Increasing My Sodium Intake

Serendipity is often a pleasant thing. It's funny how events just sort of compile themselves in a useful shape, sometimes.

A few days ago, I was annoyed when I opened the freezer on the top of my kitchen fridge, and a bag of steak bones, accumulated over many months, fell out at my feet. I figured that was the universe's way of telling me it was time to make beef broth.

So I put the steak bones in my soup kettle, covered 'em with water, added a little salt and vinegar, and let them simmer for a couple of days. But seeing as it's in the 90s here in Southern Indiana (I believe that's the 30s or thereabouts for those of you in Celsius-land, but I didn't look it up), a nice pot of vegetable beef soup just didn't sound appealing.

On an entirely different front, I've had a cluster of annoying minor symptoms recently -- tired with no reason, a little queasy, when the side effects of the Victoza had stopped a few weeks ago, lightheaded when I stand up. When I point my toes to stretch, my calves would start to cramp. A little achy, a little headache-y. I've just been irritable, cross for no good reason. Most frightening, I've made some odd, inexplicable errors in very basic arithmetic, and used the wrong word for simple things -- saying "purple" when I meant "green," that sort of thing -- enough times to disturb me.

I wondered if I might be slipping a little hypothyroid again, and thought maybe bumping up my dose of Armour thyroid might help. I emailed my doctor to inquire.

Then I went outside to read The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, which has been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks now. It's great, and I recommend it highly, though I'm only about 85 pages in.

Having seen both authors, Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek, speak during the Q&A at the Nutrition and Metabolism Society symposium back in April, and having read New Atkins For a New You, I knew they put an emphasis on adding sodium to a low carbohydrate diet, because of the kidney's increased excretion of sodium when insulin levels drop. (This is why you lose water weight the first few weeks, and why blood pressure drops so fast on a low carbohydrate diet.) Hadn't really thought much about it, though. I've been low carb for so long, I figured my body had it figured out by now.

Then I got to the piece in the beginning of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living about the symptoms of sodium deficiency, also known as hyponatremia. And guess what? It sounded very familiar. I looked up hyponatremia online, and the list of symptoms was spot-on. (Except for the coma part, thank heaven.)

I got to thinking about it, and it seemed possible I've been eating less salt than I used to. I've been eating less in general since I went on the Victoza. Too, I haven't been eating a lot of dishes that have much salt mixed in, soups and stews and the like, because of the hot weather. Been eating a lot of veggies, too, so my potassium intake has been up. More than once I've substituted Greek yogurt with strawberries and nuts -- and very little sodium -- for supper. And of course, like everyone else, I sweat more in hot weather, losing sodium that way. All told, it seemed very possible that I had become hyponatremic.

Well, I knew that Volek and Phinney recommended bouillon as a source of sodium, and there I was with a big pot of beef broth -- beef broth with considerably less sodium than commercial bouillon, I might add. Still, there had to be some way to use the broth.

I flashed on church coffee hours back at dear old Christ Church, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, in my childhood. Along with coffee, tea, and juice, they served a popular 50-50 mixture of beef broth and tomato juice. Indeed, I included it in one of my cookbooks. And tomato juice is fairly high in sodium. So, for that matter, is V-8, which I prefer to tomato juice. And I had some in the basement.

So I poured a 4 ounce can of V-8 and a half-cup of my nice beef broth in my little saucepan, and added a teaspoon of Beef Better Than Bouillon. Heated it up, stirred till the bouillon paste dissolved, poured it into a mug, and tried it.

It was lovely. Very tasty, and light enough that it didn't seem overwhelming in the heat. I think it might even be nice chilled. And by my calculations it had more than a gram of sodium, putting into the range recommended by Volek and Phinney. Seven grams of usable carb.

I have three more little cans of V-8, and several little cans of tomato juice, too. Heaven knows, I've got plenty of nice, fresh beef bone broth. And -- more serendipity -- I just noticed the other day that I somehow managed to acquire two nearly full jars of Beef Better Than Bouillon, and one that's mostly empty. (Have I mentioned I'm pathologically disorganized?)

So I'll be having a mug of this -- or maybe a chilled glass of it -- every day for the next week or so. If my symptoms go away, I'll know I got it right.

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Leg cramps

Sometimes leg cramps is a symptom of low potassium. I think that's why Dana mentioned that her potassium was up from what she was eating.

When I get leg cramps, I get some potassium from Walmart and take two a day (Just before bedtime because that's when my legs cramp) until the cramps go away, then one a day. Sometimes I stop for awhile because I can't always get there to get some, but it starts again after a couple of months. If you're losing water, Which happens when you up your water intake and lower your salt intake, you're losing potassium.

When I quit eating pasta, I noticed I quit using so much salt. Now, I'll keep an eye on things and perhaps have a little more salt.

Interesting. I really like

Interesting. I really like Himalayan salt; it tastes better than regular sodium chloride.

An easy way to roughly convert Fahrenheit to Celsius is to subtract 30 and divide by 2. (The exact way is to subtract 32 and multiply by 5/9).

Salt and Conversions

Yeah, I mostly use Real Salt, which is similar, but mined in the western US, and yes, it tastes better than grocery store salt.

And that's just what I did to figure out that the 90s here was the 30s in the Civilized World.

Sodium and cramps

That's pretty interesting, Dana....I have been having similar problems with leg and foot cramps. Sometimes I don't even have to point my toes. Just walking across the floor will do it on really bad days. And stepping up (or down) on a stepstool - forget it! Once I pushed in the clutch with my left foot at a stoplight and thought I was going to wreck the car!

If the cramps happen in the middle of the night, it seems the only thing that will help is a teaspoon of plain, undiluted mustard (which is not exactly my favorite thing to do, but when you're hurting with cramps, you will do strange things.) I am also a long-time low carber, though at "only" 12 years, practically a newbie compared to you :-) It's only been in the last several months this has become a real problem for me. Maybe it's because over time I have become even less of a salt eater...I just don't think about it, but lately I have been making an effort to eat something a little salty just before bed - and it helps!


Shortage of any of the electrolytes can cause cramps, I believe...

Last summer I lost 30 pounds

Last summer I lost 30 pounds and was drinking about 2 quarts of apple cider vinegar water daily. I had never had one leg cramp before in my life and on the vinegar water they had gotten really bad. I abandonded the vinegar and the leg cramps stopped. I had also started having sensitivity in my teeth, I guess from the vinegar. Might want to give that a thought if you are having leg cramps.

2 quarts?!

Two quarts sounds like a lot. I'm drinking a couple of eight ounce glasses per day. Taking minerals, too. Maybe you over-did it?