By Deanna Minich, PhD, CNS, IFMCP
Reviewed by Kim Ross, DCN, CNS, IFMCP
To salt or not to salt?
These days, salt (sodium chloride, or NaCl) is a much debated topic. Many previous notions about salt are being questioned, and even overturned by medical opinion leaders, with recent papers about salt, sodium, and dehydration being published in top-tier journals like JAMA and the Lancet [1-5]. Salt is shared from a culinary perspective by most cultures throughout the globe, used as a medicinal and culinary ingredient, as well as a preservative and pickling agent. The type of salt and the amount ingested varies from country to country. For the most part, the estimated dietary intake of salt in most countries (9-12 grams per day) exceeds the WHO recommended level (<5 grams daily of salt, which contains approximately 2 grams of sodium) . As with most other foods, the quality of the ingredient makes all the difference in its flavor, safety, and efficacy.
Throughout the years, there has been a dietary stigma related to salt. This polarization has been primarily due to perceived effects on increasing blood pressure, and association with higher risk for stroke, kidney disease, stomach cancer, and even obesity . However, in this age of personalized nutrigenetics (the interaction between genes and nutrients), it is well known that there are gene variations in salt sensitivity, making an individual either salt sensitive or salt insensitive. It has been estimated that 50-60% of people with hypertension are salt sensitive ; therefore, the same salt intake may not be equally problematic for everyone. Other constitutional factors like aging and ethnicity can increase the chances of salt sensitivity . Furthermore, there is also an epigenetic aspect to salt-induced hypertension involving DNA methylation and histone protein modification that is being explored as an emerging mechanism .
Several leading health organizations recommend no more than 2.3 g sodium per day (about 5.8 grams of salt) , yet global intake of sodium is close to 4 g (3.95 g) . Sodium, a component of salt and an essential nutrient, can be in high amounts in processed foods, along with sugar, especially fructose, and be problematic for people when it is imbalanced relative to other minerals like potassium . Some researchers would suggest that there is a salt-sugar dynamic when it comes to high blood pressure levels: both salt and sugar amplify the effects of salt sensitivity through the mechanisms of insulin resistance, urinary sodium retention, and changes in blood vessels [3, 9].
More specifically, sodium is an important extracellular mineral (also called an electrolyte or cation) that helps regulate several biochemical pathways-related processes. Although high dietary sodium has been the focus in the scientific literature, it must be recognized that too little sodium can also have health consequences. Chronic sodium restriction can lead to activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, creating issues with kidney function and blood pressure, and can even be associated with heightened cardiovascular risk [10, 11].
Moreover, the balance between sodium and potassium electrolytes is key. Essentially, every cell in the human body is dependent on the presence of sodium and potassium electrolytes. These two minerals need to be in constant, dynamic balance so the cells can exchange energy. There is constant monitoring of these minerals to maintain their delicate balance.
Minerals are also a vital part of cells, blood, and lymphatic fluid. They are critical for all body functions, including muscular contraction, electrolyte balance, blood sugar regulation and pH balance. All minerals are required and in a form the body can readily use.
Encouraging the intake of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables, such as in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, is one way to offset the lack of adequate, balanced potassium intake, in addition to taking in other valuable minerals like calcium and magnesium, to help with heart health . All of these suggest that a big-picture view of the diet and even one’s lifestyle (as stress can also alter eating as well as blood pressure) is required for a deeper understanding of cardiovascular dysfunction, high blood pressure, and any health imbalance.
Figure 1. Conceptual diagram of health risk by sodium intake levels based on the current evidence. The lowest risk range (i.e., “sweet spot”) for sodium intake is at ~3 to 5 g/day, with both lower and higher levels of intake associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease or death. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommendation for sodium corresponds with a higher risk of adverse health outcomes.
Reference/Image Credit: Mente A, O'Donnell M, Yusuf S. Sodium Intake and Health: What Should We Recommend Based on the Current Evidence? Nutrients. 2021 Sep 16;13(9):3232. doi: 10.3390/nu13093232. PMID: 34579105; PMCID: PMC8468043. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
The types of salt
It is important to keep in mind the terms salt and sodium are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Commercial table salt comprises two ions: sodium (Na) & chloride (Cl). It’s the same salt often used to melt snow on the road. Commercial table salt is manufactured in two ways: either through solar evaporation, where seawater or other natural or artificial brines are evaporated and mechanically harvested or through industrial mining where explosives blast through rock to create a cave, and then 40 or more holes are drilled into the salt face. These holes are primed with pellets of even more explosive materials. Miners ignite the explosives, creating a blast that dislodges 800 to 900 tons of rock salt in less than 3 seconds. The rock salt is scooped out, thrown in a spinning crusher, and then crushed again. Commercial table salt is chemically cleaned at high temperatures, which turns it into a chemical structure. Most of the studies researching salt are referencing commercial table salt, which is critical to keep in mind, considering that the different kinds of salts have varying compositions and even different microbiomes.
Sea salt and river salt, untouched, would be pure and contain trace minerals in addition to sodium and chloride. Unfortunately, the oceans and rivers are becoming repositories of pollutants, radioactive waste, petrochemicals, and heavy metals like lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and more. These toxins can be present in sea and river salts, highlighting the need for batch-by-batch analysis for many of these culinary salts prior to consumption. Alternatively this toxic load in water sources is why many sea salt producers are refining their salt – using high temperature chemical-stripping processes that turn it into a chemical structure that is most likely not easily assimilated in the body – similar to table salt.
Similar to mined commercial table salt, much of the Himalayan salt found in grocery stores comes from two industrial mining regions in Pakistan, where explosives are also used to open the area to be mined. Laborers bore 5-foot-deep holes into the rock face with hand-cranked drills, stuff them with gunpowder, set fuses, and run for cover. Once the dust settles, large trucks go into the mines to collect the salt. Metal grinders are used to break down the salt, and shards of metal can end up mixed in the salt. The working conditions in these huge mines are dangerous. According to Azmad Malik, a former deputy chief of the salt-workers union, scarcely a week passes without a report of a fatal accident.
Taking into consideration all of these factors, for several years we researched and set out to find the healthiest salt available. We knew that mined rock salt was the most ideal option, it was just a matter of finding a source with the most trace minerals, in the ideal ratio for human health and also the perfect structure and particular size for our body to absorb, and to use non toxic and safe mining practices.
The culmination of that research was Original Himalayan Crystal Salt®.
Photo Credit: Copyright Symphony Natural Health
Found in a remote location high in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains hundreds of miles away from the industrial mines, this crystal salt was formed over 250 million years ago in a world with no pollution. It is carefully mined by hand and transported by donkey, minimizing any impact on local flora, fauna, streams and landscape, along a dirt mountain road to our facility, where it is cleaned, hand-sorted, and stone-ground according to traditional methods, and hand-packed locally. This conscious way of harvesting the crystal salt preserves the integrity of the salt structure and composition. It is the only way to ensure that the trace minerals remain in perfect crystalline form, which is thought to be essential for optimal bioavailability. Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® contains up to 84 trace minerals in similar ratios to human blood and in perfect ionic form that the body can absorb easily into the cells, we believe, making it the healthiest and cleanest salt available. In some ways, when salt is in its original, whole state, it becomes more nutritious and adds rather than takes away from health, like a functional food.
Unlike salt mines that primarily focus on profit and are willing to sacrifice the health and well-being of their workers, we have established a joint venture partnership with the local community, creating a small industry that delivers value-added finished goods that inject up to 5-10 times the money into the local community, as opposed to just bulk salt. This initiative results in living wages, year-round employment, safe, fair working conditions, and removes any middle men, ensuring the highest quality and value for customers.
The depth of our relationship with the local community we partner with and the original support of their schools is symbolized by our Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® logo, which is the insignia of the Royal Education Foundation in the Hunza area where our mine is located.
The Royal Education Foundation graciously extends their blessing for us to use their insignia as a reflection of our connection to the Hunza people and the authentic origin of our unique salts.
Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® contains 84 trace minerals, including sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iodine, iron, zinc, manganese, and others, all of which the human body needs for optimal function. There is a certificate of analysis that identifies these trace minerals. It is mentioned in the book, Water & Salt the Essence of Life and is thought to have the ideal structure and particle size that makes it easily absorbed by cells, allowing the body to be hydrated. Of note, this certificate has been used by other companies to tout their salt; however, it is specific to Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® only.
Several look-alike salts on the market claim to be Himalayan or pink salts; however, the colors vary substantially, which suggests that the content is different, too. Many salts referred to as Himalayan originate from South America, Australia, Eastern Europe, and many other countries that, in some cases, come from rivers nowhere near the Himalayas, but happen to be pink. Even in Pakistan, there are substantial differences in salts. There is often the comment that salt should be “more pink/red,” but this is not always true. Therefore, it is best practice to confirm the country of origin of the salt on the label and ask for their own certificate of analysis.
What about heavy metals?
Heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium, are found in the air, water, and soil. Increased levels in the body due to intake or the inability to effectively remove them is implicated in several types of chronic diseases, such as cancer . Most people do not know that essential minerals, such as those found in quality salts, like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, compete with and minimize the effects of heavy metals [14, 15]. This is a point to remember when selecting a salt source --- to ensure not only that it is devoid of appreciable levels of heavy metals, but that the salt has some level of minerals to reduce some of the untoward effects of heavy metals.
Therefore, the risk for contamination of salts, whether through sea, river or mined sources, needs consideration, much like any food (animal or plant) or liquid (water). Organically-grown foods are not by definition free of heavy metals, nor are they required to be as part of the certification. Therefore, the average consumer does not know about the levels of heavy metals in their food or dietary supplement products, unless the manufacturer of those products actively tests for them.
Most recently an Australian study  tested 31 commercially-available pink salts against iodized white table salt for heavy metal content. Results were wide-ranging for each of the pink salts for heavy metals. The only heavy metal that was elevated in several of the pink salts was aluminum, and yet, there were a few pink salts which had no aluminum. Negligible levels of the other metals (like arsenic, cobalt, lead, mercury, nickel) were found in pink salt, and there was some degree of variability with those metals, too. On the other hand, the pink salts were high in essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and even sulfur, an important compound for metabolic detoxification. Surprisingly, this study was used as a #rethinkpink campaign, but the data are not exactly to be seen as negative for pink salt. In fact, what this study indicated is that there is 1) higher essential mineral content in pink salt compared with table salt; and 2) there is great variability in minerals and metals in pink salt.
Therefore, when it comes to heavy metal toxicity, it is best to ask the manufacturer of the salt for their third-party specification and analysis to ensure that the heavy metals are within proper limits, while, at the same time, noting whether the salt contains essential minerals. With essential minerals being depleted in the soils that foods are grown in, it’s important to incorporate them whenever possible.
Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® has been analyzed for heavy metals and essential minerals by a third-party laboratory for the last 15 years. With every single analysis over that time showing that heavy metals such as aluminum, antimony, arsenic, lead, thallium, and tin were below the detectable limit. While essential minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, strontium, and vanadium were present in the salt.
To date, there is no evidence of accumulation of heavy metals occurring in the body by using Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® or using it to make Sole. For our most recent analysis click here.
In addition one teaspoon of Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® Sole only contains approximately 478 mg of sodium (as well as other trace minerals needed by the body), which is less than 1/4 of the recommended daily allowance and therefore is beneficial as part of your low sodium requirements.
This minimal amount of salt has a positive effect because it provides a better means to hydrate and have water taken up by the cells, along with supplying the full-spectrum of minerals.
An exception to this rule is when the kidneys are not functioning correctly. When in doubt, one should consult with a qualified health professional. As stated above, one of the best ways to reduce sodium is to avoid or minimize processed foods, which contain not only sodium, but also sugars and other detrimental ingredients for health.
Symphony Natural Health supplies Original Himalayan Crystal Salt®, the salt referenced in the book, Water & Salt the Essence of Life.
Environmental toxins are at an all-time high, and even remote places in the world have been impacted. Microplastics are of particular concern since they are not visible, widespread, not easily measured, yet have huge health downsides. With its widespread use in the diet, and many originating in contaminated environments such as the ocean and rivers, salt is at potentially higher risk of microplastic contamination. In one study , seven types of salts obtained from local supermarkets from Newcastle, Australia, were analyzed for microplastics content: table salt, black salt, sea salt, iodized salt, rock salt, Himalayan pink salt (fine), Himalayan pink salt (coarse). In general, it is thought that Himalayan rock salts are more protected from microparticles considering they are not exposed to the same level as an open-air source.
On the contrary, findings revealed that microplastics were present in all salts, with higher amounts in table salt, black salt, and Himalayan pink salt (coarse). Himalayan pink salt (fine) from the same source as the coarse salt was low in microplastic fiber contamination, which led the researchers to postulate that the industrial or manufacturing setup of the salt extraction could have been the issue more than the salt itself. Another reason could have been that it was in fact a pink river salt claiming to be Himalayan salt. Therefore, it is important to understand not just the origin of salt, but how it is extracted and processed into a consumer-ready format. It may introduce more or less contaminants than the salt originally contained.
Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® in both fine culinary salt and as sole stones were tested for microplastics by an independent lab using polarized light microscopy, reflected light microscopy, and Raman spectrometry/microscopy. The results indicated that no microplastics were found in either sample.
Even salt has a microbiome
Most natural products have a microbiome, whether from the soil they are grown in, the air they are exposed to, or even the water they come into contact with within their surroundings. Salt is no exception . In one study , seven salts were tested from a supermarket in Spain: three of marine origin, three larger granulated salts with other ingredients, and Himalayan pink salt. Results indicated that all of them contained microorganisms, with some overlap as well as some uniqueness. For Himalayan pink salt, the finding showed that out of the salts tested, it had the highest bacterial diversity. Sulfitobacter was a predominant bacterium in Himalayan pink salt, most likely due to the environmental need to oxidize sulfites at high altitudes. In some manner, salt subject to these types of stresses (e.g., high altitude) may result in bacterial profiles that could confer some degree of resilience through not just the mineral content, but perhaps also the microorganisms. This is a point to consider, especially based on what is known about xenohormesis and the therapeutic properties of measured amounts of environmental stressors .
To date there have been two studies done on Original Himalayan Crystal Salt®.
The first was conducted at the University of Graz, Austria in 2001, and is detailed in the book Water & Salt, The Essence of Life. The second was a double-blind placebo clinical study conducted in 2007, in Las Vegas, Nevada, to test the body’s reaction to the ingestion of common sea salt versus the ingestion of Original Himalayan Crystal Salt®. The purpose of this study was to evaluate Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® as a safe and effective all-natural mineral supplement.
All Photos Credit: Copyright Symphony Natural Health
2001 UNIVERSITY OF GRAZ, AUSTRIA STUDY OVERVIEW
For a complete summary of this medical study please refer to the book, Water & Salt - The Essence of Life. Anecdotally, in the Austrian test, subjects who drank water with Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® sole added saw significant positive changes in respiratory, circulatory, organ, connective tissue, and nervous system functions. Patients also reported increases in quality of sleep, energy, and concentration levels, brain activity, weight loss, enhanced consciousness, and noticeable hair and nail growth.
2007 FENESTRA LABS STUDY OVERVIEW
This study was performed by FENESTRA RESEARCH LABS clinical study personnel onsite in Las Vegas, Nevada. The OPTIMAL WELLNESS TEST portion of this research was done using proprietary devices and methodologies developed by FENESTRA RESEARCH LABS.
This was a 30-day, 70-subject study drawn from a large population of subjects in good general health. The subjects were randomized into two groups, 50-subjects on live product (Original Himalayan Crystal Salt®) and 20-subjects taking a generic sea salt respectively. The group of 20 subjects was the placebo control. The group of 50 subjects was the Test Group (TG).
The Test Group (TG) consumed a solution prepared for them by Fenestra Research Labs staff of healthcare professionals in advance, of sole made with (Original Himalayan Crystal Salt®). Each subject in the TG consumed every morning one (1) teaspoon of the prepared sole solution stirred well into to an eight (8) ounce glass of purified water upon rising, on an empty stomach. The TG Subjects did not consume any other drink, vitamin, supplements, or food for the next one-half hour minimum time.
The Control Group (CG) consumed a solution prepared for them in advance by Fenestra Research Labs staff of healthcare professionals, a brine solution made with generic sea salt. Each subject in the CG consumed every morning one (1) teaspoon of the prepared brine solution stirred well into to an eight (8) ounce glass of purified water upon rising on an empty stomach. The CG subjects did not consume any other drink, vitamin, supplements, or food for the next one-half hour minimum time.
Baseline data was collected from each client before they were provided the product. Healthcare professionals with Optimal Wellness Test research experience collected this data. Staff consists of experienced hospital, doctor, and private healthcare professionals.
Baseline Test #1 consisted of an Optimal Wellness Test*, urine and saliva samples, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, respiration, signed consent for testing and products. These baseline tests were re-run at the 14-day and 30-day periods of this study for analysis, comparison, and evaluation.
*Optimal Wellness Test:
The Optimal Wellness Analyzer is an analytical system that applies cutting edge science to evaluate health at the cellular level. Objective testing procedures are the basis for this analysis, so there is no subjective input from the tester. A computer-based software program provides printouts with the cellular imbalances brought to light. The Optimal Wellness Test runs a combination of 39 tests run on non-fasting urine and non-fasting saliva.
Summary of Results
At the baseline testing for this study, all 70 subjects Optimal Wellness Test numbers presented in the red zone, indicating at least 35% away from normal Wellness numbers in Mineralization, Oxidative Stress Indicators, and Hydration.
Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® Results:
- Mineralization - 58% in the Green zone of Wellness (within 5% of normal range), Remaining 56% in the Yellow Zone of Wellness (within 15% of normal range).
- Oxidative Stress - 44% in the Green zone of Wellness (within 5% of normal range), Remaining 56% in the Yellow Zone of Wellness (within 15% of normal range).
- Hydration - 49% in the Green zone of Wellness (within 5% of normal range), Remaining 51% in the Yellow Zone of Wellness (within 15% of normal range).
Generic Sea Salt Results:
- Mineralization - 0% in the Green zone of Wellness (within 5% of normal range), 16% in the Yellow Zone of Wellness (within 15% of normal range), and the remaining 84% still in the Red Zone (at least 35% out of Wellness range).
- Oxidative Stress - 4% in the Green zone of Wellness (within 5% of normal range), 19% in the Yellow Zone of Wellness (within 15% of normal range), and the remaining 77% still in the Red Zone (at least 35% out of Wellness range).
- Hydration - 6% in the Green zone of Wellness (within 5% of normal range), 13% in the Yellow Zone of Wellness (within 15% of normal range) and the remaining 81% still in the Red Zone (at least 35% out of Wellness range).
Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® was shown to be a highly effective product for the normalizing of mineralization in the human body. It has also shown to be effective in helping to stabilize pH and oxidative stress numbers in the human body. Hydration indicators showed an average of ten percent increase over the course of this study.
Original Himalayan Crystal Salt® has not demonstrated any adverse side effects or organ system involvement, contraindications, or interactions with any food or drug, allowing the product to be used for extended periods of time. The time course and strength of its effects make it a viable alternative to common sea salt.
This combined research on Original Himalayan Crystal Salt®, which is often mistakenly quoted as valid for all Himalayan Salt, showed that Original Himalayan Crystal Salt®:
- Provides electrolytes to support conductivity and cellular communication*
- Supports hydration into your cells*
- Supports acid-alkaline balance*
- Supports a properly functioning metabolism*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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