Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Confessions of a Salt Addict
Yesterday, I spent from 10AM until 3:20PM at the state teaching hospital. This was because I had a bunch of appointments with my cardiologist and my vascular surgeon and everything in between.
Back in 2007, I discovered I was allergic to food preservatives: MSG, BHA, BHT, high fructose corn syrup , malto-dextrin, autolyzed yeast, food starches, hydrolized anything, any thing soy, and flavorings. That severely cut into my diet because--well gee--everything in the stores were full of food preservatives. Just about the time I had it all figured out a year later, I developed the flu, which later turned into pneumonia. I was placed on antibiotics and steroids to help combat this one. Turns out I was allergic to the medications and that landed me in the hospital.
While I was in the hospital, it was discovered I had high blood pressure. The night I was admitted into ICU, I had a heart attack. I was only 46 years old for crying out loud! Later D and I find out that I must have had high blood pressure for years (although it never really showed up at any of my extremely rare doctor visits) because my kidneys are severely damaged.
When I got out of the hospital (I had been hospitalized 9 times in 6 months), I realized that I had a choice. I could go on the way I was going and die by the time I was 50. Or I could do something that helped me live a bit longer. Because when the bottom line came up, I wasn't ready to go for a multitude of reasons.
My choices were fairly simple. I already gave up smoking--the number one reason for the high blood pressure and the kidney damage. I needed to do more than that though. I had to cut back on my salt addiction. Because I was a total salt slave.
I LOVE salty foods. The saltier the better. My favorite french fries were those I could bathe in salt and dip in malted vinegar. I loved margaritas with salted rims. I loved salty Chinese foods, Mexican/Southwestern foods, Italian foods like garlic bread made with garlic SALT. I loved me some good salty-n-spicy barbeque and grilled meats and baked potatoes drizzled in salt. I was a complete addict, total slave to the mineral.
At first I figured out (so I thought) that I just needed to cut back on some of the sodium intake. You can laugh now. I do. I found out that the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine recommends between 1500 mg to 2300 mg of sodium per day. One teaspoon of salt contains approximately 2400 mg of sodium--to give you a guideline. So I started adding up my sodium and realized that I was ingesting more than that. Not good. I started cutting back. First to 1500 mg of sodium, then 1200 mg per day, then 1000 mg per day.
It took time, but because my kidneys do not eliminate salt easily anymore, I had to learn how to do with a pinch. I love to use kosher salt because #1--It's lower in sodium and #2--the grains are big enough for me to count just 20-30 of them for that salty taste. I had to learn how to cut back on things like baking soda for homemade tortillas and bread without compromising the quality. I started experimenting with spices and freshly ground pepper to change my cravings for salt. I learned to make my own homemade salad dressings out of things like fresh lime juice, a bit of honey, green chile powder, and roasted garlic for my salads.
I'm down to 800 mg of sodium per day. The best part is my blood pressure has stabilized. That's helped my kidneys. It's also helped me to lose weight because I'm not retaining all that extra fluid. That's what my cardiologist and my vascular surgeon told me yesterday.