How Low Salt Impacts Gut Health & Longevity


I recently sat down with Dr. John Glidea, who is an expert in kidneys and salt.  Here is an excerpt of that conversation:

“A proper electrolyte concentration is central to our health.  The biggest issue with absorbing electrolytes is that you need your stomach to be acidic.  Generally, the older you get, the more difficulty you have with electrolyte absorption. One of the reasons for this is that as you age, you do not absorb as much salt.  You need salt for all sorts of things, but one very important thing is that adequate salt provides the ability for you to acidify your stomach.

A plague seen in the elderly with GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) and acid reflux and other stomach problems is a result of not making enough acid while you are eating.  Because of this, the upper sphincter to your stomach doesn’t close completely.  So, the acid that you do produce leaks upward into your esophagus and causes damage. 

So, you want your stomach acid to be high during and after you eat, which happens naturally as you’re younger but that goes away as you get older.  You need acid to absorb minerals.  You also need acid to produce gastric intrinsic factor, a glycoprotein secreted in the stomach that is necessary for methyl B12 to be absorbed later in the small intestine.  Methyl B12 is vital to your metabolism.

The whole world is telling you to eat less salt. But you have a salt thermostat in your brain that is very hard to override.  As you age, you’re losing more and more salt.  Because of this, it is likely that if you have GERD or acid reflux and are older, you are low in salt.

And having low salt has consequences, as seen in a publication where people were actually hospitalized with low salt.  After given a saline IV and stabilized, these people were released.  If they returned a second time for low salt, their chance of mortality increased 273%.

The neuro endocrine system in your stomach is very important.  It needs to be dynamic just like every other system in your body.  So, taking medications that change the dynamics of this system can be problematic.  You want high stomach acid concentration during meals and low stomach acid concentration in between meals.

And this is why you should not drink water or liquids during meals as well.  Water dilutes the high acid levels that your stomach is trying to maintain.  Additionally, if you have high stomach acid in between meals, drinking a glass of water has been shown to be the same as taking a Tums.”

We will be having more conversations with John about salt in the future.  This is the tip of the iceberg on what he knows.  If you have a question related to this topic, please leave a comment below.


7 Comment

Jo, since we’re talking about a dilution issue, one possible solution is to minimize the amount of liquid you drink to swallow your pills.

Coordinate with your clinician and figure out salt to dissolve in liquid for her to drink.

To minimize the dilution of your stomach acid, don’t drink 20 minutes before and 40 minutes after eating.

Thank you Dr Glidea! So how can we get more salt to be absorbed in our bodies? Can we simply use more? And is it safe to liquify Betaine HCL to ingest orally? My mother turned 91 this August, and she can’t swallow pills anymore. She dissolves all of her vitamins and drinks them. But I’m afraid that the Betaine HCL might harm her esophagus, so she doesn’t take it. She has some hypertension issues, so she’s been curbing her salt intake for decades.

I’ve listened to Gildea in several podcasts/conversations, and highly respect his expertise. I’m aware that he and his wife take a few key supplements. Most supplements are recommended to be taken ‘with food.’ And that requires liquid to swallow them. I, and I’m sure others listening to this convo excerpt, will scratch our heads about how to refrain from drinking water/liquids with our food, but also accomplish the task of swallowing our supplements. Please offer some scientific and dilemma-solving advice on this front. Thank you.

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