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  • Low sodium increases cortisol – our primary stress hormone
  • Low sodium can alter our thyroid hormones
  • 99% of women and 90% of men are too low in potassium
  • Almost all Americans are too low in magnesium

THE HORMONAL DANGERS OF LOW SODIUM

Sodium – the Truth on How much we need

The US government recommends consuming under 2.3 grams of sodium per day, ostensibly to lower the risk of heart disease. In other words, they recommend a low sodium diet.

Here’s the thing though. There’s NO EVIDENCE that low sodium diets improve heart health outcomes. Actually there’s evidence to the contrary.

Sodium restriction puts certain hormones on overdrive—and how these changes are harmful:

  • Triggers a smart mechanism to save sodium
  • The trio of hormones (renin, angiotensin, aldosterone) tell our kidneys to stop peeing out sodium.   This lead to increase blood pressure!
  • The data from the Framingham Heart Study which found that folks on low-sodium diets had HIGHER blood pressure than those eating more reasonable salt.
  • Restricting sodium also spikes adrenal hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol.
  • This activates stress, anxiety, insomnia, insulin resistance, fat gain, and inflammation  – sound healthy?
  • Can lead to hyponatremia (low serum sodium) with symptoms including:
    • Muscle cramps, fatigue, headaches, insomnia.
    • Symptoms can progress to seizures, brain damage, and even death.

The average person on a low-salt diet probably won’t develop severe hyponatremia. Sodium-retention hormones like aldosterone and renin prevent that from happening. But if that same person starts sweating profusely and drinking electrolyte-free water, the chances of hyponatremia increase dramatically.  I saw this on a summer backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon.  A young hiker who was dehydrated and electrolyte depleted drank too much water (without critical electrolytes) and went into a grand mal seizure and threw up all over me – memorable.  Fortunately he recovered.

HORMONES AND ELECTROLYTES: HOW THEY INTERRELATE

#1: CORTISOL

Cortisol is a “stress hormone”, cortisol does indeed trigger a stress response. Specifically, cortisol:

  • Increases blood sugar
  • Increases fat-storage
  • Breaks down muscle
  • Decreases bone formation
Adrenaline, Cortisol and Noradrenaline

These are all positive adaptations—if you’re in survival mode which is designed for just minutes.  When this extends into days, weeks, months or heaven-forbid, years, high cortisol is not your friend.

Lots of things raise cortisol levels. Stress is the obvious trigger, but low sodium can trigger a cortisol response too.

Sodium and cortisol have a feedback loop. Low sodium causes high cortisol, and high cortisol depletes sodium levels.

#2: ADRENALINE AND NORADRENALINE

Along with cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline (also called epinephrine and norepinephrine) round out the stress hormones. These adrenal hormones have more immediate effects than cortisol, and are largely responsible for the “fight or flight” feeling associated with the stress response: flushing, increased heart rate, dilation of pupils, etc.

Adrenaline helps you retain sodium, it’s part of your body’s response to low sodium levels. Less sodium, more adrenaline.

Low-sodium induced adrenaline could explain, in part, why so many low-carb folks suffer from insomnia. Those on low carb dioets tend to suffer with more low sodium.

#3: ALDOSTERONE

Kidney, Adrenal and Thyroid Gland

Of all the hormones that influence electrolytes, aldosterone is the most underappreciated. Aldosterone is produced in the adrenal glands, and regulates blood pressure, sodium levels, and potassium levels.

Aldosterone tells the kidneys to retain sodium and excrete potassium. It’s a sodium preservation hormone. It kicks in when sodium levels are low.

Text Box: Kidney, Adrenal Gland, ThyroidUnfortunately, losing potassium is generally not desirable. That’s because inadequate potassium increases the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure).

Being low on sodium raises aldosterone, which can deplete potassium levels and raise blood pressure.

#4: RENIN

Renin is produced in the kidney. It raises blood pressure and helps you retain sodium. Like aldosterone, renin shows up when sodium levels drop.

Renin stimulates aldosterone production. Renin also helps create two other hormones—angiotensin and angiotensin II—which also increase blood pressure and sodium retention.

All together, aldosterone, renin, and angiotensin work together to manage your sodium, potassium, and blood pressure.

#5: THYROID HORMONES

The thyroid hormones T3 and T4 act on most cells to increase metabolic rate, muscle protein synthesis, bone development, and much more.

Researchers have found a link between electrolytes and thyroid health. Those with hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones) were more likely to suffer from hyponatremia and hypokalemia (low potassium).

The strongest link in between Iodine and thyroid function. But believe me: You don’t want to be eating iodized, refined salt.

First of all, the actual iodine content of this salt, research has shown, is unpredictable. You may be getting very little iodine. You’re better off consuming kelp or taking an iodine supplement.

More importantly, table salt is full of toxic anti-caking agents like sodium aluminosilicate. Sodium aluminosilicate, by the way, contains aluminum, a potent neurotoxin. No thank you.

That’s why we use sodium chloride in all of the electrolyte drink mixes we offer. I don’t want you (or anyone) consuming Sodium aluminosilicate.

#6: ANTIDIURETIC HORMONE (ADH)

Antidiuretic hormone—or vasopressin—functions, predictably enough, as an antidiuretic. When ADH goes up, you retain more fluid.

ADH helps you sleep through the night without waking up to pee every 2 hours. Ever wonder why alcohol leads to frequent bathroom breaks? It’s because alcohol interferes with vasopressin secretion.

Being low on sodium also impairs vasopressin secretion. This is why a pinch of salt before bed can help you stay asleep.

HOW A LOW-CARB DIET AFFECTS

HORMONES AND ELECTROLYTES

Keto Diet

When you eat a low-carb diet, a number of hormonal changes occur. One of these changes is a decrease in the hormone insulin. In turn, low insulin increases the risk of sodium deficiency.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Low-carb diets keep blood sugar low
  2. Low blood sugar keeps insulin (your blood sugar regulation hormone) low, too
  3. Low insulin means less aldosterone is secreted by the adrenals
  4. Less aldosterone means less sodium is retained

You can see how this complexity could be missed. And when it gets missed, folks catch a case of keto flu which really is “low sodium flu”.

The symptoms of keto flu—headaches, fatigue, cramps, and insomnia—are all tied up with the hormones we discussed earlier. Low sodium impacts cortisol, adrenaline, aldosterone, renin, T3, T4, and ADH. Think this can make you feel crappy?

That’s why we include plenty of sodium in our tasty electrolyte drink mixes.  It’s an electrolyte insurance policy for low-carb folks, intermittent fasters, active folks, and everyone in-between.

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