Dysautonomia and salt loading

March 19th, 2013 by Carrie, the Just Mildly Medicated gal

Can I have a side of salt with that?

Most people are trying to eat better; I think its residual New Year’s resolutions coupled with The Biggest Loser. When people try to adhere to a healthier diet a common knowledge is to lower your salt intake. When someone with Dysautonomia tries to adhere to a healthier diet we are told to salt load. After having salt brought up in a Dysautonomia message board conversation and seeing we all had a ton of questions on what salt loading actually meant I decided to ask a few questions and do some research.

Now I am no medical professional, just a gal with a laptop, a list of questions and an amazing Dysautonomia specialist. Please ask these questions to a doctor who understands Dysautonomia and how it applies to you so that you are able to find the answers that apply specifically to you.

Why do we salt load?
We are trying to increase blood volume. With an increased blood volume the goal is to lessen the drop in blood pressure when we stand up. That drop is called Orthostatic Intolerance and is a chronic debilitating condition that is common with many neurological conditions like Parkinson’s and Dysautonomia.  Many of us take Fludrocotisone, a medication for treating salt loss, to help us retain the salt we are consuming. Salt loading is not appropriate for everyone with Dysautonomia.

How much salt is salt loading?
This will depend on your blood pressure and your sodium output. I would say most of my ‘Dysautonomiac’ friends seem to have a goal somewhere around 8 to 9 grams with the higher end being 10 to 15 grams and 6 to 7 grams not being enough to alleviate symptoms for most.
The American Heart Association recommend people not suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular diseases stay under 3.75 grams of salt per day.

Do I use Sea Salt or Table Salt?
The differences between the two are not as dramatic as I thought. I had assumed sea salt healthier than old school table salt but they have the same nutritional value. It’s the process that is different, and also tastes preference. Unfortunately I prefer sea salt but table salt is what I was advised to use. They both have the same amount of sodium but table salt has iodine.

What about salt tablets?
I choose to salt load straight from the shaker but many people use salt tablets. You can purchase them at pharmacies over the counter or they will order them for you.

Are there side effects from all this salt?
Yes, I personally feel nauseated and thirsty when I salt load, headaches are also an issue. Salt loading should be done slowly over time so your body can adjust.

So now I know the grams recommend for me, how do I read the labels of food so that I know what I am consuming?
Boy was this ever the question of the hour. How many teaspoons of salt a day? How many grams in a teaspoon? Oh wait, who cares everything is listed as sodium on packages… what now?

My goal is 8 to 9 grams on a normal day. So I will use 9 grams as my target number.

1 tsp of salt = 6 grams of salt                  6 grams of salt = 2,300 mg of sodium

1 ½ tsp of salt = 9 grams of salt              9 grams of salt = 3,450 mg of sodium


So now I know how much, how should I get it? 

You obviously don’t want a fast food diet to obtain this level of sodium, that’s not healthy. There are plenty of higher sodium foods that do have other nutritional value. Table salting your foods is the common avenue. Some other food options are soups, soy sauce, pasta sauces and V-8 juices. I then asked my blogger buddy over at Green Mom and Kids (<~link) for some high salt foods and was reminded of salt water crab! Not my personal favorites but cheeses also are high sodium. I know, I am the only girl in the word that hates cheese.

Do you have other salt / sodium information to share, other questions… please comment.

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13 Responses

  1. so when does my llama arrive?

  2. Alena says:

    Darn I wanted to be #200. Oh well, what about olives and pickles. I had to give them up going low iodine so they must have a lot of salt.

  3. Penny Roach says:

    Wishing you the very best of luck with your condition. Hope you’re always feeling top notch!! Thanks so much for mentioning me. Always here to help!!

    Penny at Green Moms and Kids

  4. Salt overload that’s doctor approved sounds like a dream come true, but the side effects don’t sound like a good time. I would love to shame you for not liking cheese, but I don’t like chocolate so apparently we’re both not normal. Why am I not surprised? lol Lots a love my friend!

  5. in pursuit says:

    As usual I am learning so much from you. Your attention to detail and research is amazing friend! Way to go!

  6. Lindsay says:

    before dysautonomia, i was never really a “salt” person. i rarely, if ever, used the salt shaker. but after i began salt loading, i actually developed a taste for it. i prefer sea salt, although i am interested in trying all the different salts. when i need a quick salt fix, i do pickles (or pickle juice – yuck!), popcorn or pretzels. miso soup, broths, and soy sauce are also great sources of sodium when i’m not every hungry.

    • I don’t mind a shot of pickle juice ;) Funny thing is my teenager was salt loading before we knew she should. She has NCS and Fibro. Before we knew that she would say ‘I need salt’ and I was freaking out. I stopped buying salt because she was dumping it in her hands and licking it. Guess she was listening to her body while I thought I was protecting her from salt overload (and being weird). She knows her body!

  7. Sandy says:

    Orange juice with salt. Sounds terrible but it’s hardly noticeable. Possibly because of the acidic nature of the juice. I also have GERD so, though I love OJ, I use it sparingly.

  8. […] loading is very important with Dysautonomia, I wrote about salt loading and what exactly it means here. Drinking enough water is also important with Dysautonomia, most specialist recommend 64 to 72oz a […]

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