The Sodium-Potassium Ratio
I remember that the Sodium-Potassium ratio was something that my CFS specialist spoke about when drawing a diagram to help me understand what was going on internally with regards to the imbalances that were causing my body to falter. It seems that too much sodium and at the same time too little potassium is a combination that is far from ideal and can lead to a number of diseases, including heart disease and stroke, memory decline, kidney stones, osteoporosis, ulcers and stomach cancer, cataracts and Rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, your Sodium-Potassium Ratio is more important than your salt intake alone.
With regards to sodium levels, excess salt has long been considered an issue but it seems that not enough salt also causes problems. The key is getting natural salt in moderation and avoiding processed salt. Himalayan salt comes out on top – it’s naturally lower in sodium and much higher in potassium compared to other salts, including other natural salts such as sea salt. Natural salt is crucial in performing a number of bodily functions, such as carrying nutrients to cells, being a component of your blood plasma, lymphatic fluid and amniotic fluid, increasing the creative thinking and long term planning cells in your brain, regulating blood pressure and supporting adrenal glands. It’s the adrenal glands being out of kilter that was a major symptom in the early days of my CFS; I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe properly or get my heart rate under control…. and memory was scarily disappearing, I couldn’t find words and would stop mid-sentence…. so as for long term planning, forget it!
A diet high in salty processed foods is a recipe for heart disease. If you just happen to also be low in potassium then you are doubling your chances of heart disease. Potassium plays a role in nuetralising the heart damaging effects of ‘bad’ salt. The interaction between salt and potassium is not fully understood but there is enough of a link to make this a consideration in any healthy diet. Health professionals certainly recommend eating a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits and other foods rich in potassium, and eating less salty processed foods.
So how would you know if you are potassium deficient?
Some of the clues are water retention, raised blood pressure and hypertension, heart irregularities or arrhythmias, muscular weakness and muscle cramps, continual thirst and constipation.
What are the best potassium foods?
Lima beans, squash/pumpkin, cooked spinach, avocado, papayas, prunes, cantaloupe, bananas, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and asparagus.
Note that bananas are often touted as the best source of potassium but actually green vegetables are much better (and without the sugar). Juicing green vegetables is a great way to increase your potassium.
So, to summarise, how should you be optimising your Sodium-Potassium Ratio?
1. Ditch all processed foods, which are high in ‘bad’ salt and low in potassium and other essential nutrients.
2. Eat unprocessed, organic and locally grown where you can to ensure optimal nutrient content.
3. If adding salt to your food, choose Himalayan salt.
If you have CFS make sure you ask about your test results with regards to your levels of sodium and potassium, so you can monitor the results of eating the foods recommended above.