Issue 40, October 2011
Welcome to Issue 40 of our Newsletter!
Autumn’s here! Crisp morning air. Freshly sharpened pencils. Parachuting leaves. It all puts me in an academic mood, so I think it’s time for more myth-busting! And this month, I’m going to tackle a major area of health deception today: high blood pressure and salt. Wow, are we confused about this topic! What you hear in the media is just not true. What your doctor is telling you to do may be more harmful than helpful. Keep reading to learn some facts that might surprise you.
Fall is a busy time here at Purpose! Be sure to check out our many planned events, including an Awesome Autumn Cleanse. I recommend a cleanse in the spring and autumn to reduce inflammation in your body. Lose a few pounds, get rid of aches and pains, and avoid winter colds by cleaning out the gunk now. This class sold out in the Spring, so don’t wait to sign up. Plus you could win a free juicer!
Eat on Purpose. Live on Purpose. You CAN be truly well.
Blood Pressure Myth-Busting & Sodium Truths
Health magazines damn it. Foods labels trumpet their lack of it. Doctors caution using it. Everyone seems to be avoiding it. But at what cost? I’m talking about sodium – or rather, table salt (sodium chloride). Given the current health media messages, you might think that sodium was toxic. A menace to the body. Well, I know this is going to sound odd because of all the brain-washing we’ve received. But nothing could be further from the truth. The human body actually has to have sodium to survive!
Sodium is a crucial electrolyte – and our most plentiful one! – stored primarily in extracellular fluids (that is, our blood and the fluid that surrounds all our cells). Our kidneys use electrolytes to regulate the amount of water in the body, an important job as our bodies are about 60% water. When we have high levels of sodium, the kidneys release less water. When we have too little sodium, the kidneys release more water. You’ve probably experienced this dynamic if you’ve eaten too many snack chips or popcorn or fast food and found your hands or ankles swollen the next day. Too high blood sodium levels can promote arterial constriction or narrowing. Hence: high blood pressure.
This is the overly-simplified explanation that leads many people to eliminate salt from their diet to avoid hypertension. But what do we find in medical studies looking at the actual impact of reduced sodium consumption? You might be surprised. In reality, there is very little evidence to show that reducing salt intake makes any significant change in blood pressure for most people.
- A Belgian study of 3600 adults published in the Journal of the American Medical Association earlier this year found that those consuming the least salt over an 8 year period were the most likely to die from heart disease.
- Another study found that after 1-5 years of sodium restriction, the average blood pressure of participants was reduced on average by only 1.1mm Hg (systolic) and 0.6 (diastolic) – unimpressive and hardly breakthrough results (Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 9:1, p1-22, Feb 2003). This doesn’t meet the definition of a statistically significant drop for the study size.
- A meta study of 28 different analyses in 2004 found that reducing sodium (by over 2 grams per day!) only reduced blood pressure in hypertensive individuals by an average of 5mm Hg (systolic) and 2.8 (diastolic). 3 points? I’m really underwhelmed. The impact was even less for those with normal blood pressure.
- On the other hand, it’s been well demonstrated that reducing sodium increases insulin resistance (which causes diabetes). Another study showing the same here.
- Did you know that the most famous study that started our “sodium scare” back in the mid-80s only found a correlation (that is, aligned data, no cause-and-effect was established) in only 4 out of 52 worldwide populations. Those 4 happened to be indigenous tribes in Brazil, Kenya, and New Guinea – hardly validation of a widespread human phenomenon!
It’s also important to realize that all “salt” is not created equal. Typical Morton’s, refined table salt is a highly-processed, stripped food product that contains none of the other key minerals the human body needs to function – just sodium chloride. Unrefined seasalt includes many other key minerals and affects the body in a different way.
My point is that this is another example of large-scale, we’re-all-the-same, national medical guidance that upon closer inspection doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. There are, in fact, some individuals who are particularly salt sensitive. But there are many factors that play into this sensitivity (including lack of exercise, low melatonin and poor sleep, magnesium deficiency, and poor blood sugar control, especially a diet high in refined carbohydrates e.g. pasta, bread, chips). There is, however, another important factor at play here for most Americans: low potassium. A critical electrolyte which the body stores primarily inside our cells (intracellular fluid), potassium is just as important as sodium in the body’s effort to regulate fluid levels and movement. If our body can pump sufficient potassium into our cells, it can keep most sodium safely out of our cells. The result? Healthy, non-acidic cell environments and easy excretion of excess sodium. Stable blood pressure is, in large part, about a careful balance across all our electrolytes – not an squash, prunes, beets, lima beans). Try this month’s Cooking on Purpose recipe for a potassium bonanza.
The problem is that the average American diet is very high in sodium while being simultaneously very low in potassium (and also magnesuim). In fact, no food in nature is higher in sodium than potassium. Not a single one. Our current situation is a man-made phenomenon courtesy of fast foods and convenience foods – overloaded with salt and lacking terribly in vegetables and fruits. If you eat whole, natural foods with an emphasis on vegetables and fruits (and yes, use a salt shaker for flavor and to give your body the electrolytes it needs!), you likely won’t have any problems with this balance.
Does the typical American eat too much sodium? Absolutely.
Consider the Outback Steakhouse Bloomin’ Onion ® with over 4000mg sodium (that’s about 2 days worth in a single appetizer). Or Quizno’s Classic Sub (regular size) with over 2500mg sodium. But the solution is in moving away from all of these processed foods (also loaded with chemicals) and adding potassium-rich foods to our diet. To this end, most people think of bananas. But many foods are even higher in potassium (per serving e.g. avocado, cantaloupe, sweet potato, sundried tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, spinach, winter potassium is vegetable juice like Low Sodium V-8 or Very Veggie (an organic choice). Or make your own at home with a rich mix of foods such as celery, beets, carrots, and cucumber. Our Awesome Autumn Cleanse is also a great potassium-loading experience to get you started.
My challenge to you is to not accept the fate of “blood pressure medication for life”. Remember that some drugs are truly critical, but they are all synthetic toxins. Blood pressure medications have real side effects (especially low energy and potassium loss, for diuretics). If you are reducing salt in hopes of lowering your blood pressure, find out if it’s really working. For many people, it just doesn’t make a difference. Many of my clients have been able to reduce or stop their BP meds completely with simple but determined lifestyle changes and a couple of supportive supplements. When you use salt, use unrefined, natural seasalt (I like Real Salt) to be sure you get a mix of key trace minerals (NOT found in refined Umbrella Girl salt). To make sure you get the natural iodine you need, enjoy some seaweed snacks a couple times a week (no joke, these are delicious – check them out at Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s) or use some natural kelp sprinkles in your meal prep (no taste at all!). Make a commitment to yourself to eat and live on purpose and see how wonderfully your body (and your energy level!) flourishes.
Can Lemon Oil help High Blood Pressure?
Wow – I am off my blood pressure meds! Can you believe it? I feel like a million bucks. I think my BP meds were really trashing my energy level. That lemon oil stuff is amazing. I’m using it several times a day – just like you said. But you weren’t kidding. Who knew putting a few drops of fruit oil in my water bottle would matter so much. I’d never even heard of it before! Where do I order more?
Thank you so much,
Blood Pressure Believer
Yes, I wasn’t kidding! High-quality lemon oil can make a big difference in your blood pressure (and your anxiety too, by the way). Just be sure to monitor your pressure carefully once you start it. Some folks find their readings drop rapidly, and they need to reduce or stop their medication (consult with your doctor to do this!). I recommend ~3 drops in your water bottle or glass every time you fill it. Lemon oil is also a great choice if you are prone to respiratory problems. I use only DoTerra oils, the only ones I’ve found that are highly concentrated and effective, cold-pressed, without any contaminants or additives. And they aren’t expensive. You may order more here. While you’re at it, consider some lavender oil to help with mild insomnia or restless sleep. Essential oils have been used for centuries for natural healing. And many modern medications are modeled after the same active ingredients we find in plants.
Warm and Toasty Autumn Vegetable Roast
I made this dish the other day at the Eat on Purpose cooking class, and it was a hit! Be sure to make a lot at once for an easy snack and side dishes the rest of the week.
- 4 Carrots (and/or parsnips)
- 2 Beets (and/or turnips)
- About 10 Brussels spouts
- 1 Large onion, peeled
- 2-3 Sweet potatoes (and/or winter squash)
- 1 Tbsp fresh or dried Thyme leaves
- 2-3 Tbsp Olive oil
Preheat over to 375. Wash vegetables well (you leave the skins – just scrub them). Trim tough ends and quarter brussels sprouts. Chop all other vegetables into 1/2 inch chunks, except beets which should be in much smaller ¼” chunks. Using your hands, toss vegetables with olive oil on a baking sheet (or two). Keep it in a single layer. Sprinkle on thyme and unrefined seasalt if desired. Bake for 20 minutes. Check for doneness, stir well, and continue another 10-20 min, until vegetables are lightly browned. Cool 10 min. before serving.
What Inspires Me, Issue 40
“Every moment that you spend upset, in despair, in anguish, angry or hurt because of the behaviour of anybody else in your life is a moment in which you have given up control of your life.”
- Dr. Wayne Dyer