As related in the previous post, when my wife fasted for an extended period, we found Nicole no longer needed 16 units of insulin to keep her fasting blood sugar stable. Instead, she only needed about 4 units. We now suspect the reason for this sudden drop in insulin needs was because during the fast she wasn’t eating a specific ingredient (along with anything else). Last post, I asked readers to send in their best guess as to what this mystery ingredient might be.
Both Janet Estermyer from Pennsylvania, USA and Tracy from New Jersey, USA had a good guess: Caffeine. I agree that caffeine raises blood sugar. However, like alcohol, caffeine appears to delay the excretion of insulin by the liver. So the net effect might not be significant. Also the effects of caffeine are probably not as long lasting as the mystery ingredient. Either way, coffee, tea and chocolate were not a part of a Nicole’s diet.
So what’s the mystery ingredient? Bojan Brkic in Croatia, was the first to get it right. Salt. The only other person to email the correct answer was Wolfgang Wurzbacher. Wolfgang and his wife own the local organic food store we buy most our groceries from. That we haven’t purchased any salt in months was probably a big clue.
How on earth could salt raise blood sugar? It became clear once I started studying the biochemical game of dominoes that takes place every time we eat salt. And, by salt, I mean sodium chloride. I’m not referring to naturally present organic sodium (found in sufficient quantities in almost all foods). I’m referring to inorganic salt. And it doesn’t matter whether it came from the sea or the land, whether it’s refined or unrefined, whether it looks pink or grey, whether it’s Indian or Celtic, or whether it has “essential trace minerals” (i.e.. dirt and heavy metals) or not.
Now, even if we assume the body could absorb inorganic sodium (which I doubt), one gram of salt is going to exceed our daily needs. This is easily proven by urine tests (you can use a lab or, like Hippocrates, just taste it). Have some salt and within 45 minutes your body is getting rid of it with the same urgency it deals with alcohol.
So how does high sodium levels affect blood sugars? There are several ways. Let’s look at one of them today. ..
“When the body tries to get rid of sodium via the urine, our findings suggest the body also gets rid of calcium at the same time,” says Todd Alexander, a researcher at the University of Alberta. in a ScienceDaily article.
So salt raises sodium levels. To lower sodium levels the body needs calcium. Therefore calcium levels must also rise. Now both sodium and calcium are too high. The kidney, seeing they are both too high, gets rid of them both at the same time. This has long been noted on 24-hour urine collections.
And it’s those high calcium levels that interfere with insulin:
• A 1998 study in the American Journal of Medicine found that high calcium levels caused “impaired insulin action.”
• A 2002 article in the journal Molecular Endocrinology states that “elevated levels of intracellular calcium are associated with in vitro and in vivo insulin-resistant states.”
• According to the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study (IRAS) “high calcium serum concentrations are associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.” (Not much worse than having both type 2 and type 1 diabetes at the same time.)
• A July 1992 study in the American Journal of Hypertension gathered together a group of elderly patients and subjected them to calcium channel blockers for one month. The result? Their insulin levels dropped.
• A test tube study from the University of Colorado conservatively states that “increased [calcium] may be a factor in inducing insulin resistance.”
So salt raises calcium levels which inhibits insulin. For those with some degree of kidney disease (most people with T1D) who excrete sodium and calcium slowly (if at all) the effects of high sodium and calcium become even more dramatic.
High calcium levels are not the only way in which sodium chloride raises blood sugar. In future posts, I’ll share other research that demonstrates other ways salt raises blood sugar. Plus, I think it can be blamed as a major contributor to many other “diabetic complications” including kidney failure, dementia and muscle wasting. I’ll also share surprisingly results we’ve both seen from our own salt-free experiments. Find out why eliminating salt may be a necessary puzzle piece to healing the pancreas and getting off all injected insulin.
And, in case you are wondering… no, life without salt isn’t such an unbearable penance. Most aboriginal cultures would rather have starved than eat salted rations from the first European settlers. In fact, once the taste buds adjust, studies find that people actually develop a dislike for salt. Sadly, if the same was only true for sugar.
Thinking outside the type-1 matrix,
–John C. A. Manley
P.S. If you value the information contained in the Diabetic Dharma posts, please consider showing your support by making a $5 donation towards life-saving dental surgery for Nicole.
P.P.S. Yesterday, our 10-year old son, Jonah, was interviewed on the TV news about his piano-playing passion. You can watch the 2-minute video segment on the CTV News website.