pretzel, sodium

People prone to hypertension are often advised to cut as much salt from their diet as they possibly can. This step would reduce their sodium intake and presumably lower their risk of cardiovascular catastrophes. Many folks would interpret this as a prohibition on eating even a single potato chip or pretzel.

The Pretzel Mystery:

Q. I am battling high blood pressure. With effort, I have been able to keep my BP at an average of 125 to 135 over 82 to 87. My BP is higher in the morning than the afternoon, when it ranges from 120 to 125 over 77 to 82 range. At the doctor’s office, it was 160/95!

I have been following a low-sodium diet. But one day, I got a great deal on some pretzels and decided to indulge. I ate a pretzel before bedtime. I was surprised the next morning when my BP was 120/77.

The next night I did the same and the following morning it was 123/75. It seemed the salt was lowering my morning BP readings. So I skipped the pretzels a few nights, and my morning BP readings were higher again. I’ve decided to keep my usual daily diet as “low sodium” but have just one salty pretzel in the evening.

Controlling Blood Pressure with a Low-Sodium Diet:

A. Sodium is complicated. High salt diets are bad for health, but what about moderate sodium intake?

Some people are salt sensitive and benefit from a low sodium diet. For others, however, lowering salt intake too much may actually increase the risk for heart attack and stroke (Mente et al, The Lancet, July 30, 2016).

Excessively low sodium levels might trigger a stress reaction within the body. Some people who eat a very low sodium diet react with higher plasma renin, a natural compound that can raise blood pressure (Baudrand et al, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Nov. 2016). This could be counterproductive for blood pressure control.

Some European cardiologists disagree with the very stringent sodium restriction recommended by the American Heart Association (Mancia et al, European Heart Journal, Jan. 20, 2017).  It is clear that too much sodium is unhealthy, but it is possible that too little sodium is also undesirable. Perhaps your evening pretzel balances your intake.

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  1. Steve
    moscow, pa

    The practice of medicine seems to go through cycles – as does most everything!

    Prior to about 1950 most medical treatment was dispensed through the office of a general-practice medical doctor giving you one-on-one, custom care. And medicines were custom made at your local pharmacy.

    Through the years since, with the increasing reliance on petrochemical pharmaceuticals, things changed radically. Now, we are likely to be seen by a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner. Bottom line: Unless you are seen by an MD with exceptional diagnostic skills, or your condition is simple, you will end up in an orbit of medical ping-pong.

    Now, however, new technologies are forcing the practice of medicine back to where the standard of care provides customized care with custom-made, DNA-specific drugs. Expensive, but very effective, and the costs will eventually come down. Some really nasty diseases are getting knocked down.

    Also, more practitioners are coming to the realization that nutrition and modern nutraceuticals are often a much safer first line of treatment.

    Often, safe, simple and inexpensive “supplements” including vitamin D; magnesium, and valerian root offer complete control of mild-to-moderate cases of elevated BP.

  2. Bob
    South Carolina

    Seems to go against all previous tests that related salt and BP. Also I’ve heard that drinking a lot of water will cause sodium to be depleted from the body so another reason to take a normal or a bit higher intake of salt.

  3. Steve

    I had a relative who put more salt on his food than anyone I have ever seen. He would just pour it on to the extent everyone at the table would stop and look. He lived until his mid 80’s. He died from lung disease(scarring). One of his last blood tests showed he was low on sodium. We were astounded. Where did it all go? The more scientists say they know what’s going on the less I believe them. The body is just too complex to make generalized pronouncements. there are always exceptions. .

  4. Nancy

    I was diagnosed with Hyponatremia and ended up in hospital. I was drinking a lot of water
    and kept low sodium diet. Blood tests showed dangerously low sodium level.
    Now that I am eating salt, drinking one electrolyte beverage per
    day, my BP has lowered and heart rate is stable.
    What a difference ingesting salt has made for me. BP meds have been halved due to this.
    Now I use salt all the time and don’t even think about salt free. Also had to cut my water
    consumption in half. I was drinking about 7 bottles or glasses per day. I am 74 year old female of small frame.

  5. NorthwoodsCynic

    The sodium/BP situation is complex, and one size does not fit all. For many hypertensives, salt/sodium is not the problem. In the US,
    quite a bit of hypertension is a direct consequence of overweight or obesity. Many physicians find it difficult to tell their hypertensive patients to lose weight, as the patient probably won’t listen, and might never return to that physician. So it’s easier to advise salt restriction, even though that might have no efficacy, and to prescribe some pill or other. And then get to the next patient.

  6. HelenM

    BP meds are a lifelong commitment, as are cholesterol meds and diabetes meds. Very profitable for the pharmaceutical industry. They, in turn, sponsor medical schools, in some cases as far as dictating class topics. And, of course, the allopathic model, with lots of drugs, is what is sponsored.

    The whole medical paradigm in this country is flawed; however, change will have to begin at the schools.

    And while I am on this topic: schools have long controlled the number of students, hence doctors, in this country. Now, with more people being insured, we are experiencing a shortage of doctors. Ei: I need to see a urologist; all the local ones are booking appointments six months out. I read about this shortage and concern about it in medical journals several years ago. Nothing happened and here we are.

  7. Robert

    My Grandfather, maternal, used salt freely. Lived to be almost 93. Our Father used salt on everything he ate, lived to 88. We watch the amount of sodium intake, but sometimes wonder if we should. Our sister lived to 89, a brother still living at 91 and I am 86. A maternal Aunt lived to be 102, a paternal Aunt lived to 97. These two relatives were born in the 1800’s, didn’t go to see a Doctor unless it was an emergency. I have had heart attacks, now have seven stints and a pace maker.

    • Ray C

      I had stents put in, my follow up appt took 2 months, it should have been a week latter

  8. Susan Jewett

    I really count on all the information you send out. I also feel comfortable trusting what your articles tell us.
    Thank you and as always look forward for more!

  9. Chez

    This sounds very logical. The body needs sodium. I can only add what I do myself to keep my BP under control & hope that this might help others with high BP. Of course, it may not work for everyone.
    1. go for a walk every day (about 40 mins)
    2. drink qtr glass coconut water (which contains potassium) in the morning
    3. add tinned beetroot (couple of slices) to my lunch or dinner
    4. add fresh or dry basil sprinkled over everything – salads, meat, etc
    5. Before bed, drink a hot dark chocolate drink mixed with low fat milk at night with qtr tspn. cinnamon added. (Cinnamon is said to regulate blood sugar).
    6. HALF a calcium tablet every 2-3 days ( & yoghurt on the days i don’t take one)
    Since doing this my BP levels are much more stable,(dropping 30-40 points) & my GP hasn’t put me on the prescription drugs.
    I just wonder why GPs don’t just tell you to modify your diet for starters, maybe take a calcium supplement, see how that goes, & if that fails, then talk about the BP lowering prescription drug options. Its been my experience & that of friends of mine that GPs are compelled to put one on the meds asap. Sometimes with just one visit! I feel BP levels should be monitored & checked over a period of at least I would think 6-8 visits to the GP, before its decided to put someone on those BP lowering meds. I think GPs are well intentioned & following medical guidelines, but I do question why they are in such a great hurry to get you on the BP drugs!?

    • Mary

      I don’t know about where you live but here in the U.S. doctors would NEVER suggest beets, cinnamon, calcium or potassium for HBP. They are playing the big pharma game and pharmaceutical companies can’t make any money from you healing yourself. There are more and more people who are catching on to this game and going back to time tested home remedies that helped our grandparents stay healthy, just as Robert mentioned.
      Thank you People’s Pharmacy for keeping us informed.

    • Sally

      Chez, Doctors don’t suggest lifestyle changes because they know that most people will be making few if any changes.

  10. Harold

    Is it possible that there is something else in the pretzel, besides the sodium, that helps to control blood pressure?

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