By Thomas DeLauer
Stop jumping to conclusions! Find out what’s playing a role in changes to your blood pressure. HYLETE Community Captain, Thomas DeLauer will help you develop a better comprehension of how fluid balance works in your body.
For more tips and tricks from Thomas, head over to how to improve hip extension.
About Thomas DeLauer
From 280 lbs. to the magazine covers... All by living a lifestyle that is honest and real. Thomas DeLauer brings nutrition expertise along with a unique perspective on health and wellness that is everything HYLETE.
The following is a transcription of the above video:
Do you think that sodium is the reason that you're holding water? Do you think that sodium's the reason that that your blood pressure might be high? Do you think that sodium could be the reason why you're not able to reach your goals? Okay, here's the thing. We have to truly start developing a comprehension of how fluid balance works in our body before we could ever jump to conclusions and say that sodium is the culprit.
So I'm going to break it down in this video. I'm going to give you the reasoning, I'm going to also give you the tips and the tricks that you can apply into your daily life to start controlling water retention, but even potentially control hypertension as well.
So the first thing that we have to accept, and this one is a hard one for a lot of people, is that we cannot outsmart our bodies. We will never know every single thing that is going on inside our bodies. And the moment you accept that, the moment that things become a lot easier. You see, our bodies have a finite way of making sure that we're in balance all the time. And the way they do that in the case of sodium is with the kidneys.
The fact of the matter is, if you have healthy kidneys, you're always going to balance sodium. Here's how it looks, if you consume too much sodium, your body's going to work to expel it, to keep you in balance. If you consume too little sodium, the body's going to hold on to it to keep you in balance, it's not the opposite. We tend to think that we can manipulate our bodies a little bit, reduce our sodium intake, and drop some water weight and reduce our blood pressure.
Although you might be able to do that temporarily, you actually might cascade your body into a whole negative reaction that you don't want in the first place. So let's break it down a little bit more. You see, sodium maintains fluid balance in our body. The moment that we also recognize that, is the moment that we start getting a little bit clearer on things. If we have the right amounts of sodium, then our body is able to balance water where it should go.
Now, additionally, when you consume salt, your body pulls chloride ions from that salt. And chloride helps balance fluid, but also contributes to good digestion. You see, whenever we are breaking down food, we have a secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Well, hydrochloric acid has a lot of chloride in it. So if we're not getting enough salt, we're not getting the chloride that we need to produce hydrochloric acid, and literally digest our food. So you might literally get bloated from a gastrointestinal perspective if you don't have enough salt.
Let's talk about water tension and hypertension for a second. We have this hormone in our body known as "aldosterone." Aldosterone is a hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands, and it helps regulate electrolytes and it regulate fluid balance. And it helps regulate how the body balances sodium. If this hormone gets out of whack, then everything gets out of whack. But guess what? Too little sodium is what gets this hormone out of whack. You see, you have this thing called the "Renin angiotensin aldosterone hormone cycle." And what this cycle does, is basically register how much sodium you have coming in, and how many other electrolytes are in the equation, and it helps tell your kidneys what they should do.
So a couple different scenarios in the form of example. Let's say you consume way too much sodium for a second. Your body is going to do whatever it can to excrete that sodium. But let's say you didn't consume a lot of sodium. Well, when you don't consume a lot of sodium, your kidney's are going to up regulate the retention of sodium, which is going to kickstart this angiotensin aldosterone renin cycle. This cycle causes your blood pressure to increase, it causes your water retention to increase, but it also makes it so your kidneys have a little bit of a tougher time processing everything in general.
So the moment that we start kick starting the cycle, we put our body in distress. And this cycle occurs when we're too low in sodium. And believe it or not, we're almost all consuming too little sodium as a general standard. Okay, here's what's interesting. It's usually recommended that we consume about 2,300 milligrams of salt per day. That's about one teaspoon.
First of all, I don't think a lot of people are only consuming one teaspoon of salt, but if we were to follow those FDA guidelines and follow those recommendations, we would most certainly be putting ourselves in the situation to up-regulate Renin and up-regulate this aldosterone angiotensin renin cycle, and therefor hold on to more sodium. So chronically, we'd have higher blood pressure and we'd be puffier over all.
Whereas, if we just increase our healthy sodium, not just good old cruddy table salt, we'd be able to put ourselves in a great, great place, where we'd look leaner and we'd feel better and we'd have better nerve transduction as well, meaning we'd be able to send a better signal from our brain down to the rest of our body. But there's one other piece that we really have to factor in. And that's another mineral known as potassium.
See, potassium plays a very pivotal role in how sodium is treated in the body. And what's interesting is when we actually look back at the past and what we used to eat, even centuries ago, it was estimated that we were consuming about 10,500 milligrams of potassium per day. You want to take a guess at what we're consuming right now? Less than 2,000. Less than 2,000 milligrams per day coming in in the way of potassium. Why? Because we're not eating a lot of veggies, and the veggies that we are eating are super deprived in minerals and nutrients to begin with.
So this means that we don't have the right balance. Sodium and potassium contribute to this osmotic balance. If we don't have that gradient, the kidneys can't function right. Let me kind of put this in perspective. If we have a bunch of sodium and we have a bunch of potassium, they work together to create what's called a cell gradient. This gradient allows the kidneys to suck water, sort of vacuum water out of the cell or out of whatever extracellular fluid it needs to suck it out of, so that it can go into the bladder and then be excreted.
If we don't have potassium in the equation, then it can't create this gradient, and it can't really create the vacuum because it's really opposed, it's just one-sided. So it's like, you've got sodium holding water over here, potassium holding water over here. And together, it creates this balance that the kidneys can pull from.
Now, if you only have sodium and you don't have potassium, you have a really strong hold on the water, which means that the kidneys can't really create that vacuum, for lack of a better term, to pull it out. This causes water retention. In fact, there was a study that was published in the American Society of Nephrology that found, looking at 33 different case studies, different subjects, they found that potassium played a significantly larger role in hypertension than sodium.
So then, why do we always hear that we should be decreasing sodium? Well, you want to know the honest truth? Because it's a quick result. If we decrease sodium, then we temporarily have an acute decrease in hypertension. This makes people happy. This makes doctors happy. It's instant gratification, it's the American way, right? We always want that instant gratification.
So, if we decrease sodium, we make ourselves happy for a second. But the reality is, it's potassium that we really need in this case, and potassium? Well, it takes some work to get it in, because you actually have to eat your veggies. But now, I've saved the best for last. Now, if you're someone that's on a keto diet or on a low-carb diet, then you're going to be jumping for joy with this one. Because you want to know what the biggest catalyst for high blood pressure and water retention is? It's hyper-insulinemia. High levels of insulin.
Think about it like this. When you consume a bunch of carbs, your insulin levels are elevated. You want to know what insulin does? Insulin dictates to the kidneys to hold on to sodium and water. Without insulin, or without much insulin, the kidneys do their job. But as soon as insulin is in the equation, it tells the kidneys to cease all excretion of the water and the sodium, or at least slow it down.
So now, because of the high levels of insulin, you have water and sodium floating around in your body to the nth degree. And this also plays into the whole insulin receptor side of things. If we have too much in the way of carbs, or too much insulin, then our insulin sensitivity decreases, and our insulin resistance increases. This means that the cells are no longer able to absorb magnesium and potassium, of course, vital minerals to making sure that fluid balance is there.
So without that, we run into an entirely different problem. But there's one other thing. High consumption of carbs, especially in the way of high-fructose corn syrup and just fructose in general, causes a massive decrease in nitric oxide. This massive increase in nitric oxide decreases the blood flow. The decrease in blood flow makes it tighter in terms of the actual arterial wall. This means the heart has to work harder and your blood pressure consequently increases.
Now, there was a study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Investigation that found that, over a short period of time, just a couple weeks, but reducing the average glycemic index of foods that they ate, there could be a significant decrease in your overall diastolic and systolic blood pressure. Just by reducing the glycemic index.
So by eating something like a sweet potato instead of a white potato, saw a decrease in your blood pressure. See, nothing to do with salt whatsoever. But let's take it one step further and look at the Keto diet. There was a study that was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and this study took a look at two groups. 146 participants, but two groups.
One group consumed a keto diet, less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day. Another group consumed a regular, low-calorie diet along with prescription weight loss meds. And what they found after 48 weeks, long study, the Keto group ended up having a dramatic decrease in their blood pressure, systolic and diastolic, compared to the other group. In fact, the results were crazy.
So the Keto group ended up seeing a 5.9 millimeters of mercury reduction in systolic blood pressure, versus a 1.5 reduction in the non-Keto group. In the diastolic, the Keto group saw a 4.5 millimeters of mercury reduction, and the non-Keto group saw a 0.4 millimeters of mercury reduction. Huge, huge differences, just by going Keto. Because why? Insulin and carbs play a bigger role than salt does, when it comes down to your blood pressure.