Guest post by Melissa Wright
Inflammation. It’s an all-too common word in today’s world of people taking charge of their own health via food. In a society that’s bombarded with cheap fast-food, ‘health’ bars full of preservatives, and sodium-saturated snacks, it’s natural to feel a little lost when wanting to diminish the inflammation that’s bound to occur when eating these false foods. But eliminating foods that inflame your body doesn’t always seem like an easy task; perhaps the easiest way to go about this is to identify the most inflammatory foods and create a plan for yourself on how to gradually eliminate/decrease their consumption.
An easy-to-identify inflammatory food is sodium. When consumed, sodium is stored in the kidneys. When the kidneys become saturated with sodium and cannot process it quickly enough, sodium is acquired in the bloodstream. This is where the inflammation happens: the importation of sodium into the blood stream causes an increase in blood volume. As the blood volume grows, your heart has to work harder to keep everything moving through your veins and arteries.
Several studies have also linked high sodium levels to autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are, essentially, conditions where the immune system attacks itself. Ailments such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Type 1 diabetes, lupus, and Celiac disease fall under the autoimmune category. In a nutshell, there is a certain type of cell (the TH17 cell) that helps us fight infections but that has also been linked to autoimmune disorders. Studies have shown that diets high in sodium increase the production of this cell and also increase severity of autoimmune disease symptoms.
None if this information about sodium is meant to be alarmist, this is merely meant to explain the process of sodium intake and how an overabundance of the mineral leads to inflammatory responses in the body. Sodium is an essential mineral and, in the right amounts, can be beneficial to the human body. But it is important to recognize that in today’s food, sodium is heavily relied upon as a preservative, which means lots of foods – even if they proclaim that they are healthy – have high levels of sodium. So, how does one know what low sodium food looks like?
A good rule of thumb to follow if you’re watching your sodium intake is to look at the ratio of calories to milligrams of sodium – the ratio should be about 1:1. For example, a typical can of pinto beans has 90 calories and 410 mg of sodium per serving. This is a high ratio of sodium to calories. However, if you look at no salt added black beans, there are 110 calories and 10 mg of sodium per serving – a much lower ratio than 1:1.
Overall, it is important to be aware of your body’s responses – or potential responses – to the food you consume. Become your own advocate and advocate for your health by understanding nutrition labels and the ingredient information you’re being pelted with. Sodium doesn’t necessarily need to be eliminated, but, as with most other things in life, should be used in moderation.
Hill, Cindy. “What Are the Health Benefits of Red Sea Salt?” 14 Aug 2017, https://www.livestrong.com/article/150368-what-are-the-health-benefits-of-red-sea-salt/.
Andrew. “Is This Food High in Sodium?” 29 April 2010, https://eatingrules.com/is-this-high-in-sodium/.
Hooper, Cameron. “How Salt Can Lead to Autoimmune Disease.” 13 January 2016, https://naturalife.org/nutrition/how-salt-can-lead-to-autoimmune-disease.