Salt: a message conductor
Your nerves need sodium. Sodium, or salt, is integral for your nerves to send its messages. When a message is sent or in other words a nerve is fired, salt rushes to the nerve to conduct the nerve impulses, causing a spike. Once the message or impulse is done firing the salt that spiked at the nerve is pumped back out.
If you have a lot of extra salt in your blood the spike caused by the nerve firing is higher and as a result it will take longer for the the salt to be pumped back out and for your nerve to be at rest again. It needs to rest before the nerve can be fired again. According to Dr. James Haxton, “You’re physically not able to fire your nerves as quickly if you have a lot of salt in your blood.”¹
A shortage is also a problem because a shortage hinders the nerve’s communication. Sylvie Tremblay, Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and a neuroscientist, “sodium deficiency can cause muscle cramps due to abnormal communication between your nerves and your muscle fibers.”² Salt is hidden in many foods.
Processed and fast foods are the biggest culprits for hiding salt. Some of the higher sodium containing products include cereals, soups, and processed meats and cheeses. Learning to read labels will help in making better choices. Fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit contain very little; whereas 1/2 cup of canned products contain between 300 and 600 milligrams.
Find the balance
For someone with neuropathy, keeping your salt intake at the proper levels is one of the many ways you can help your nerves work their best. Just like everyone else, managing salt is important for overall health. Your best defense is getting to know how to read nutrition labels and using that information to keep your daily salt intake to between 1500 and 1700 mg. The average Canadian takes double this amount.³
1. Dr. James Haxton presentation to the Calgary Neuropathy Association. November 2015.
Linda is an independent information technology business analyst and Vice President of the CNA.