Over recent years, a number of new diets have become popular among health conscious individuals. The most popular include: the low carb high fat (LCHF) diet, as well as the ketogenic and carnivore diets. In this video-interview I discuss how diet affects electrolyte balance. Electrolytes, minerals like salt and potassium are essential “cofactors” for enzymes involved in metabolism. They are essential, meaning we cannot make them on our own. We have to ingest them through diet. Each of these new diets differs in available electrolyte cofactors. In addition, each of these new ways of eating modifies how much insulin we use. Insulin holds onto sodium and so as we reduce our insulin need, we also reduce sodium. Since electrolytes affect everything from cell firing to heart rhythm, it is important to consider whether one’s chosen diet provides sufficient quantities of these critical elements.
I have written about the electrolytes salt and potassium on several occasions, see here and here and here. I have also written about how thirst is an indicator of electrolyte balance or imbalance, see here. In the video, we discuss salt thirst from a different perspective, and sodium requirements with different diets. US Dietary Guideline recommends 2300 mg sodium (sodium is 40% of salt) for the general population and 1500 mg sodium for the elderly and those with heart disease. This is in contrast to research showing that such low sodium actually increases mortality. Accordingly, the ideal amount is around 3500-4500 mg sodium a day for all populations. Another study found that 4000 – 6000 mg sodium was ideal for non-hypertensive individuals.
Salt, Edema, Thirst, Insulin, and Hydration
In diets more heavily focused on animal proteins, managing hydration can become difficult without proper electrolyte support. Edema, or swelling, is a common symptom of improper electrolyte balance and dehydration. Because these diets reduce circulating insulin, and as a result also sodium and water levels, the body becomes dehydrated. To conserve water and salt, the body stores it in the tissues, leading to edema. Rather than reducing water and salt, an increase in both is required to prevent edema. Thirst may also follow, but drinking water is often an inappropriate response.
I also cover protein to some extent in this interview. Much is yet to be clarified about the amount of protein that is ideal. I have written about protein before, you will find it here.
I hope you enjoy this video discussion.
Keto & Carnivore: Electrolytes, Water Retention & More
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This article was first published in April 2020.