The health consequences of eating too much sodium are well-known, prompting Americans to limit salt intake. However, there also are consequences when you take in too little, such as potentially not producing enough hydrochloric acid, or HCL, in your stomach. You need HCL to utilize nutrients like magnesium and B12, to kill bacteria and to help denature proteins so they can be broken down by the digestive enzyme pepsin. Consuming the right amount of salt helps you produce HCL.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, humans only need about 180 to 500 milligrams of sodium a day for good health. Too much sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure, so the Institute of Medicine recommends that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
Skip the salt in processed and packaged foods and instead add rock salt to foods you prepare. Rock salt is form of unrefined sea salt. This type of salt is less likely to contain traces of mercury, notes "101 Ways to Improve Your Health" by Australian health writer and publisher Lyall Robert Ford. Find it at grocery stores and online.
Consume salt that contains iodine, because iodine insufficiency can trigger low HCL production. Iodine enables chloride to enter stomach cells, notes nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman. That's important because the chloride ion in salt is an element of HCL. There are about 600 milligrams chloride per 1 gram of salt. Alternately, consume sea vegetables along with salt because they provide iodine.
Add bitters to your diet to enhance HCL production if salt alone does not do the trick, recommends clinical nutritionist Elizabeth Lipski in the book "Digestive Wellness." You'll find Swedish bitters at drugstores and health food stores.
Things You'll Need
Consult a doctor if you have chronic diarrhea, frequently sweat heavily or have another condition that can affect the chloride and sodium balance in your body.
Always follow your doctor’s guidance for sodium intake, especially if you have high blood pressure or are at risk for this condition.
- Colorado State University: Sodium in the Diet
- University of Cincinnati Clermont: Digestive System
- Ann Louise Gittleman’s Guide to the 40-30-30 Phenomenon: Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., CNS
- 101 Ways to Improve Your Health: Lyall Robert Ford
- Fat Flush for Life: Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., CNS
- Understanding Nutrition: Ellie Whitney et al.
- Digestive Wellness: Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D., CCN, CHN
- CDC: Americans Consume Too Much Salt