What is Sodium?
We usually refer to “sodium” and “salt” interchangeably, but we shouldn’t. Sodium is merely a component of salt.
Salt is composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. So, one teaspoon of salt (5,000 mg) provides about 2,300 mg of sodium.
Nearly 95% of the salt we ingest is absorbed in the GI tract.
Salt is located on the ground in dry salt beds, in the oceans, in underground springs, and in rocks.
Once we get it, we use salt for flavor, as a preservative, and to prevent unintended hip flexor stretches on icy driveways.
In the 1920s, scientists noticed that adding iodine to salt could prevent iodine deficiency. Both iodized and plain salt are available today.
Salt draws water out of food, eliminating the moisture needed for bacteria to thrive. This makes it a useful food preservative, a practice that has been recorded as far back as 2000 B.C.
Why is sodium so important?
If we don’t get a minimal amount of sodium, we die. Thus, it’s essential to obtain sodium from the diet. (Luckily a deficiency of sodium is not common.)
Once we consume sodium, the body also needs to regulate it tightly — again, if this is out of balance, we die.
Sodium and chloride are the main ions found in fluids outside of cells, including blood plasma.
When dissolved in fluids, sodium possesses a mild electrical charge (making it an electrolyte). The difference between ion concentrations across cell membranes creates a membrane potential, which is necessary for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction and cardiac function.
Sodium is also required for fluid regulation, nutrient transport, blood pressure regulation, and expansion of blood volume that accompanies tissue growth.
Sodium and the modern diet
Some speculate that excess sodium in an industrialized Western diet accounts for a proportion of high blood pressure levels, strokes and heart attacks.
Despite this health risk, many foods with salt are continually produced since the revenue of beverage, food and salt companies is dependent upon salt consumption. This trend currently shows no sign of declining. In the year 2000, salt intake in the U.S. was remarkably higher than in the 1970s.
The average North American now consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. Experts recommend that we consume less than 2,300 mg per day, and less than 1,500 if we’re in a higher-risk group (which the majority of Americans are).
We can survive on just 500 mg per day.
How sodium (Na) and the intake of other minerals, has changed with a modern diet
A daily food intake composed of 2/3 plant foods (unprocessed) and 1/3 animal foods (unprocessed) provides about 600 mg of sodium (when no other salt is added). A 100% plant-based diet generally provides closer to 300 mg of sodium.
It’s nearly impossible to consume more than 1200 mg of sodium per day from unprocessed foods.
The Denny’s Meat Lover’s Scramble consists of:
2 eggs with chopped bacon, diced ham, crumbled sausage and cheese
2 bacon strips
2 sausage links
= 5,690 mg of sodium (379% of the advised daily limit)
Thus most sodium in our diets now comes from processed foods, not the salt shaker .
Compare the foods below: tomatoes vs tomato ketchup; sunflower seeds vs vegetable oil-based margarine.
Our body’s reaction to sodium
When we consume excess sodium, blood pressure increases in an effort to rid the body of excess sodium and fluid. The kidneys filter out the sodium we don’t need and we excrete it in urine.
When the kidneys aren’t functioning optimally, we accumulate sodium and fluid. This means swelling.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
If we consistently consume lots of salt-laden food, blood pressure stays elevated. This means the heart and vessels must work harder. Extra pressure can weaken vessels and cause vessel injury, leading to atherosclerosis and kidney disease.
Reducing sodium intake to less than 2,400 mg per day can decrease blood pressure by up to 8 points. If plenty of mineral-rich plant foods are consumed as well, this might reduce pressure nearly 14 points more.
For someone who’s already been diagnosed with hypertension at 155/105, the 8 to 14 point deduction won’t make a huge difference. However, for a pre-hypertensive person (say, 130/80), a 14-point drop can move someone from “risky” to “pretty good”.
When you factor in regular exercise, a lean body, and minimal alcohol – blood pressure can drop by up to 47 points!
Can we really say salt is to blame for the countless cases of high blood pressure? I don’t know.
High blood pressure may instead be secondary to processed food intake (which have lots of salt), obesity, no exercise, high alcohol intake, low veggie/fruit intake, etc. Some experts theorize that refined carbohydrates play a major role in high blood pressure.
When we consume more plant foods with potassium, sodium excretion via the urine may increase. This may be the main reason behind a nutrient-rich diet regulating blood pressure, preserving bones and preventing kidney stones. And speaking of bone preservation, consuming excess sodium increases calcium loss in the urine.
What you should know about sodium
SODIUM INTAKE AS A SURVIVAL MECHANISM
In animals that are herbivores, the desire for sodium increases in the spring and summer. Why? Because plants consumed in the warmer months are high in potassium and water, driving sodium consumption.
Only herbivores crave salt, while carnivores ignore it. This seems to be an important survival mechanism since herbivorous diets lack sodium and carnivorous diets contain ample amounts from flesh and body fluids.
SODIUM AND OBESITY
Sodium intake might contribute to obesity, either indirectly or directly via the consumption of processed foods and sweetened, carbonated drinks .
Per capita use of salt increased 55% from 1983 to 1998. Per capita use of sweetened, carbonated soft drinks during the same period increased 45%.
Just a small increase in serum sodium levels can trigger thirst.
A daily excess sodium intake of 3266 mg must be accompanied by a 1 liter increase in water intake to maintain normal sodium concentrations. Ever been really thirsty after Thanksgiving dinner or the Hanukkah buffet? Me too.
Under normal North American circumstances, sweating accounts for about a 58 mg sodium loss each day. If you factor in urine losses, tack on another 180 mg.
If you sweat more than typical North American, you probably lose more sodium. The amount depends on diet, hydration status, and heat acclimatization. Active individuals can lose 800 mg or more of sodium per liter of sweat, making replacement vital.
Without replacement, low blood sodium levels can result. This means cramps, confusion, nausea and disorientation – kind of like a booze bender.
Summary and recommendations
If you consume unprocessed/whole foods, you won’t get sodium levels anywhere near the danger zone.
The people over-consuming sodium are eating processed foods, like microwave meals, canned foods, restaurant food, snack foods, processed meats, dairy, deli meats, frozen meats, cottage cheese and yogurt. If you eat a diet based on processed foods, you’ll probably have high blood pressure and high body fat.
If you eat a diet based on unprocessed and whole foods, sprinkling some salt on your veggies or rice for flavor is fine. Lean and healthy can easily regulate slight increases in salt.
In fact, if you eat a very unprocessed diet and stay physically active, you’ll want to drink electrolyte-rich fluids before, during and after workouts.
For extra credit
Consuming food with lots of salt is linked to stomach cancer, GERD and ulcers.
Early taste experiences with salt can influence lifelong preferences for certain foods.
In July 2009, the Center for Science in the Public Interest sued Denny’s over “dangerously high levels of sodium in its meals.”
Sea salt is produced by evaporation of sea water.
Some people may inherit a “sodium sensitivity.”
Roman soldiers received a salt ration as part of their pay, known as “salarium argentum,” from which the English word for “salary” was derived.
Salt is the muscle behind flour in bread. Salt strengthens gluten in the dough, allowing it to expand. Salt free breads tend to be more compact and dense.
“Take it with a grain of salt” is a well-known phrase that conveys the thought to not take something too seriously.
In those with cystic fibrosis, sodium content of sweat is high.
The ancient Chinese built the first salt empire.
In 1930, Gandhi led a 240 mile march to the sea to make salt, defying a British ban.
Activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system kicks in with a consistent low sodium intake (less than 200 mg/day) and increases the retention of sodium and water. 1200 mg of sodium per day suppresses this system.
Dried seaweeds such as kelp and dulse can be used as salt substitutes. They’re also high in beneficial minerals.
When the Great Recession struck the nation in 2008, it decimated the economy. Many people lost their jobs and homes. Many people struggled to get by for years.
While politicians and Wall Street claim the economy has recovered, Main Street has a vastly different view of its current state.
Today, more than one in five children live in poverty, according to the 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book , an annual publication that assesses child well-being nationally and across the 50 states, as well as in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. It uses an index of 16 indicators to rank states on overall child well-being and in economic well-being, education, health and family and community. Of all 16 indicators, the one that carries the most weight and has the largest social impact is child poverty.
The report found that 22% of children live in poverty, up from 18% in 2008. Hardest hit were African-Americans and American Indians, whose rates of poverty had nearly doubled. The South and the Southwest were the regions most impacted by child poverty.
The reasons for this are multitude and complex, but things like slashed social safety nets, decreased incomes, decreased income stability, and single-parent (and therefor, single income) homes have all contributed to the rise in child poverty.
According to the KIDS COUNT report, 1 in 3 children from Mississippi live in poverty. The state with the best overall child well-being, based on indicators including economic standing, education and health, was Minnesota.
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Wolf today announced a decline in the commonwealth’s uninsured rate from 6.4 percent in 2015 to 5.6 percent in 2016, the lowest on record. Before the Affordable Care Act was implemented and Governor Wolf expanded Medicaid, Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate was more than 10 percent.
“This reduction shows that our steps to expand Medicaid and stabilize our individual market are working in Pennsylvania,” said Governor Wolf. “Thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Insurance Department and Department of Human Services to advocate on behalf of all Pennsylvanians, and despite the conversation around health reform at the federal level, we remain committed to furthering the progress made by the Affordable Care Act. We will continue to work to ensure that Pennsylvanians have access to quality coverage at an affordable price and advocate in a bipartisan way to fix Obamacare at the federal level.”
Pennsylvania’s 5.6 percent uninsured rate was released as part of a national study on health insurance coverage for 2016 based on current population reports issued by the United States Census Bureau earlier this week. The decrease continues the downward trend Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate has been on since 2013, making 2016’s 5.6 percent the commonwealth’s lowest ever uninsured rate, down from more than 10 percent when the Affordable Care Act was passed. The national uninsured rate fell 0.3 percent to 8.8 percent in 2016.
“The Affordable Care Act has helped more than 1.1 million Pennsylvanians access health coverage,” Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said. “Governor Wolf’s adoption of Medicaid expansion has helped more than 711,000 people receive coverage since January 2015, and 426,000 have purchased coverage on the individual market at Healthcare.gov.”
“When Governor Wolf expanded Medicaid in Pennsylvania, hundreds of thousands of uninsured were then able to obtain access to health care coverage,” said Acting Secretary for Human Services Teresa Miller. “Before expansion, most of these individuals either couldn’t afford coverage or didn’t have access to it. Additionally, the ACA provided the commonwealth’s former foster kids with health care coverage until age 26. This decline in the uninsured rate is truly one to celebrate.”
While being kind might sound easy, it is complex. If kindness was simple, then everyone would be kind and no one would experience meanness and bullying. Imagine a world where kindness is the norm. Is it possible to create homes, schools, and communities where kindness is the norm? The answer is, yes – but to make this imagined world a reality, we need to teach, model, and reward kindness.
Being kind means that you think about the needs and concerns of others. Kind people volunteer, help others, and think about bigger issues that affect their communities. Compassionate thinking and generous actions demonstrate kindness.
Unfortunately, many schools respond to negative behaviors such as bullying with punishment, which is thought to reduce or eliminate such behaviors. After years of research on “zero-tolerance” to end bullying and violence, we know that these punishment-based approaches do not work. Given this knowledge, it makes better sense to focus on teaching and modeling pro-social behavior, like teaching kindness.
Key Elements in Teaching Kindness
Although kindness programs can vary, most share these approaches:
Ways to Teach Kindness
The Impact of Teaching Kindness
When elementary students performed three acts of kindness per week they significantly increased their acceptance of peers compared to kids who did not perform three kind acts of kindness. Students who are taught kindness are more empathic, more socially aware and connected, and they receive higher grades too. Be kind—it is free and the payback is good for all!
Additional Online Resources
Originally from Lexington, Dr. Wozniak moved to Louisville to attend Bellarmine University where she also played soccer. She received her medical education and residency training at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Together with her colleagues, she started River City Psychiatry in 2009 upon completion of residency training. Dr. Wozniak is a Board Certified adult psychiatrist who commonly treats people with adult ADHD, PTSD, mood disorders such as bipolar and depression, and anxiety disorders. She also has a special interest in treating athletes with mental illness and is a member of the International Society for Sport Psychiatry. She collaborates with patients and other providers/therapists when necessary, to create a customized treatment plan for each individual.
Part of eliminating the stigma surrounding the disease of substance abuse disorder includes fostering the same attitudes granted toward others with chronic conditions (such as heart disease, asthma, or cancer). As Mary Pollock, MA, LPC, notes in her article Chasing the Dragon (Part Two) , “Addiction is a brain disease. Many people have difficulty separating the person from the disease. . . what we see are the behaviors that develop over time which support the addiction. These behaviors are what cause relationship issues within a family. . .The addicted individual becomes unable to respond to his environment in a healthy, adaptive manner as the addiction takes over the brain.”
For those with substance abuse disorders or their families and friends, finding a genuinely helpful response can be difficult. Training in true compassion can provide a path and a framework for decision-making. But true compassion is not well understood.
As Deniz Ahmadinia, Psy.D explains in Practicing Mindfulness Through Kindness and Compassion , “We hold all these misconceptions about what it is to be compassionate and kind, including that it makes us weak, that it’s a form of self-pity, that it’s indulgent, and that it gets in the way of success. Our competitive, tech-driven, busy culture instead believes that being hard on one’s self is the key to achieving goals.” A strong will and drive to succeed is necessary in recovery as in life, but being harsh and unrealistically cold with ourselves and others is counter-productive.
Ahmadinia continues by pointing out: “The reality is that the great majority of us struggle with a judgmental voice when we don’t live up to our own expectations, and it is this voice that judges others as well.” She suggests this can lead “to persistent negative emotions, doubt, feelings of worthlessness, shame and feeling disconnected from people around us.” These negative emotions and a lack of connection to the people around us can be triggers or barriers for those with a substance abuse disorder or other mental health disorder.
The concept of learning and practicing compassion and self-compassion is starting to gain a foothold in the literature about other mental and behavioral health issues as the fight against stigma grows. It is time to bring this powerful and useful tool and skill set into our discussions of recovery from substance abuse disorder as well, not as something only offered by others to someone on the path, but as something the person engaging in recovery can learn, practice, and use.
Life is messy. Waiting for the perfect time to start living wholeheartedly with a focus on wellness and recovery doesn’t work. No perfect time exists. Now is the time to consider recovery as a path to the life you actually want to live. Everybody starts where they are, no matter how messy or disorganized it is, and they move forward.
Living with the profound discomfort and agitation caused by giving up a substance or a behavior adopted to try to manage life’s difficulties is not easy, but recovery does happen. People are successful, even if relapse is a part of their path, just as relapse is often a part of many chronic diseases. Many paths to recovery exist, so a person can tailor their recovery path to their own needs and circumstances.
Practicing compassion for self and others can be a powerful tool for those who have chosen a path of recovery and for those of their loved ones and friends who are walking this path with them. As Pema Chodron notes in Comfortable with Uncertainty , “We cultivate compassion to soften our hearts and also to become more honest and forgiving about when and how we shut down” toward ourselves or toward others (73). She also draws attention to the fact that “we learn as much about doing this from our failures as we do from our success. In cultivating compassion, we draw from the wholeness of our experience – our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror.” (73)
The need for total honesty, for seeing ourselves and our behaviors clearly and with perspective, is an essential part of cultivating both compassion for others and self-compassion. Compassion does not excuse behaviors, but instead comprehends the difficulty of change. Compassion includes setting proper boundaries for others and for ourselves, to promote positive interactions and discourage negative interactions.
The practice of compassion encourages people to recognize difficult emotions, and learn to sit with them, live with them as a normal part of life, and not try to escape them. It does not mean repressing negative emotions, but accepting them and dealing with them without taking actions that might injure ourselves or others. According to Pema Chodron, “It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” (73) Learning about compassion illustrates both our need for compassion and for the connections to others and to the larger world that is an essential component of a recovery plan.
Fostering true, clear-sighted compassion for oneself – that accepts flaws and works with them rather than trying to escape the past or push them down – is not necessarily easy to achieve. Serious thought, and yes, actual practice are necessary to train your mind toward compassion and away from harsh judgment or negative self-talk. In Learning Compassion for Yourself , Rita Chin discusses her battle with panic disorder and what it took for her to really consider her self-talk when dealing with panic.
Chin remembers ”thinking about those forty million Americans I’d read about. Where were they? Were they sitting on their front steps clutching their knees to their chests like me? Did they also feel alone? Hopeless? Defective? . . . I wondered how many people I’d unknowingly passed who were also struggling under the weight of a fear that seemed as vast as the universe itself. And I wondered what I would do if I met such a person. Unlike the elusive answers to the many questions I’d asked about my own panic, this answer was easy: I would reach out my hand. I would say, ‘You’re not alone. And you’re stronger than you feel in this moment.’”
Discovering what you might say to someone else, even a stranger, who came to you struggling with the same things you are, is often a first step. Many of us are kinder to strangers in our thoughts and ideas than we are to ourselves or loved ones. This is often because a stranger has not disappointed us in any way. We can react with compassion, find out how a compassionate response feels to us, by considering what we would say to someone who doesn’t have an emotional history with us. Then we can work on granting ourselves and our loved ones a measure of this same compassion.
Deniz Ahmadinia’s article Practicing Mindfulness Through Kindness and Compassion also outlines a way to literally practice being compassionate by extending your compassion outward from someone you care about or a pet, to yourself, and to others, slowly, a step a time, simply observing your reactions without judgment as you practice. It takes time and resolve to begin making the changes involved in a recovery journey. Practicing compassion as a skill to be developed is one way you can work to make the path kinder to yourself and to others.
September is National Recovery Month, a time to celebrate those in recovery or on the path to it, and to encourage those who are beginning a recovery journey. As noted in What is Substance Abuse Treatment: A Booklet for Families , substance abuse disorders affect families and friends as well as the person with the disorder. If you or someone you care for needs help managing self-care, or if you are someone who is interested in pursuing a recovery journey, please contact Community Counseling Center of Mercer County to make and appoint by calling 724-981-7141 or toll free at 866-853-7758 and TTY: at 724-981-4327. For more information about Community Counseling Center of Mercer County, visit our website or our Facebook page .
Community Counseling Center regularly provides speakers for community groups, employers, schools and other audiences interested in behavioral health topics. For more information or to schedule a speaker, contact Mary Pollock, outpatient administrator, at (724) 981-7141, ext. 143, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ahmadinia, Deniz, Psy.D. (2016, Nov. 2) Practicing Mindfulness through Kindness and Compassion. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2016/Practicing-Mindfulness-through-Kindness-and-Compas
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2014) [PDF] What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families . HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4126. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from: https://store.samhsa.gov/product/What-Is-Substance-Abuse-Treatment-A-Booklet-for-Families/SMA14-4126
Chin, Rita. (2015, Aug 14) Learning Compassion for Yourself . Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/August-2015/Learning-Compassion-for-Yourself
Chodron, Pema. (2003) Comfortable with Uncertainty : 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion . Boston: Shambala.
Pollock Mary, MA, LPC, CCDP, NCC, MAC, DCORT. (2017) Chasing the dragon (Part 2) Retrieved from: http://www.cccmer.org/chasing-the-dragon-part-2nonic�
To help an addict recover from addiction, Mark Britton believes you have to listen to the addict. He’s speaking from experience.
“Not only do I work in recovery, but I’m active in recovery,” he explained. He works as a certified peer specialist in the field, while celebrating nine years clean and sober himself.
What does he believe loved ones should hear from addicts?
“We do not plan to fail. I do not wake up every morning and say, ‘I’m going to fail,” he said. “I do however fail to plan.”
Gateway Rehab's mission is to help all affected by addictive
diseases to become healthy in body, mind and spirit. A key word in our
mission is the word "all." We're not just about the recovering
addict or alcoholic, but everyone involved in the processes of recovery:
friends, family, therapists, counselors, the public in general, and others
touched in some way by addiction.
To help connect those affected by addiction, Gateway Rehab is excited to announce the launching of The Roads to Recovery , a blog that will provide hope, inspiration, motivation, education and other insights about the world of addiction.
Our first blog entry focuses on the lifelong process of addiction. Future posts will help inspire and motivate those in recovery, as well as educate and inform others about addiction treatment and further aspects of the addiction industry. Additionally, there will be frequent posts featuring our founder, Dr. Abraham Twerski.We invite you to connect with The Roads to Recovery by visiting www.gatewayrehab.org/blog . Our hope is that we provide an impactful account of the many roads to recovery.
GET HELP NOW. CALL 800-472-1177Click here to find a location near you
Preparing to go to college involves many things to consider, including living arrangements, transportation, finances, managing class loads, and managing healthcare using the resources at your chosen college. As a college student, it’s important to understand that good mental health practices can help you maintain your equilibrium during a period of significant growth and change.
The Stamp Out Stigma campaign was launched in 2014 as
multiple agencies recognized that stigma about mental health kept people from
accessing care. Contrary to common belief, 90 percent of those who seek help
for mental health issues are able to greatly reduce their symptoms. Stigma
about mental health care for those with or without a specific diagnosis is
usually based in misunderstanding and myth. Those false beliefs about mental
illness can cause significant problems, including a lack of understanding or
support, discrimination, reluctance to get treatment early, or a loss of hope.
Other significant facts at the core of the Stamp Out Stigma campaign include:
An estimated 26 percent of adults have a diagnosable
ages 9 to 17 have a diagnosable mental or addictive illness.
One in two of us will have a mental health issue during our lifetime.Less than one-third of adults with a mental health issue will get help.
Stamp Out Stigma seeks to “reduce the stigma of mental illness and substance use disorders by talking about them.” Conversations are designed to:
Recognize when you or your loved ones need help. Recognize the signs.
Recognize when someone isn’t getting the help they need.
Recognize when stigma is creating a barrier to care.
Recognize the high prevalence of mental illness.
others to help them
learn there is help and hope.