We’ve long known a high-salt diet is connected with high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease. However, a recent study shows excess salt also damages healthy gut bacteria. This increases the inflammation that also contributes to high blood pressure and the development of autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
The study showed a high-salt diet killed off beneficial Lactobacillus murinus bacteria in the gut of mice. It also raised blood pressure and activated inflammation.
The mice also showed signs of encephalomyelitis, an autoimmune condition similar to multiple sclerosis in humans.
When the mice were supplemented with Lactobacillus, their blood pressure and inflammation came down.
Humans. Research on humans showed similar results. Two weeks on a high-salt diet killed off their Lactobacillus bacteria and increased inflammation.
However, if they took probiotics for a week before starting a high-salt diet, their Lactobacillus levels and blood pressure remained normal.
Can healthy gut bacteria protect against a high-salt diet?
Researchers cautioned not to think probioticots will protect you from the health risks of a high-salt, fast-food diet. When you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid, salty junk food can speed thyroid damage and worsen symptoms due to the salt, gluten, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives.
Be mindful of your salt intake
The average American eats a huge 3400 milligrams of sodium a day. Yet the USDA recommends no more than 2300mg of sodium a day — about a teaspoon of salt.
If you have hypertension, are African Americans, or middle-aged and older, you should limit your intake to about 1500 mg of sodium a day.
Healthy salt habits:
- Read food labels.
- Choose low-sodium foods.
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Consume about 4700 mg/day of potassium-rich foods, such as leafy green vegetables and vine fruits. Potassium blunts the effects of sodium on blood pressure.
- Flavor food with pepper, herbs, and spices instead of salt.
- Choose unsalted snacks with savory flavors.
Nourish good gut bacteria to protect your health
The digestive tract houses about four pounds of bacteria — your gut microbiome. Good bacteria support healthy immune function, brain function, and mood, and prevent leaky gut, SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), inflammation, and autoimmunity such as Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
Support good gut bacteria with these tips:
- Eat plentiful and varied produce; this is the best way to support a healthy gut environment.
- Supplement with probiotics when you eat veggies.
- Avoid excess sugar.
- Get regular exercise.
- Drink plenty of filtered water.
Low blood pressure?
Sufficient blood pressure is necessary to push blood carrying oxygen and nutrients into the brain and other tissues. Low blood pressure can reduce brain function and speed neurodegeneration. Many people with Hashimoto’s low thyroid have low blood pressure.
Low blood pressure often accompanies chronic stress, adrenal fatigue, autoimmunity such as Hashimoto’s low thyroid, or chronic infection.
Get your blood pressure as close as you can to 120/80.
Salt helps raise blood pressure and people with chronically low blood pressure may need extra salt. Experiment to see what level of salt intake helps you without raising inflammation.
Glycyrrhiza. Extracted from licorice root, this compound helps you retain sodium and raise low blood pressure. You can use a liposomal topical version or an oral licorice root extract.
Purchase a good blood pressure cuff to check your blood pressure throughout the day when you experiment with dosages. A return to normal blood pressure can cause a dramatic increase in overall energy and brain function.
For help with low blood pressure, dietary management of salt intake, and Hashimoto’s low thyroid contact my office.