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Heat, Salt & Sweating

by Tony Bowling on October 30, 2011

You hear a lot about the need to keep one’s salt intake down. Now this may be true for a lot of people but it certainly is NOT the case for everyone.

If you live in a relatively cold or moderate climate (or in air conditioning) and never do any physical activity then your salt needs should be quite low. But if the opposite applies to you then you may actually need more salt to be closer to an optimum condition.

Salt Loss

Salt is generally lost or used up when the body is hot and sweats. This can be due to hot weather, excessive exercise or even illness or any combination of all three. You can increase the need for salt by eating foods high in, or taking, potassium (the two work together or opposite each other) or even by drinking a lot of water.

Here below is a very simple graph showing how hot weather (or a job in a hot kitchen, etc.) and/or physical exertion can affect your salt needs.

Read about Joe who is at point A and Sally who is at point B.

Example # 1: Joe is at A. He needs very little salt because he lives in a moderate to cold climate and never does anything physical. Unfortunately he eats TV dinners, cans of soup and loves other salty food that makes his beer and soda taste better.

This means his salt needs are very low but he is ingesting bags of it. This is not good! These are the type of people that all the warning about too much salt are aimed at. But these warnings are never specific enough. These warnings never differentiate between Joe and our Sally below.

Example # 2: Sally is at B. She lives in a hot climate in Arizona. She loves to play tennis and is out doing just that for many hours each day. Her salt requirement is much higher. BUT Sally likes to eat well and so never eats pre-made food. She makes her own and, like most everyone else, she has been warned that salt is dangerous so she never puts in or on her food. Sally is getting nearly zero salt. Because of this Sally could be at risk due to lack of sodium. Minimally this potential lack will reduce the amount of time she can enjoy playing tennis.

Symptoms

There is a metabolic condition in which there is not enough sodium (salt) in the body fluids outside the cells and they call it Hyponatremia. Some of the common symptoms are:

Fatigue

Headache

Irritability

Loss of appetite

Muscle spasms or cramps or weakness

Nausea

Restlessness

Vomiting

I am not a doctor but if you have any of these symptoms immediately STOP what you are doing; the game of tennis or digging in the garden, get out of the heat and get some help.

In these examples above, Sally could actually do with eating one of Joe’s high sodium TV dinners! Joe could do with eating some of Sally’s low salt food.

Gatorade

By the way this is the reason why Gatorade works. It has salt (and potassium) in it and of course water. I’m not a fan of the product because you also get sugar and other stuff. Using that product I would have to ingest a lot of sugar before I got the amount of salt/potassium that I need during a summer work out.

There is more to follow on this subject of salt: How a Can of Tomato Soup saved my leg

Tony

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