Friday, 24 July 2015

A headache, and the remedy

(Originally posted 6 January 2015 here )

My head's been hurting for so long that now that I feel like I'm going to float off into outer space.

I haven't slept properly for a long, long, time. I've been looking like crap, too, forced to use lipstick (and I hate lipstick) in everyday situations just so I didn't give myself a shock when I looked in the mirror.

Pale? Oh yeah, I've been pale. And puffy (not that lipstick will fix that!)

Craving sweets like a madwoman, and eating them too, but still constantly hungry and weak. Worst, though, was the thirst. Wood heat makes a house bone dry, and bodies dry, too. I drank gallons of water to no avail, my tongue still felt like it was made of, well, felt.

Then yesterday I made a pot roast in the slow cooker. In slow cooking you put a layer of sliced veggies down first, then the meat. When I made the layer of veggies I salted them to bring out the juices while they cooked - twice. Oops.

Later, when I took out the roast and tasted the juices that would become the gravy, I thought "oh damn, that's a little salty" and then "hey ... my headache just lifted a little bit". Then "Oh man, I did it again, didn't I?"


I have this tendency, (which I thought I'd overcome, but apparently not) to forget to use salt.

When you drink extra water, you need extra salt.
When you're stressed and your adrenals are going non-stop, like during the holidays, you need extra salt.

I wasn't getting any salt to speak of, let alone extra. For days. Wait, no, make that weeks. Many weeks, oh Lordy.

Without enough salt, we can't control our blood sugar - hence my cravings for sweets.
Without enough salt, our bodies can't retain the fluids we take in - hence my terrible thirst.
Without enough salt, already taxed adrenals go haywire - hence my inability to sleep.

Headaches, confusion, puffiness, blood pressure up and down, oh yeah, and heart palpitations (those are always fun) and night sweats - lack of salt brings on all of these. And I knew this, I've been to this movie before ... but wow, when that pain and brain fog hit, you don't really have the ability to put two and two together.

I measured out a teaspoon of salt, telling myself I'd get through it in 24 hrs. That's actually less than the recommendations of the ...whoever it is that sets the RDA's of these things, but I know it's far more than I've been taking in for the last who knows how long. I let a few crystals melt on my tongue, ahhhh. I did this over and over every few minutes. The pain would lift, then come crashing down again til I did it again.

Finally, exhausted, I went to bed. Early. I lay there, not moving, waiting for sleep and began to drift, less pain, less pain until WHAM, some tiny sound startled me, the adrenalin rushed through me and I just lost it. Heart slamming in my chest, tears streaming, Paul grabbed me and held on and I calmed, a bit, but as the tears reached my lips and I tasted them, they were not in the least bit salty.

I got up. Went to my other bed, downstairs nearer the fire. I had more salt and this time reached for the motherwort tincture, my good old ally that got me through the sleepless adrenalin stage of menopause. Better. Sleep. Awake again 3 hrs later, More motherwort. More sleep. I woke up before dawn. No pain!

No pain!

I saw myself in the mirror. Less puffiness, more colour. I actually smiled.

So you see, there are dangers to too little salt. I don't eat enough prepackaged food, I guess. Even the sweets I was indulging in, if they'd been packaged crap would have had enough salt to revive me, but not home made stuff, it's just sweet (and delicious).

Embarrassed? Yep, I'm embarrassed.

So far today I've had salt in my coffee, salt on my eggs, salt in my kefir. Still only half way through my measly teaspoon of salt, even with all the times I melted some on my tongue. I will get through it, though, and maybe even some more besides. I know from experience that it could take a few days to feel and look completely normal again, but my tongue feels more like a tongue than a woolen sock and oh yeah, did I mention the headache is gone?

The "conventional wisdom" that we all must reduce our salt intake just doesn't apply to those of us who eat real food, something rarely mentioned. But if you dig through the literature you'll see that salt is absolutely essential and we all need some. Every day. Our blood is as salty as sea water - or at least it should be - and when we don't get what we need our bodies do send out a distress call. But wrapped up as I was in the stress of everything else, trying so hard to meet the obligations of "the season", I mistook my failing health for something else entirely.

So, Sisters (and Brothers, but let's face it, women are more prone to this) pay attention if you're feeling poorly, can't sleep, exhausted and emotional. It might "just" be stress, or it might be you can't handle the stress because of the lack of something essential. Like salt. Sheesh.

Most interesting to me (now that I can think again!) is the way my blood sugar levels were so out of whack. Those of you borderline or diabetic, take heed, and try a sprinkle of salt, it might help. And as adrenals and kidneys are joined, for those of you with jangled nerves and unable to sleep, maybe salt is what you're missing, too? I've just realized my eye sight is better today, the colours a little more colourful and I can see the letters on the keyboard - oy matters must have been worse than I thought. I didn't wake up drenched with sweat, either, which is the body's way of getting rid of water to preserve salt in the system.

There's plenty out there about the necessity of some salt in the diet, and the why's and wherefore's of it all.

Here's Mercola on salt (one of many articles)

Here's Chris Kesser (part of a series)

Taubes, in the NYT

Science can debate all it wants, I just know my body (well, I try..) and right now it's telling me to eat. the. damn. salt.

Update: Hilariously, in my foggy state, I mistook my measuring spoons, and my total intake for that initial 24 hrs of the salt hack was but 1/2 a teaspoon. Yet still, I had a delicious night's sleep and feel far better today than in ages.

So there you go.


  1. Hallelujah! Did you put the lipstick away too? I feel ten years older if I don't put lipstick on. But the funny thing is, I apply it in the morning and then never reapply it. So do I really need it? My morning brain says yes! ;)

    When you were cooking dinner etc., your food never tasted bland with no added salt? So happy to hear you figured it all out!

    1. LOL - I forgot to put the original post's date on here, this is an old post!

      Nevertheless - I know, weird about the salt isn't it? I never used to have a taste for it. I've been upping it lately again.

      I better fix that date snafu now ..