We talked about the salt myth the other day, now let’s apply this to us as ketogenic people…and add in a few other minerals that need discussing as well. Sodium, chloride, potassium, and magnesium. You need this stuff if you want to live. Period.
We lost a lot of water weight when we started keto. All that extra water came flushing out from the 4 parts saved with every 1 part glucose. Many of you have felt like CRAP the first few days of keto. There’s two reasons for this – one is the changes in your brain chemicals and hormones as the adjustment from glucose as a primary fuel to ketones and the related hormonal and chemical changes (like serotonin and dopamine, this could take up a week’s worth of posts…). People call it “keto flu.” Personally, I hate that term. If you have been paying attention, while I do like to be compassionate and understanding, I dislike being kind when it is not healthy for you. Calling it “keto flu” isn’t healthy. We need to call it what it is – detoxing. What you go through in the first few days of keto is very similar to what any substance addict goes through in detox. Those same aches, pains, icky feelings are caused by the same things – drastic changes in body chemistry. There’s a reason every detox and rehab center will start pumping carby and starchy foods as soon as the person can keep food down – it helps make those changes appear less brutal. You know what’s great about that? Nothing.:D You replace one killer with another, and as we know, carbs are as addictive as many legal and illegal substances. The second part is because of the sudden water shift. When we flush out water, we flush out minerals that are important – like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. We call these electrolytes since one of the main purposes of them in the body is to help control cell communication – right, that whole positive and negative ion thing. When we are low on electrolytes (and along with that, water), the cells get all confused – nerves and muscles – and bad stuff happens. Headaches. Muscle cramps. Heart palpitations. Eye twitches. Shakes. The immune system also ramps up, pulling more water out to do its job. What’s the best way to make this transition easier (well, besides a dozen donuts…) is getting our electrolytes in. This isn’t just important in the beginning, we need to make this part of our daily life. Right. We flush more water out being keto than someone not if everything else is the
same. More water out, more electrolytes out. Pee. Replenish. Pee. Replenish. Or, pee, ignore your electrolytes, and end up in the ER. You chose :).
PAY ATTENTION: Right behind sodium, the most controversial mineral discussed is potassium. Let’s be completely clear – like sodium, you need potassium to live. Without it, you die. Potassium deficiency may cause health problems like muscle cramping, weakness, fatigue, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), and digestive issues. A deficiency may also cause high blood pressure because we already know that sodium and potassium work together with chloride to keep blood volume up. Getting the required daily amount of potassium reduces the chance of stroke and osteoporosis. Potassium is an electrolyte required for muscle contraction because of its positive ion type, and not just muscles like The Rock, but that most important muscle – the heart. Too low potassium can lead to a drop in heart rate to a extremely dangerous level. Oh, and potassium is required to make amino acids from proteins therefore a deficiency of potassium will negatively affect metabolism AND muscles. Basically, potassium is essential for ketogenesis, and since ketogenesis is how we live, it is essential for life. The recommended daily amount for an adult is approximately 4700mg. There is no established upper limit but overdosing (called “hyperkalemia”) may be fatal which is why the FDA prohibits supplements from containing more than 99mg of potassium. It would take almost a whole bottle of potassium pills to reach just the daily requirement (not including from food sources)! However if kidneys are functioning properly and adequate water is consumed there is little fear of overdosing on potassium derived by natural sources. If you have a history of kidney disease, please discuss with your doctor what they recommend for you as a daily requirement AS A KETOGENIC EATER. Make sure they have and understand this. If not, they could recommend a significantly lower dosage than you potentially need. As ketogenic people, we need to pay close attention to our potassium intake and supplement if needed. Why? How we eat. The foods highest in potassium are veggies and fruits (yeh, the dreaded banana, vegans average 8000mg potassium a day, Okinawans average over 9000 with their sea-plant based diet). We don’t eat those things like people on the Standard Western Diet. While some of our foods – kale, broccoli, avocados, spinach, kabocha, fish, beef, pork, and yogurt have decent levels of potassium, we are not eating like a carb eater with tons of potatoes, bananas, peaches, beans, grains, etc. We need to make sure – especially those of you doing severe calorie restrictions or only super “clean” eating – that we get our potassium in. If you aren’t, you have two choices – change what you eat or use a potassium chloride\sodium chloride blend like Nu or Low salt. Hits three of the four things we need to watch while making food taste better :). Use supplements only if you aren’t getting enough from the other methods.
This leads to the last one in today’s trifecta of minerals – magnesium. Magnesium is a core part of over 300 enzymes. Yeh, it’s kinda important. About 50% of it is used in bone health, again, kinda important (especially menopausal women). The thing about magnesium isn’t that it is a huge deficiency issue just for keto people, it’s deficient in almost everyone. Supplementing magnesium can help with cramps, mental clarity, bone health, digestion (which is why it is a powerful laxative), energy levels. You can get
magnesium from dietary sources, many the same as potassium like leafy veggies, as well as nuts, seeds, and … wait for it… chocolate!! YAY!!! Magnesium also has the added benefit of being able to be absorbed through the skin. Right. Epsom salt baths, good for the body, good for the soul. If you are going to supplement mag, it is recommended you get 400-600mg in malate or glycinate form (not oxide!!). In the House of Hobbit, we use magnesium citrate (while not as effective as malate or glycinate, it is better than oxide) in Natural Calm. It tastes decent and mixes well with water. If you have had your thyroid removed – calcium is also important and magnesium helps with the absorption of calcium – Natural Calm has a product that contains both. So we’ve covered what to take for potassium and magnesium supplements, what about salt. We know from the other day, most of us are deficient on sodium and should be looking at 4-6000mg a day. Best way to kick start that? A 1/2 teaspoon in your morning coffee or chug it down quick in a glass of warm water. Eat foods with sodium in it already – cured meats, salted nuts, etc. Salt your food during the day.
But what type, Hobbit? Oh my, this has to be the biggest PAIN when it comes to talking about electrolytes once we get past the whole “salt kills you” falsehood. Sea salt, table salt, Kala Namak, and Pink Himalayan Sea Salt are all basically the same chemical, sodium chloride. Only the trace amounts of other substances vary. Table salt is fortified with iodine and is a highly effective way to prevent iodine deficiency and goiter. Gourmet cooks swear by the taste differences of different salt varieties (btw, Epsom salt isn’t salt, don’t put that on your steak. Just sayin’).
So, what are the differences? Table salt is almost pure sodium chloride, or 97% or higher. Here’s an important point… iodine in the form of potassium iodide is often added to table salt. This was a (rare) successful public health preventative measure against iodine deficiency, which was (and still is) common in many parts of the world and a leading cause of hypothyroidism, mental retardation and various health problems. Therefore, if you choose not to eat regular iodine-enriched table salt, then make sure you’re eating some other foods that are high in iodine, like fish, dairy, eggs and seaweed. Being unstable, potassium iodide is easily oxidized to iodine and lost by evaporation from the salt. Dextrose is added to prevent iodide from being oxidized and escaping. The amount of dextrose is so minute, don’t stress over it as far as carbs go. Iodine is added to the salt to prevent goiters. The thyroid requires iodine to make the hormone thyroxine, deficiency in iodine causes the thyroid to enlarge in the neck, also known as a goiter. Goiter symptoms may include neck tenderness, pressure on the windpipe and esophagus accompanied with shortness of breath and choking, coughing, and hoarseness. If you get any of these symptoms, see your doctor ASAP. Oh, and make sure you are getting your iodine.
Like table salt, sea salt is mostly just sodium chloride. However, depending on where it is harvested and how it was processed, it usually does contain some amount of trace minerals like potassium, iron and zinc. The darker the sea salt, the higher its concentration of “impurities” and trace nutrients will be. However, keep in mind that due to the pollution of oceans, sea salt can also contain trace amounts of heavy metals like lead.
I cannot count the times a day I see people posting about how they only use Pink Himalayan salt, it vastly better than table salt! Ummm. No. Sorry, outside of few trace minerals, the only thing Himalayan salt has over Morton’s is that it is pink. Yeh, pretty. Or not pretty if you happen to despise pink. Chemically, it is inferior to table salt, it has about 2% less sodium than regular table salt. It also doesn’t have iodine. Hell, it’s not even from Himalaya!! I found a website that reports the results of a spectral analysis of Himalayan salt. I think this is where the claim it is superior comes from but if this analysis is accurate, it is meaningless for health and if anything is worrisome. The amount of minerals in it is too minuscule to make any difference (like 0.28% potassium. Really? That’s a reason to use it??), and we already get plenty of the same trace minerals from other foods. They claim that two double-blind studies were done, but no such studies are listed in PubMed. There is no evidence published in peer-reviewed journals that replacing white salt with pink salt makes a shred of difference or leads to any improvement in health. If you read down the COMPLETE list of minerals found in pink salt and not just the ones that are potentially good for you, you will notice that it includes a number of radioactive substances like radium, uranium, and polonium. It also includes substances that act as poisons, like thallium. I wouldn’t be worried, since the amounts are so small; but if anyone believes the trace amounts of “good” minerals in Himalayan sea salt are good for you, why not believe the trace amounts of poisons and radioactive elements are bad for you? If you want to use Himalayan salt, go ahead but make sure you get your iodine, potassium, sodium in at proper levels. If you are afraid you’re potassium deficient, then use a blend like Nu or Low Salt but still make sure you get your iodine in.
What do we use in the House of Hobbit? Yes, I have a 1lb bag of pink Himalayan salt in the cabinet. On the top shelf. All the way in the back. Behind the cupcake liners I haven’t used since I bought silicone muffin pans 2 years ago. I’m 5’2″. The shelf is at 7′. Right. I don’t use it. We use Low Salt on the table, standard salt with iodine for cooking and baking. We also have a small bag of Kala Namak (also known as black Indian salt, not to be confused with black lava salt) and like pink Himalayan salt, it’s kind of a liar, it’s not black, it’s dark maroon. Those of you who are egg-free, Kala Namak has a sulfur smell and taste that closely mimics eggs. Add it to your egg-free dishes if you want to get a little of that “eggy” taste. Otherwise, it’s no different in sodium values as Himalayan salt.
In a nutshell, just get your salt in, how you chose to do that is your choice. Just do it. I strongly recommend that if you have any questions on sodium or electrolytes, pay close attention in our groups, especially the discussions that involve Ben McDonald. He knows his stuff. Oh, and since this was a day late because of Mother Nature, I’ll post up a recipe later today.
See? Hobbit knows what’s important. 🙂