A Sodium Lesson

Dr. Eric Westman called it.  He has been teaching about the need for attention to sodium when eating very low carb.  The need to be sure to get enough sodium, that is.  I thought I was keeping up pretty well on my sodium intake, but I just got a “heads-up” lesson.

I had started to have some cramping in my foot when waking in the morning.  This is not something common for me, but it started while I was away in Denver for the ASBP and Nutrition and Metabolism Society meetings.  Travelling while maintaining a very low carb and strict no gluten food intake is a bit awkward, so I thought it might be because I had fallen behind from my usual vegetable intake.  For several days, I added 500 mg of potassium supplement three times a day to try to catch up (I don’t have any of the medical conditions requiring caution with potassium).  This didn’t seem to help much.  Then I realized that the travelling had also interfered with my usual sodium intake, which I hadn’t been too worried about as I apply salt liberally at each meal.  I tried having 3 cups of bouillon that day and the cramps overnight were reduced about 80 percent.  After one more day of that, the foot cramps were fully eliminated.

Looking back, I realized that for a few weeks I had tended to have an second cup of tea in the afternoon, which I wasn’t noticing was edging out my afternoon drink of bouillon.  This then left me set me up to so easily run into trouble on my trip.

On a very low carb intake, the body handles sodium much differently than in those people who have higher carbohydrate intake, particularly those with elevated insulin levels.  High insulin levels cause the body to retain sodium.  When insulin levels are low with low carb eating, it becomes important to be sure you are getting enough sodium.  There is a lot of sodium in various fast food, processed food and added to cooked grains, such as bread.  There is very little sodium in such basic unprocessed food as vegetables, meats, eggs, olive oil and plain nuts.  Of course, as with any and all medical matters, each person’s needs are different.  There are some medical conditions, (among them, for example, heart failure and uncontrolled high blood pressure) where sodium intake does need to be limited and this is one of the reasons why it is important to work with your doctor regarding any planned shift to low carb eating.  (By the way, my blood pressure is usually about 112/74.)

See sidebar for link to the best book to take to your doctor if they are not already educated in low carb nutrition.

The subject of sodium need when eating low carb is covered well in the book by Dr. Eric Westman, Dr. Stephen Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek  The New Atkins for a New You (no, I don’t have any commercial ties with Amazon).

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