Electrolyte Depletion – The Serious Truth

  • 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.

Want More Info: Watch this from LMNT

Call Renovare at 623.776.0206 for more information on products such as LMNT

UNDERSTANDING MUSCLE CRAMPS – From Diets to Dehydration

Certain diets and activities are more conducive to muscle cramps than others. Even genetics may be a factor in muscle cramps.

In the nutrition category, the keto diet is a risk factor for muscle cramps. Muscle cramps are part of the constellation of symptoms—headaches, cramps, brain fog, fatigue, and constipation—called keto flu.

Why are keto folks more likely to cramp? Because keto dieters tend to be low on electrolytes, which are crucial for muscle function. More on this soon.

Tiring exercise is another risk factor for muscle cramps. As muscles fatigue, they appear to become more prone to cramping.

The risk for muscle cramps rises if the athlete exercises in the heat. The hotter the training session, the more sodium is lost through sweat, the more likely the athlete will cramp.

This has been shown in several populations. American football players, for instance, got 95% of their cramps when the weather was hot. The largest chunk of these cramps occurred during the first week of training camp when the weather was hottest and the athletes were most out of shape.

I’m not surprised sweat loss is a risk factor. Athletes can lose up to 7 grams of sodium per day sweating in warm climates. That level of depletion is bound to cause cramping if the sodium isn’t replaced.

Along with keto, exercise, and sweat loss, other risk factors for muscle cramps include:

  • Age
  • BMI
  • Underlying chronic disease (cardiovascular disease, cancer, kidney disease, etc.)
  • Allergies
  • Medication use
  • History of injury
  • Family history of muscle cramps

Now let’s drill down another layer and see what might be causing muscle cramps.

WHAT CAUSES MUSCLE CRAMPS?

What causes muscle cramps? Is it dehydration, electrolyte deficiency, muscle fatigue, drugs, or neuromuscular misfiring?

For instance, if a group of athletes cramps after sweaty exercise, it’s probably a sodium problem. (When athletes drink salty water, the cramps diminish). But if a person is properly hydrated and STILL cramping, we have to look elsewhere.

DEHYDRATION

Muscle cramps are a well-documented dehydration symptom. But is dehydration (net water loss) a meaningful cause of muscle cramps during exercise?

Most hydration websites say yes. According to a 2016 review on hydration misinformation, about 98% of websites say dehydration causes exercise-associated muscle cramping.

But the truth is, there’s little evidence for this theory. One study showed that even significant hypohydration (over 5% of body water lost) did not increase the frequency of muscle cramping.

The real problem is overhydration. To prevent dehydration, many athletes drink beyond their thirst, diluting blood sodium levels. This can cause cramping.

ELECTROLYTE IMBALANCES

Electrolytes are minerals that conduct electricity in your nervous system and keep your bodily fluids balanced. Relevant here: electrolytes are essential for muscle contraction and relaxation.

Deficiencies in the following electrolytes are the most common for causing cramps:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium

Low sodium is probably the biggest driver of muscle cramping during exercise. If sodium lost through sweat isn’t replaced—and if the athlete over-hydrates with plain water—cramps are likely to occur.

Finally, low sodium explains many keto-related muscle cramps. Keto folks not only have lower dietary intakes of sodium, but they also excrete more sodium through urine. It’s a formula for electrolyte deficiency.

NATURAL REMEDIES FOR MUSCLE CRAMPS

EXERCISE SMART

Muscle fatigue is a risk factor for muscle cramping. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tire out your muscles. (That’s how you get stronger). It just means that you should be wary of pushing your limits. Adequate recovery time between training sessions will also decrease your risk of muscle injury.

STRETCHING, MASSAGE, AND HEAT

Some research suggests that shorter stretch times are a risk factor for muscle cramps. Another study found no link.

I don’t know about this one. I’m a fan of dynamic stretching (aka, moving around in different positions) over static stretching. Dynamic stretching builds mobility along with flexibility.

Heat and massage may also alleviate cramps. This could be a placebo effect, but getting a massage can’t hurt. It’s all upside.

INCREASE DIETARY ELECTROLYTES

Whenever you can, consume electrolyte-rich foods to prevent deficiencies and cramping.

  • For potassium: green leafies, avocados, meat, and sweet potatoes
  • For magnesium: green leafies, nuts, and legumes
  • For calcium: dairy, cruciferous vegetables, and bones
  • For sodium: the salt shaker

If you’re on a keto diet, you’ll have to work extra hard to get enough sodium, potassium, and magnesium without eating carbs. This means lots of spinach, kale, and salt. Sauteed kale with salt is delicious folks.

HYDRATE WITH ELECTROLYTE WATER

To prevent cramps, add electrolytes to your water when you rehydrate. Consider the evidence:

  • Salt supplements decreased cramps in early 20th century workers.
  • Men drinking an oral rehydration solution (with electrolytes and fluids). after hot exercise were less likely to cramp than men drinking plain water.
  • Football players who drank electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks developed fewer cramps than those who drank plain water.
  • Drinking pickle juice (high in sodium) prevents muscle cramps in dehydrated people.

But you don’t have to glug pickle juice if that doesn’t sound appetizing to you. Just add salt to your water, or mix in a stick of Drink LMNT. Sip to thirst throughout the day. Your chance of cramping just decreased dramatically.

Call Renovare Wellness as 623.776.0206 to find out more or pick up your order of LMNT Electrolyte Drink Mix