans: This is another double duty item that helps you get protein and sodium in one take.  I like to eat all kinds of beans, but when I am feeling short on vegetables and sodium, a small 2-serving can of green beans is my go-to.
  • Saltines: Salt is right in the name.  I keep a pack of Saltines in my purse at all times.  The Premium brand sells them in smaller sleeves now called "Fresh Stacks", which I find really convenient.
  • Pretzels: These are similar to the saltines in that they are a great snack or take-along.
  • Dijon Mustard: Aside from being delicious, 1 tsp. carries 120 mg.

This is certainly not a comprehensive list of all the ways to get your sodium, but they are some of my primary go-tos.  I want to note here that I am not being paid by any of the brands I mentioned in this post.  They are simply my personal preferences.

If you have any salty successes to share, I'd love to hear about them in the comments.