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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Unsalted--and Suffering

My mood, of late, has been marvelous--no small feat for someone diagnosed years ago as having treatment-resistant depression and major depressive order. (Though the research on the benefits of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating plan on mood and mental disorders is inconclusive, you may want to go here.) My mind health has been tip-top. 
Unfortunately, I have been quite fatigued at the same time. (And that is a curious combination: to have an increasingly alert mind and fatigued body.) Although I've been going to the gym (pretty) regularly, I was having to reduce the amount I lifted, and nap when I came home; I was having dizzy spells, and woke up tired.
So I looked up "fatigue and low carb" on the internet and found out that salt--or the lack thereof--might be the likely reason for my troubles. 
Over at the LowCarbFriends bulletin board, for example, Vanessa120 captured my situation in a nutshell: "If you are low-carbing and feel fatigue, headaches, muscle weakness, dizziness, mood swings, lethargy, decreased mental need salt."
Except for the mood swings, that was me all over. Quoting The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living (a new low-carb text by Jeff Volek & Stephen Phinney) she stated, "High carbohydrate diets make the kidneys retain salt, whereas a low carbohydrate intake increases sodium excretion by the kidney. Salt and water are more efficiently excreted, which is a good thing as long as you
maintain an adequate minimum sodium intake. Ignore this lesson and you are likely to suffer."
I've never liked the taste of salt, so don't usually add it to food (though that's changed a bit as I've aged--must have blown out some tastebuds somewhere along the line). She suggests consuming sea salt. I don't have any in the house, so I've been licking table salt off my palm, and chasing it with water. 
I felt perkier after consuming the salt, though still a bit tired. I think I must be in some kind of sodium deficit, and need to remember (as Vanessa120 and others have pointed out) that I need to salt each of my meals (and keep sucking down the water).

Salting the Brain
Go to Deans' site to learn the
significance of this here brain nerve
And there is a mood-brain-sodium link, too. Emily Deans, MD writes a Psychology Today blog called Evolutionary Psychiatry. In this post (Dietary Treatment for Bipolar Disorder), she looks at ketogenic (that is, extremely high-fat and low-carb and -protein) food plans long used to treat epilepsy. Deans notes that valproate, lithium, and Tegretol (carbamazepine), very toxic drugs prescribed to persons diagnosed with bipolar illness have anti-seizure properties and mood-stabilizing properties. 
And the salt connection?

She gives a chunk o' science, but in a nutshell: "all of [the drugs] work (effectively) as insulators in the brain, decreasing the ability of the neurons to send out out-of whack sodium messages leading to neurotoxic calcium overload." She posits that ketogenic diets may produce a similar and positive effect.
So there's a curious thing: low-carbing pushes sodium (and water) out of the body at much greater rates than high-carbing, yet somehow does a better job of keeping electrolytes and neurotransmitters on track (if, I believe, the appropriate sodium and water levels are maintained). 
Although my mood has improved as I've increased the fat and reduced the carbs I eat, perhaps I'm on the road to an even better mood state--if I can remember the salt.

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