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Health problems caused by too much salt

Judith Wills / 24 October 2014

Diet and wellbeing blogger Judith Wills finds that too much salt in her diet has triggered a series of health problems, and provides her list of anti-inflammatory, low-salt foods to help combat blurred vision, eczema and irritable bowel syndrome.

Hessian bag of salt spilling contents on to a wooden table
Excessive salt can trigger health problems

So since last week I haven't made much progress either with the exercise or losing weight.

We had friends over for supper at the weekend and they are both tall, strapping people with big appetites so I made them a crumbed goat's cheese and beetroot salad starter with ciabatta; rack of lamb crusted in herbed breadcrumbs, a potato dauphinois (as I've just got a new mandoline) with at least half a gallon of double cream in it, some token healthy vegetables, and to finish, a tiramisu, chosen by me because I had a pack of mascarpone lurking in the fridge, I haven't made one for at least two years, and it's one of my favourite puddings. Oh, and they brought chocolate to have with coffee.

Well there were quite a lot of leftovers, especially the dauphinois and the tiramisu. Husband has stronger willpower than me, so I've been eating them up.

Now all is gone, we have no naughty things in fridge or cupboard, and at last I think I have my mojo back for really truly getting started. I've decided that, rather than simply cut back in general I will do an actual delineated diet for a few weeks. What has made me go this way is research I read earlier this week linking diet and weight with the health problems that have plagued me for the past year or two.

Regular readers may recall that I've had several periods of eye trouble – dry eye and blurred vision; eczema, which arrived out of nowhere; irritable bowel syndrome – ditto, never suffered from it before; and sometimes debilitating muscle and nerve pain (in addition to the bad back and hips). Recently I also had three frightening asthma attacks in the middle of the night – something that hasn't happened for at least 20 years.

Well I have found out this week that a) all these symptoms/conditions are linked, according to new analysis of data and new research at St Thomas Hospital, London and b) that being overweight, which I am, and eating a high salt diet (which I am sure I do) may be two major factors in causing a malfunctioning – particularly an overactive - immune system, which in turn is suspected as the cause of every one of my problems, largely because it triggers inflammation.

So I have written myself a list of loosely anti-inflammatory (more on this next week), low-salt foods I can have for breakfast/snacks, lunch and supper and I will be sticking with it. The foods are all high in good nutrients and at each meal I intend to have a decent amount of protein and fat so I shouldn't ever feel hungry. There are carbs in there, but not too much, and what there is, is good.

Sweet stuff is mostly out, as the sweet tooth (another newcomer for me) that arrived a year or so ago is, I am sure, a contributory cause of my gradual weight gain over 2014. And wine is mostly out – no problem as I've really lost my taste for it in recent weeks.

I'm probably allowing myself one day a week – Saturday - to eat more freely but I am slightly wary of that as I fear it could be binge-enducing, so we'll see.

Here's my food list – I can choose from any of the items but do watch portion sizes quite rigidly. And if it isn't on the list, I must not eat it.

Anti-inflammatory, low-salt breakfast and snack foods

Natural yogurt (full fat), all kinds of unsalted nuts and seeds, apples, berries, eggs, wholegrain rye/seed crispbreads and thin oatcakes, oat bran, milled linseeds, porridge.

Anti-inflammatory, low-salt lunches

Home made vegetable and/or pulse and/or lean protein soups; salads with any version of healthy oil dressings, avocado, nuts, seeds, hummus, fish, chicken breast, small amounts wholegrain/seed bread or crispbread.

Anti-inflammatory, low-salt dinners

Lean chicken, pork, lamb, beef, duck, fish, eggs, vegetables and salad, small amounts wholegrain rice/quinoa/wholewheat pasta/sweet potato.

In addition, any fresh herbs, spices, and so on. I think there is quite a lot of scope here for eating well and enjoying it all, so let's see how I get on and I'll pass all the best meals on to you as they are boung to be suitable for almost anyone wanting a generally healthy, weight-reducing diet. My target is to lose a stone, which will bring me down to around 10 stone 12 lbs and within a normal-range BMI (I was 11-12 this last Monday, to my horror). If I can work up the courage, I'll get a photo of my current horrendous self for you next week.

I'll carry on with the exercise regime as mentioned last week – my back is now around 80% better so there's no excuse. I intend to lose 8lbs by Christmas, let's see if I do, and then the rest by the end of February. And I'm praying my negative symptoms will ease off, too. If friends come round, they are just going to have to eat healthy, and this time I mean it!

Eating for lunch today:

Husband's chicken and vegetable soup – I made some stock with a roast chicken carcass and he's added all the chicken picked off the bird, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, barley (though we sometimes use split peas or red lentils or orzo pasta), black pepper and a tiny tiny bit of salt, and that's more or less it.


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