Are you worried about finding an answer to an escalating health problem?
What started my husband, Marty, and I on our journey to regain our health in 2009 was his concern that his symptoms were being treated with a cascade of more and more prescription drugs. He lost some weight on the Atkin’s diet – high protein and fat, low carbohydrates - but he still had issues with high blood pressure, even with medication, and he still had more weight to lose.
His doctor prescribed a diuretic to increase the effectiveness of his blood pressure pills. At a later visit to his eye doctor, Marty was diagnosed with chronic dry eye. Asked if a diuretic could cause that, the eye doctor said yes. Shouldn’t I stop taking it, he asked. Your doctor won’t let you, was the response. The solution: another prescription. For how long? Forever. One “maintenance” drug turns into three.
Since he wasn’t getting the desired results, he decided to cut out as much sodium as possible from his diet. Beginning with the one action of consciously cutting out salt, he no longer has these “chronic” conditions requiring a lifetime of “maintenance” drugs.
Examining Everything in the Cupboard
Before this decision, I had stopped cooking with salt. This new sodium restriction was going beyond the added table salt. Every can, bottle, box and package of food that was in our pantry and refrigerator was inspected. We read the nutrition labels focusing on the ingredients, and looking out for the word “sodium”. The different types were listed as:
- Sodium nitrate
- Sodium citrate
- Sodium phosphates
- Sodium tripolyphosphate
- Sodium bicarbonate
- Monosodium glutamate [MSG]
- Sodium benzoate.
We also looked at the sodium per serving. We hardly ever ate the tiny portions recommended on the label so we recalculated for our actual serving size. We were shocked to learn how much sodium we consumed in all this processed food in our cupboard, refrigerator and freezer.
But I Don’t Add Salt!
Once we got started on this mission to cut out excess salt we frequently heard others say, “but I don’t add salt”. Most people do not realize that the majority of the sodium in the American diet is found in packaged, processed food and served in restaurants.
There was salt in just about everything we were eating, and in harmfully high amounts. When we cleared out our refrigerator and pantry we filled up garbage bags with processed food. Most of the food went into the trash bin and the rest we donated. By getting rid of foods spiked with sodium, we ended up purging our kitchen. Overtime the empty spots were filled up with a variety of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Creating a Supportive Home Environment
In order for Marty to follow his no salt rule, I knew we had to create a supportive environment at home. I was willing to change my habits if it supported him. How we shopped for food, the menu choices we made and how we prepared meals dramatically changed. We also knew that eating out would become more of a challenge. We were committed to eating foods that would encourage a healthy lifestyle.
Early Success In Taking Back Our Health
By drastically cutting down on our sodium intake by deliberately reading nutrition labels and making wise food choices we easily shed the pounds and regained our health. We focused specifically on eliminating processed foods, and baked goods. We introduced increasingly more whole foods into our meals with a variety of vegetables, legumes, fruits, seeds, nuts, and grains.
The immediate bonus of reducing salt intake was that we both dropped a few pounds right away since salt plays a role in retaining liquids in the body. This initial weight loss provided the encouragement we needed as we saw our number on the scale trend downward. Over time we also improved our blood pressure. We got to within a normal range and Marty no longer needs medicine for hypertension.
Are you aware of the amount of salt you eat in a day's time? Would you consider reducing your salt intake to improve your health? Here’s the Shelby’s Guidelines for taking back your health.
- Read the nutrition labels with a focus on sodium content.
- Aim for no more than 140 mg sodium per serving.
- Get rid of the “poison” in your home that is damaging to health. Throw it in the trash or donate it.
- Eat more fresh vegetables and fruit.
- Include legumes, seeds and nuts into your meals.