Starting this month, we are serialising “Offensive Health” by one of our Affiliated tutors, Austin Burn-Jones. The book is a very accessible and easy to read guide to key areas of our health and wellbeing. Later this year we will be bringing you a one day course, based on the book.
Chapter 1 – Hydration: It ain’t just about water
medical folk and health practitioners start talking about hydration, a good portion of clients either switch off or roll their eyes. Somewhere there is a disconnect between the knowledge that pretty much everyone is aware of; that we are about 70% water, and the almost stubborn refusal to supply the body with a regular dose of the stuff.
If we are at all interested in getting well, improving our health, or beating a disease then we don’t stand a cat’s chance in hell of doing so if we don’t start with making sure that the body has the fundamental basics that every cell in our body requires i.e Water and Salt.
We do not need gallons of the stuff, and we don’t need to necessarily stop drinking coffee, tea or vodka. It just simply means that we need to give the body a little bit of clean, fresh, preferably filtered water and use decent salt in our freshly prepared food – all on a regular basis. Little and Often is the rule here. Those of you who believe that drinking several pints of water in one sitting is going to hydrate them is going to be sadly disappointed, and will only succeed in achieving two things:
- Putting undue strain on their kidneys
- Winning the Olympic Gold Medal for bathroom visits
Drinking loads of water will only act as a flushing mechanism, which in certain circumstances can be useful, however it has little to do with actually hydrating the body.
Correct hydration enables the body to supply nutrients throughout the system. It allows the blood, sweat and tears to flow properly. It enables us to move and think. Most importantly it helps us rid ourselves of the toxic rubbish that we both produce and expose ourselves to throughout our lives.
At a guess, I would argue that about 60% of the people I see probably wouldn’t being seeing me in the first place if they kept themselves properly hydrated.
Never underestimate the simple stuff when it comes to your health.
Without Water and Salt in our bodies, no medicine in the world can help us get better.
Let’s just set the record straight a little. Salt is a naturally occurring substance and is vital to our survival and fundamental to good health. In many cultures salt is known as White Gold, and in certain places can have the same value as gold, simply because without it we will die. In desert countries having a well is useful, but it is only if one has access to a well and a source of salt that one can be considered rich. As important as water is to the human body, without access to salt we will actually die of dehydration.
Salt, whether it is Maldon Sea Salt, Himalayan Pink Salt, Rock Salt, Table Salt or Industrial Salt, it is made up mostly of Sodium Chloride (NaCl). Salt can also be made chemically by combining Hydrochloric Acid and Sodium Hydroxide (resulting in salt & water).
For the most part salt is either mined or produced through the evaporation of sea water. So at its source salt comes from the earth and is perfectly natural stuff – so why all the fuss regarding Low Sodium Diets?
To clarify, Sodium (Na) is one thing, Sodium Chloride (NaCl) is something else. Eating neat Sodium would indeed be dangerous if not actually fatal – is it possible that certain medical and marketing folk are being a bit naughty with words?
Do they mean low salt or low sodium, and what did you think they meant? Technically they have not lied to you, but I would suspect that most who hear the words ‘low sodium’ take it to mean ‘low salt’, and depending on which interpretation you follow will have radically different results on your health and wellbeing.
America and China produce at least 90% of the world’s salt, much of it is used for the chemical industry. A small percentage is for food.
Just like sugar cane, it is the refining of the natural substance that is more likely, if at all, to be the cause of the health issues that surround salt – if indeed there are any. Raw sugar cane, apart from its sucrose (Glucose & Fructose) content, contains a variety of nutrients and trace minerals, which although are relatively small in quantity make a significant difference to the body compared to refined white sugar which is pure sucrose, which though identical calorifically, is simply energy with no nutritional value.
Salt goes through a similar process so in that sense, yes, it is mostly Sodium Chloride, but it is the other stuff that makes the all important difference to the body – those trace minerals which the human cell cannot do without.
The key to correct hydration of the body is the perfect balance of Water, Salt and a smidgen of Sugar. Now when the body says ‘Salt’, it actually means Salts. This means not just Sodium Chloride, but also Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium, Manganese etc etc. Most of these vital trace mineral salts are usually contained in the unrefined types of salt such as Himalayan Pink Salt. The clue here is that this stuff is a completely different colour than pure white refined Table Salt, which suggests there might be something else in it. These ‘something elses’ are referred to as ‘impurities’ by the big salt manufacturers, as, for the chemical industry, their requirements are for pure Sodium Chloride without the other minerals that could make quite a difference to their end product as they could interfere with the various chemical reactions needed to make the perfect concoction, so to speak.
Another factor in salt is the size of the grain. ‘Kosher Salt’ is a reference to the size of the granules, rather than being specifically anything to do with Judaism. However there are practicalities that do have something to do with the ‘Koshering’ of meat.
If too fine a grain of salt is used on meat, then it dissolves and soaks into the joint, resulting in it tasting too salty. However if a larger granule is used then the salt will draw out and soak up excess blood, with the added benefit of not making the meat salty. This may be an important factor in the debate regarding whether salt is bad for health in itself, regardless of mineral content. Or is it something as simple as how finely ground the stuff is when it reaches your body.
This might sound a little far fetched, but there is something else to consider:
If hydration comes down to a combination of Salt and Water, why can’t we simply drink salt water? After all the body’s salt to water content is almost identical to sea water. Well this may be down to the same problem. Sea water is fine salt in solution, the body simply cannot separate the two. It may be that the body requires different forms of salt at different ‘sizes’ to deal with different jobs as required. The kidneys can’t actually deal with sea water, or indeed water that contains more than 2% salt (sea water is about 3%).
So as you can see, Water and Salt play a little balancing act – too much water and not enough salt equals dehydration. Too much salt and not enough water also equals dehydration.
One of the key players in this balancing act is a hormone called Histamine, which you may recognise or have heard of before, particularly those of you who have allergies – as the medication you are often given to prevent allergic responses is something called Anti-Histamine, which as the name suggests stops Histamine in its tracks.
I won’t go into too much detail here on the hows, whys and wherefores as it is pretty complicated. I might suggest a rather marvellous little book by Dr. Batmanghelidj & Phillip Day called simply “Water & Salt” which is a superb illustration of just why these two things are so vital and how they work together.
So to continue; just as Insulin is a regulator for the Sugars in our body, so Histamine is the regulator for Salt and Water in our bodies.
Technically speaking, if we are correctly hydrated then the rest of us should be working just fine (assuming we are eating correctly). In fact our body can function for a very long time with just these two. Whereas conversely we can have a great nutritional diet, but without water and salt we will go down hill pretty quickly – on average we would only last about 3 days without water.
What is odd is that in countries where there are extremes of temperature, where the important nature of water and salt are understood – dehydration is uncommon, and interestingly allergies are also rare. However in the developed world where we consume drinks of many kinds but, almost consciously avoid just plain old water, coupled with the more recent obsession of low sodium intake, it would appear that most of us are almost always mildly dehydrated, and more surprisingly there are more than 200 people a year in the UK dying of severe dehydration. A study in the USA found that an estimated 75% of Americans are, at minimum, mildly dehydrated all the time; and allergies are off the chart, with the UK and USA having the most significant increases in hospital admissions due to allergic reactions.
Is it possible there is a link between these two problems?
It would appear that when the body becomes dehydrated, Histamine creates swelling in the system so that it can, in effect squeegy as much fluid towards the important organs like the Liver, Kidneys, Heart etc and away from the extremities. We experience this as swelling and discomfort – however it is more likely a marker to tell you that you are dehydrated.
This does not mean that all allergic reactions are a simple case of an imbalance of water and salt in the system. However it would seem that it is a major contributing factor in many cases, and likely key component if not the very cause in others.
Excerpt from ‘The Offensive Health Book’ by Austin Burn-Jones – available at www.thebodycurious.co.uk/books