How to Optimize Your Salt and Water for Lower Inflammation and Faster Metabolism
Trying to limit salt in your diet and drink more water? You may be making your stress worse.
Those who are already taking steps to limit how much salt they consume clearly care deeply about their health and wellness. But what if by doing the opposite you could decrease stress and inflammation while simultaneously boosting your metabolism and improving insulin sensitivity?
Salt/sodium deficient diets have been shown to:
- Promote inflammation (link)
- Promote release of stress hormones, like cortisol, adrenaline, and aldosterone (link)
- Slow metabolism (link, link)
- Increase insulin resistance (link, link, link, link)
Not getting enough salt really can put your body in a high stress state for no real benefit. Combine this stress with drinking lots of water (which further reduces the sodium in your blood) and you can create a breeding ground for stress hormones to thrive.
Many people who switch from low sodium/high water habits to higher sodium along with drinking a more appropriate amount of water often comment how much better their sleep becomes. Most also comment that they feel overall more calm and even warmer (since they no longer feel cold all the time).
Because the kind of person who is purposefully limiting their salt is clearly more aware of their diet overall, they don’t tend to be the types that are eating chips or pizza all the time which contain tons of sodium. They tend to eat more water-rich veggies and fruits and purposefully drink lots of water during the day. So the advice of “increase your salt intake” very likely can help those who are avoid processed foods already.
So, how much salt and what kind should you eat?
Unrefined sea salts and iodized table salt should be a good answer, but unfortunately they sometimes contain excess metals that likely wreak even more havoc on your hormones. Iodine is a vital thyroid health micronutrient that most of us are deficient in, so instead of getting it from iodized salt, it’s also an option to get it from dairy, seaweed from clean parts of the ocean, or even in raw mineral form. Likewise, the salts that typically are going to be the most pure will come from clean parts of the sea as well. New Zealand is a popular area for this type of salt, so look for salts sourced from there if you wish.
There are no blanket answers to the question of how much salt and water should you consume though. Instead, base the amount on the following factors:
- Do you feel thirsty? Then drink a glass (8 or so ounces) of water. This is rule number one: if you feel thirsty then you actually are. (link)
- What kind of exercise are you doing? If you’re doing cardio and sweating plenty, many people lose up to 5.5 grams of sodium per hour! Even an hour long indoor strength training session often causes you to lose 1-2 grams of sodium. (link)
- If you’re doing lots of sweaty exercise, you absolutely should drink more water and eat more salt to compensate for the impressive loss of sodium and water through your sweat. (link)
- If you are already conscious of how much salt you’re eating (i.e. eating almost no processed foods and instead are eating tons of fruits and water-rich veggies), then simply salting your food to taste is a great place to start.
- There is likely no need to go crazy meticulously tracking your sodium intake if you are already avoid processed foods in general. Simply go by taste and check your bloodwork if you are curious.
- Our ability to recognize when we’re thirsty seems to diminish a bit with age, so if this applies to you it may be wise to purposefully consume a bit more water. (link)
- Similarly, spending a lot of time in the cold also seems to reduce our ability to know when we’re thirsty, so it’s likely good to drink a bit more than you might feel is normal here. (link)
Simply put, if you are already avoiding processed foods, drinking a lot of water and eating lots of fruits and veggies, you may well feel quite a bit better by adjusting to drinking less water and having a bit more salt in your day.
One suggestion: don’t make the transition overnight. Give you liver and kidneys some time to adapt by spreading out the change over a couple weeks. A good transition could look like this if you’re over the age of 50, doing cardio in a cool environment for an hour a day (so not really sweating very much), and purposefully drinking 8 glasses of water a day in addition to eating at least 5 fruits and 5 handfuls of water rich veggies every day.
Week 1 — Reduce water to 7 glasses a day, adding a pinch of salt to 1 glass of water.
Week 2 — Keep water at 7 glasses a day, adding a pinch of salt to 2 glasses and salting your foods to taste.
Week 3 — Keep water at 7 glasses a day, adding a pinch of salt to 3 glasses and continuing to salt your foods to taste.
At this point you should have “reset” your sensitivity to hydration and sodium, having a much better feel for when you are actually thirsty. Now you can simply continue with salting your food to taste, and perhaps adding a pinch or two of salt to the water that you drink around your workouts.