When Salt Starts Tasting Bad

Last night, half-way through dinner, Nicole began to have trouble sitting up. Putting aside her food, she slipped her arm into the blood pressure cuff. 80/40. Too low. My wife had dialysis treatment at the hospital that afternoon. We’ve been finding, since she stopped eating all salt, that a few hours after treatment her blood pressure often drops like this.

I’ve been off salt even longer than her. I exercise more and sweat more but never have these types of blood pressure problems. So I don’t think the low-salt diet is to blame. After all, going salt-free has normalized what was once severe hypertension. Instead, dialysis probably pulls off too much sodium, and her body has trouble compensating afterwards. Adrenals, as I understand, are responsible for raising blood pressure. Attached to failed kidneys, it’s hard to expect them to keep up with a dialysis machine.

So when such post-dialysis blues occur, Nicole takes about 1/4 tsp of salt. This usually gets her back into the 90/60 range. Sometimes she needs another dose an hour later. It’s similar to dealing with type-1 diabetes. When her blood sugar drops too low, she has consume pure glucose . To get the salt into her super-fast, we just mix it with water.

This time, however, water wasn’t going to help. She already had food in her stomach, so she’d have to wait until that passed.

“Might as well just add the salt to you food,” I suggested.

Nicole agreed. She likes to keep her fluid intake down. So I finely ground the salt in a mortar and pestle and stirred it into her meal (buckwheat, vegetables and soaked almonds in a curried cabbage sauce).

A few mouthfuls later, Nicole said: “I can’t eat this. The salt has ruined the taste.”

I thought she’d have said the opposite: “Boy, this tastes so good with some sodium-chloride.” Instead, like I read in various life-without-salt books, after a few months of abstinence, salted food tastes disagreeable.

By coincidence, during dinner, we’ve been listening to a book by the 19th century writer William H. Prescott, The History of the Conquest of Mexico. Prescott describes how the Tlaxcalans aboriginal nation (who never subcumbed to the Aztec Empire) were cut off from their supply of salt: “For more than half a century they had neither cotton, nor cacao, nor salt. Indeed, their taste had been so far affected by long abstinence from these articles, that it required the lapse of several generations after the Conquest [by the Spanish] to reconcile them to the use of salt at their meals.”

I’m convinced that removing salt from the diet is essential to the healing of beta-cells, and certainly the kidneys. It’s nice, however, that what originally seemed deprivation, actually becomes a preference. Rather than an essential mineral, inorganic salt seems more like an addictive food additive.

Thinking outside the T1D Matrix,
– John C. A. Manley

P.S. For more on why people with T1D may wish to avoid  salt check out: Cutting Salt and Watching Insulin Needs Drop.

P.P.S. Please consider supporting our $49.8k experiment to determine how much of a role dental infections plays in diabetic kidney failure. Even a $25 donation will cover the price of a taxic trip to  the clinic. You can go to KidneyKarma.com to make a donation.

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