This morning, I spotted an interesting little piece on Medical Daily entitled, “Bloated? High-Fiber Foods Are Not to Blame; This Ingredient Is.”[i] Curious to see what they were suggesting as a possible culprit (after all, bloating is the second most common complaint I hear as a nutritionist, right after constipation, as I mentioned earlier this week), I checked it out. And I’m glad I did, as I learned something new: “…it could be that your gut is rebelling against you for eating too much salt.”
Researchers at Johns Hopkins looked at data from a trial conducted back in the 1990s on the DASH diet (“Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension-Sodium) and realized that the results pointed to salt causing more bloating than a high-fiber diet, which is usually blamed. While they are unsure as the exact mechanism of action, they suspect two possibilities: firstly, salt causes fluid retention which makes digestion less efficient. Secondly, studies suggest that salt alters the composition of the gut bacteria, leading to more gas production.
Again, this was news to me so I looked for more information. Sure enough, as just one example, last year a study conducted in Germany showed that high salt consumption kills the probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus.[ii] Even more remarkable, the high salt diet also triggered the production of proinflammatory immune cells and the mice ended up showing signs of a neurological disease similar to multiple sclerosis, as well as high blood pressure. Giving the mice Lactobacillus normalized both their blood pressure and reduced the production of these inflammatory immune cells.
The scientists then tested this on humans – 12 healthy men. They doubled their normal salt intake by giving them 6 extra grams of salt per day for 2 weeks and found that, like the mice, most had Lactobacillus eradicated from their guts. To boot, their blood pressures also increased, as had their production of proinflammatory cells.
Holy cow, right?!
Now even more curious, I took a quick look at the average salt consumption of Americans. According to the Center for Disease Control, the average adult should eat no more than 2.3 grams of salt per day but currently, we consume, on average, 3.4 grams, most of which does not come from the salt shaker on the table: “…the majority of the sodium Americans consume – more than 70% – is found in processed food and restaurant meals.”[iii]
So yeah, I’m giving you all yet another thing to be aware of in your diet! Sorry…not sorry!