Salt, aldosterone and adrenal fatigue
People with adrenal fatigue may crave salt or salty foods like potato chips, olives, crackers, pretzels or savory foods in general, and many patients are surprised when I tell them to honor this craving. Yes, salt can increase blood pressure but only in the rare few, and low blood pressure (hypotension) is a very common sign of adrenal fatigue—at all stages. If you feel lightheaded when getting out of bed in the morning, standing up quickly, or getting up out of a bath or hot tub, you may very well have low adrenal function, and including more salt in your diet could be helpful. Keep in mind it should be a good-quality sea salt or other natural salt (no iodized table salt).
A craving for salt in people with adrenal fatigue can be explained by low aldosterone. Aldosterone is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland, and is part of the complex mechanism that regulates blood pressure in your body. Levels of aldosterone go up and down in much the same pattern as cortisol does, and likewise go up as a normal response to stressful situations. Production of aldosterone by the adrenals depends on how much cortisol-stimulating hormone (ACTH) is being sent from the brain. The brain takes its signals from the amount of circulating cortisol, not circulating aldosterone, so high cortisol tends to lower the brain’s ACTH production, which in turn decreases aldosterone secretion, leading to lower blood pressure.
Another consequence of low aldosterone is electrolyte imbalance and cell dehydration, which both have negative effects on almost all physiological reactions in the body. Aside from salt cravings, low blood pressure and light-headedness, patients with adrenal fatigue often experience an irregular heartbeat, lethargy, muscle weakness, and increased thirst. These are all a result of imbalance in sodium and other minerals, including potassium and magnesium. Increasing your salt intake is one way to help restore these imbalances.
Small things can make dramatic differences
Your adrenal glands are tiny in comparison to many other organs. They are roughly the size of a walnut, yet they have enormous responsibilities in your body. When they are functioning at their peak, these small glands can help you feel energized when you need to be and relaxed when it is time for rest. Life’s demands can slowly drain the balancing power of the adrenal glands. Even the healthiest person’s adrenals, though evolutionarily equipped to handle periods of stress, become fatigued under chronic, unrelenting stress.
You have the power to lessen the burden on your adrenals, and your whole body. It doesn’t take much. In fact, the small choices you make in regards to your nutrition and eating patterns will make a difference. Here’s my advice to you: support your foundation with a high quality nutritional supplement and eat good food in harmony with your body’s natural daily rhythms. Soon you’ll find the energy you thought you lost—and it’ll be here to stay!
About the Author
Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for over 22 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and practitioner education. He is the clinical services director of Nutrisearch, a leading NZ company supplying highest quality products and services to health-care professionals throughout NZ and Australia. Eric is New Zealand’s leading on-line naturopath and specialises in adrenal fatigue, thyroid disorders and candida yeast infections. Website: www.naturopath.co.nz Blog: www.ericbakker.com