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Of all the substances added to our foods, salt (chloride of sodium) is the only one that is said to be indispensable. Many reasons are given for the use of salt and I shall discuss the most important of these in this chapter; but the two basic reasons for its use are commonly stated about as follows: 1. Salt is highly essential to animal life; and 2. Animals recognize its necessity by going to "salt-licks" for their periodic supply. I shall discuss these two basic assumptions first, after which, I shall consider some of the minor reasons for its use.
A salt is the result of the combination of a metal with an acid. There are many of these known to the chemist, as for example, sodium carbonate, sodium phosphate, etc. Only a few salts are known to the layman as such. Epsom salts, Glauber salts, Rochelle salts, smelling salts and bath salts, etc., are well-known salts. No one thinks it necessary to eat these salts daily. Although sodium, carbon and phosphorus are all essential ingredients of the living body, nobody thinks it essential to eat sodium carbonate or sodium phosphate daily. Only sodium chloride (a combination of sodium and chlorine) is thought to be essential as a daily addition to our diet.
Sodium chloride (common salt) exists in the soil and exists in all parts of the world. The waters of the ocean and salt lakes of the world are abundantly supplied with it as it is washed out of the soil by the rains and carried down the streams to the lakes and oceans. The drying up of salt lakes, of ocean arms and marshes, etc., has left large deposits of salt in many parts of the earth. Other parts are not supplied with the salt deposits. Few of these deposits are above ground. Almost all of them are covered over with and intermixed with soil. Outcroppings of salt are so rare that salt is not available to animal life in most parts of the globe.
Salt is plentiful in Northern Europe, scarce in China, Korea and India, scarce in the Malayan Peninsula , unknown in Western Africa, plentiful in North America, but scarcely known to the pre-Columbian Indians of this continent.
By and large the white man gets much salt, the yellow man some, the brown man little and the black man none at all. These facts are generally known to scientists, yet they continue to ignore the fact that whole tribes and races have maintained health and strength for many centuries without the use of salt.
Is salt a necessity of life? There are a number of salts that are essential to animal (and plant) life. These are the various organic salts synthesized by plants in their processes of growth. Iron salts, copper salts, calcium salts, magnesium salts, etc., are needed, but these are not the salts referred to when salt is declared a necessity of life.
Eating salt is a violation of the provisions of nature that plants shall subsist upon the soil and animals shall subsist upon the spare products of the plant. We try to skip the vegetable and go directly to the mineral kingdom for our food when we eat salt. We contend not only that the only salts that are useful to the body are those contained in foods, but also that if salts are taken in any other form they are positively injurious.
Salt is wholly innutritious and affords no nourishment to the body. It is both indigestible and unassimilable. It enters the body as a crude inorganic salt which the body cannot utilize, it is absorbed unchanged, goes the rounds of the general circulation as an unassimilated salt, and is finally eliminated as such.
Concerning the popular superstition that animals crave and seek salt Sylvester Graham says, "As to the instinct of the lower animals, it is not true that there is any animal in Nature, whose natural history is known to man, which instinctively makes a dietetic use of salt."
It is such an obvious fact that in a state of nature few, if any, animals ever receive salt from any source, save from their foods, that it should not require statement. The enormous herds of bison that once roamed the plains of America did not get salt. The numerous herds of wild horses that are now all but extinct did not receive salt. There are still large numbers of deer in America and these do not receive salt. Birds, rabbits, wolves, and other wild animals that still exist in abundance are not salt eaters. The vigor and fine condition maintained by the bison, horse and deer reveal how false is the contention that salt is essential to animal life. In those parts of the world where salt deposits are scarce or non-existent, so that man is without salt, the animal life of the regions is also without salt.
Popular superstition has it that animals frequent "salt licks" to procure their regular supply of salt. This superstition is held by scientific men who should know better.
Where are these much-talked of "salt-licks?" I have been unable to find one or to find anybody who has ever known where there is one. I have talked to large numbers of men who have roamed all over the whole of the western part of the U. S., from Kentucky to the Pacific and none of them have ever seen a salt lick. Some of them have never even so much as heard of such things. If they exist, they must be very rare and but a few animals ever have access to them.
A salt lick, if such a thing exists at all, would be an outcropping of a salt deposit. Salt deposits are not laid down in great numbers all over the world, but are commonly far apart. Rarely, if ever, are there outcroppings of them. This means that salt licks, if they ever exist, are so rare that few animals ever have access to them. Brine springs do exist, but they are not common. Comparatively few animals have access to these.
Mr. Colburn says: "I have diligently inquired of old hunters and pioneers for confirmation of the story that deer and buffalo are in the habit of visiting regularly the salt springs or 'licks,' in order to eat salt. I have not been able to find one who has seen the licking process himself. There is reason to believe that hunters do take their positions at certain brine springs to find their game, and that the deer at certain seasons of the year resort to them--precisely why, is not determined. Nothing of the kind is claimed of the buffalo; that is a tradition."
I myself have been over considerable stretches of this fair land and have never seen a "salt lick." What is more, I have inquired of many old hunters, and have been surprised to find that most of these did not even know what I was talking about. One of these, of whom I inquired, had hunted deer over Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona and said he had never heard of a "salt lick."
If it is true, as Mr. Colburn seems to think, that deer do frequent brine springs at certain seasons of the year, it is not possible that all deer do so, for there are vast stretches of land in this country that are or were, at one time, inhabited by deer, where no such springs exist. This is especially true of the plains country of our great southwest, where a spring of any kind is a novelty.
Whatever may be true of wild animals, it is generally agreed, in this country at least, that domestic animals, at least some domestic animals, require salt. Salt for these animals is taken for granted.
Man lived on the earth for ages before he acquired the salt-eating habit. Livestock were introduced to salt eating by man and did not bring the practice with them from their wild state. It is probable, in view of the comparative scarcity of salt until recent times and in view of its high cost, that is was long after man developed the salt eating habit before he introduced the practice to his livestock. Untold billions of men and animals have been born on this earth, lived their regular life cycles, and passed away without ever having tasted salt once in their life times.
It is not probable that when the first tribe began the use of salt, the people at the same time began to feed salt to their stock, if, indeed, at that time, they had domesticated any animals. Its use as a "food" for stock probably began much later and, no doubt, spread even slower than its use by man. We know that, even now, not all animals on the farm and ranch are given salt. We know, moreover, that there is a common superstition among farmers that salt is fatal to certain animals--hogs and chicken, for example.
Speaking of domestic animals Mr. Colburn wrote: "It is a common notion that salt is necessary to the well-being, if not the preservation, of horses and horned cattle. It is, I am persuaded, a great mistake. In the first place, although it is undoubtedly true that some domestic cattle will eat salt, and follow impatiently to get it, it is not true of wild cattle. I am assured by many of the great herders in Texas, Colorado and California, that the native cattle are not fed salt, never see it, and will not eat it if offered. Of course it is a transparent absurdity that salt could be hauled hundreds of miles to feed these great inland herds; and it is not done as is supposed."
In the early days of the cattle industry, which had its beginning in Texas, and spread from there throughout the west, it is true that salt was not hauled to the cattle and horses. With the coming of the railroads, many ranchmen do supply salt for their cattle and stock, not from any need for it on the part of the cattle, but simply because popular superstition holds that they require it. No evil effects have been observed to result in cattle deprived of its use.
In a letter dated March 28, 1864, Mr. G. H. Ambrose, of Lexington, Mo., wrote to the Herald of Health as follows: "I have raised stock for fourteen years past without salt, and with satisfactory results. I know of several tribes of Indians in Oregon who occupy the country between the Rocky Mountains and the Coast Range, who have raised extensive herds of fine fat cattle as one would wish to look at, without the use of salt. Reared in that manner, stock will not use it, which proves conclusively that it is an artificial and morbid appetite. Anyone who has lived in Oregon in its early settlement, can bear testimony to the fact that stock was almost universally raised without salt. I regard the experiment of stock raising in Oregon as conclusive and satisfactory. I have seen thousands of head of stock raised in that country without salt, and when grown up they would not use it, and were as large, thrifty, fat and sleek as any like number of stock to be found anywhere. I have not written this for publication, but to call your attention to the fact that stock do quite as well if not better without the use of salt, at least my experience so teaches me; and I have tested it in Oregon for seven years and in this state the same length of time, and all the time owning several hundred head of cattle."
At my father's dairy, although the milk cows were given salt regularly in their diet, the calves were never given salt, nor were the dry cows in the pasture. The horses and mules were given salt but no salt was fed to the chickens and hogs. Our ducks and guineas were never given salt. As a boy I had a flock of pigeons which were never fed salt. We had a large pasture over which our animals grazed at will, but there were no "salt licks" thereon. The wild life on the pasture and on the wooded section did not get salt. There were no "salt licks" known to farmers and hunters in that whole region of the state. This was in North Texas. My Health School is in South Texas. I am unable to learn of a salt-lick anywhere in this region. The squirrels and rabbits here on the Health School grounds do not get salt. Neither do the quail, doves, cardinals, mocking birds, sparrows, etc., that abound here.
About 1914 I made my first experiment of withholding salt from a cow. I placed her with my father's dairy herd, every member of which was given salt regularly in her food. Every cow received salt except mine. Otherwise her feeding and care was the same as that received by the other cows. She did not lose health, there was no falling off in milk production and she developed none of the symptoms of "salt hunger" popularly supposed to result from lack of salt.
At the Health School a stallion and a mare were kept for more than three years without salt with no evidences of "salt hunger" or failing health. Indeed, they both maintained splendid health and great vigor. The little stallion, the first offspring of the mare, was reared from before birth until nearly three years old without salt. Beautifully developed, a fine glossy coat of hair, as full of life as colts proverbially are, and in as fine condition as any animal can possibly be, the playful little fellow never knew what it was to be even slightly ill.
The finest oxen raised in Great Britain are not given salt. The enormous herds of cattle of the West are not given salt. Many have raised animals without salt as an experiment. Dr. Kellogg raised deer without salt and they refused to eat it.
On the other hand, cattle have to be taught to eat salt. It is put in their food, sprinkled on hay, after being dissolved in water, etc., until they acquire the salt eating habit. Often, when a man possesses but one or a few cows, he sprinkles the salt on their backs, where it works down through the hair and causes the cows to lick it off. In this way they acquire the habit. Cattle with the salt eating habit are like humans with the same habit--they like salt and will eat it if offered. The writer knows, however, from extended experience and observation, that cattle do not instinctively turn to salt under any condition, but must be taught its use.
Otto Carque says: "Extensive experiments made in Germany with the horses of ten squadrons of cavalry and two batteries of artillery, during two years, showed that the animals, if they had their choice, preferred the unsalted fodder. If half an ounce of salt was added to their daily rations, they ate them without difficulty, but if an ounce was given they showed apparent disgust. In every instance the use of salt was injurious rather than beneficial and did not increase the strength of the animals. With cows, a very small amount of salt increases the quantity of milk, but deteriorates the quality."
And thus the supposed instinctive use of salt is effectually disposed of. The supposed need for salt is seen to be not real. Salt is not the one exception to the rule, that we cannot take mineral elements into our body in their crude state and make use of them.
Farmers and dairymen think that feeding salt to cows causes them to drink more water and, as a consequence, produce more milk. If this were true, the milk would be watery. But careful experiments by one of the largest dairying industries in the country have shown this to be false. They thus confirmed by large scale experiment, what I found in a limited test.
Although salt is thought to be necessary to some domestic animals, it is not thought to be essential to all. It is commonly considered to be fatal to hogs, pigeons, chickens, birds and dogs. We are told of these animals that excrete considerable nitrogen, that, if they are fed salt in small quantities they soon die and that autopsies of these animals reveal the liver and kidneys to be studded with uric acid concretions. (Milo Hastings found, by experiments on chickens, that salt does not kill them).
Only within recent years have the manufacturers of prepared foods for poultry begun to add salt to their abominable concoctions. Dogs were formerly not given salt, it not being supposed that meat-eating animals require salt, but salt is now added to the prepared dog food with which dog fanciers are killing their dogs.
It is asserted that salt-fed cattle will fatten faster than those not so fed. This may be true, at least the experiments of Boussingault point to the fact that this is true for a time. His trial showed that ten cattle, salted and fed alike in other respects, gained in weight, some forty pounds in about one-hundred days, over ten unsalted cattle, and that, otherwise, both classes were equally good in health at the end of this period. The experiment made to determine the relation of salt eating to milk production did not reveal any tendency of the salt-fed cows to take on fat faster than the cows that did not get salt. In the case of healthy human beings, although, as far as we know, no such experiment has ever been conducted, one thing is certain, everyone who indulges in salt does not gain weight. Many of them lose weight.
Again, it should be borne in mind, that, if it were an actual gain in healthy flesh, due to temporary stimulation of the digestive organs of the cattle, one hundred days would hardly be a sufficient length of time in which to show the real and lasting effects of salt eating. But it was no gain in healthy tissue--in muscles, in health, in power. Rather it was a gain in fat. And it is a well-known fact that fat is a disease and not a desirable acquisition. We do not want to produce fatty degeneration.
If it were true that salt is indispensable we should find its use universal among mankind and nearly so among the lower animals. This is not the case. There are numerous peoples who do not use salt. Indeed, the greater part of the human race have lived and died without ever knowing of its existence.
Salt seems first to have been used as a preservative, although, it is more than likely that its use dates from the time the first voodoo priest used it in some fantastic and weird ceremonial to drive away a ghost. It may have first been used by the shaman as a medicine.
Trall says, Hydropathic Encyclopedia, Vol. I, Page 336; "Millions of the human race have lived healthfully, and died of a good ripe old age, without employing it at all; . . . . furthermore, hundreds of thousands of human beings now live in the enjoyment of good health, who have never used salt either as a food or a condiment."
Richard T. Colburn, in The Salt Eating Habit, says: "I think it would not be difficult to show that there are whole nations and tribes of people who do not eat salt. I am told by an Italian, who has lived among them, that the Algerines do not. I was myself informed while in the region that the Indian tribes inhabiting the banks of the Columbia and Puget Sound do not. It is noteworthy also that those tribes are among the most graceful, intelligent and industrious tribes in North America, and are fine in personal appearance. I think that there is little doubt that the inhabitants of the islands of the Pacific Ocean lived from a period of vast antiquity, explorers have been left for weeks, months and years without a supply of salt by accident or otherwise, and have survived without apparent injury. Finally, there are many persons in the United States who have voluntarily abandoned the use of salt for periods ranging from one to twenty years (and for aught I know longer), not only without injury but with increased health, strength and activity. So far from being natural to man, the instincts of children, especially when born free from an inherited bias in its favor, go to show by their rejection of it that it is unnatural. Like the taste for coffee, tea and various seasonings, it is an acquired one; few, if any children but will prefer unsalted food."
Bartholomew found the Chinese of the interior to be healthy and that they do not use salt.
The Bedouins consider the use of salt ridiculous. The highlanders of Nepal refuse salt, as do the Kamschatdales. Millions of natives of Central Africa have never tasted salt. The Darmas of Southwest Africa "never take salt by any chance."
The author of The History of Robinson Crusoe gives a somewhat amusing account of how Friday was taught to eat salt. His picture of Friday's antipathy to salt is instructive. In Thoreau's account of his life in the woods, he refers to salt as "that grossest of groceries," and tells us that he discontinued its use and found that he was less thirsty thereafter while suffering no ill effects. He also says that he found that the Indians whom he encountered in his wandering did not use it.
Dr. Benjamin Rush, who made a careful study of the habits of the American Indians a hundred years ago and found them to be very healthy, says: "Although the interior parts of our continent abound with salt springs, yet I cannot find that the Indians used salt in their diet till they were instructed to do so by Europeans."
Sylvester Graham tells us (Lectures), Mr. Wm. Bryant, of Philadelphia, who went with a company of 120 men, under the U. S. Government, beyond the Rocky mountains, to conduct to their far Western homes, the Indian chiefs who were brought to the seat of government by Lewis and Clark, says that for more than two years they lived as Indians did, without tobacco, narcotic or alcoholic substance and without salt. Most of these men suffered with various chronic complaints when they left the East, but all of them were restored to good health during their sojourn in the wilds of the West.
Salt is abundant in America, yet few Indian tribes knew of its existence. It was not used by any of them as an article of diet. The few that did use it, used it as a "medicine."
A Dr. Hoffman of the U. S. Army, writing in the San Francisco Medical Press in 1864, gives us an account of experiences he had with some of the "wild Indians" who inhabited the Western plans, as he passed, with the army over these in 1849. The Indians frequently visited their camp. He says: "On many occasions, I myself have offered them some surplus articles of food left by us after our meals. Soups and meats cooked in the usual way and seasoned with salt, they would invariably refuse, after tasting, saying in their own language, it was not good. Of the same kind of meats cooked without salt, they would eat heartily and with gusto. Bread, hard bread, crackers, etc., they would also eat, but anything they could taste salt in they would invariably refuse." He says that even when they were hungry they would refuse foods in which they could taste salt. "In other bands (of Indians) that we saw, it (salt) is an article of medicine rather than an article of food."
Describing these men he says: "A more athletic, hearty, stout and robust class of men cannot be found in the world than these very Indians of whom I am writing, who never used this article (salt) in any shape. Many of them are more than six feet high, others of medium size, and they will endure more hardship, stand more fatigue, have better lungs, suffer less from sickness, live longer, on a general average, than the white race, who have all conveniences."
The historian, Prescott, tells us that it required the lapse of several generations after the conquest of Mexico to reconcile the Tlascalans, "a bold and hardy peasantry," of Mexico, to the use of salt in their food. The Indians of Northern Mexico still use no salt in their food. Those of the Hudson Bay district and a few isolated regions still thrive without salt.
If Hudson Bay Indians are forced to eat salted meat, they first soak it over night in an abundance of water. They then add fresh water and boil it for an hour. They pour this water off and add fresh water and cook again.
Vilhjalmar Stefanson found the Esquimaux to be very healthy, yet none of these peoples ever use salt. Indeed Stefanson tells us that they greatly dislike it. The Siberian natives have no use for salt. In Africa most Negroes live and die without ever hearing of this "essential of life." In Europe for long periods salt was so expensive that only the rich could afford it.
About 1912 I gave up the use of salt. Up to that time I had been a heavy user of salt. At first I missed it from my foods. After a time I did not relish foods in which I could detect the taste of salt. I enjoy the fine delicate flavors of the foods much more than I ever enjoyed the flavor of salt. I have never missed salt after the first weeks after giving it up. I have never had a craving for it. My health has not suffered in any manner from lack of it.
I have brought up three children--ages 23, 20 and 17--without salt. Their mother did not take salt before and during pregnancy nor during lactation. These children have been reared from conception without salt. They are well developed, strong and healthy and brimming over with energy and enthusiasm. Although they were reared as vegetarians, who are supposed to need salt most of all, they have not needed salt.
Since the time Graham started his crusade and condemned the use of salt along with all other condiments, literally hundreds of thousands of people in America have discontinued the use of salt, many families of children have been reared without it, and no harm has ever come from abstinence from this "essential of animal life."
For more than twenty years I have excluded salt from the diets of my patients and have watched them get well without this supposed-to-be indispensable article of "diet." Some of these patients have not returned to the use of salt after leaving my care. Some of them have reared their children without it. Nowhere has any evidence of any harm from a lack of salt been observable.
Why, with all the historical, observational, empirical and experimental evidence that is available bearing on this subject, will men continue to declare that "salt is essential to animal life"? Why will they ignore the facts and cling to a superstition?
Bunge believed that salt is essential with vegetable foods to counteract the excess of potash. This notion was exploded by Renmerich and Kurz, who, by careful experiment, showed that salt does not have the effect Bunge attributed to it.
Bunge was a German chemist, who lived more than eighty years ago. He stated that vegetarians need and crave salt, whereas meat eaters need and crave it less. The theory was based on a misconception of "biochemistry" and not upon observations of vegetarians. As a rule, to which there are many exceptions, vegetarians abstain from salt and these abstainers experience no craving for salt. There is never a need to eat common table salt.
Vegetarians who crave salt are those who so prepare their vegetables that the organic salts that exist so abundantly in them are lost. All of the organic salts are soluble in water, and when the vegetables are boiled and the water thrown away, there is naturally a craving for salt--not, however, for common table salt, but for the organic salts of foods. There are thousands of vegetable feeders who not only do not have a craving for salt but who positively loathe it.
Prof. Morgulis, who accepts the antiquated notion of Bunge, that vegetarians and vegetable eating animals crave and must have salt, admits, at the same time, that "the lack of common salt in the food, of itself, has no ill effects on the general metabolism or on the digestive function." He points out that there is a much greater excretion of chlorine through the urine during the early part of a fast than in the latter stages, and says, "it is certain that most of this chlorine comes from the salt added as condiment to the food."
He tells us that when Grunewald kept rabbits on a diet practically free from chlorides, "the elimination of chlorides in the urine ceased almost at once," but no ill effects were, otherwise, observed. He adds that when "diuretin was administered after the excretion of chloride stopped as much as one gram of chloride was caused to be eliminated, and if the dosage was repeated several times symptoms of toxemia appeared such as extreme muscular weakness, trembling, paralysis of hind limbs which soon also extended to the anterior of the body and which, in a few days, resulted in death. The chlorine content of the blood actually diminished 50 and in some extreme cases even 75 per cent."
Diuretin (theobromin sodiosalicylate) is a poisonous powder or drug given to increase the flow of urine. The experiment described above proves that chlorine is extracted from the tissues of the body in neutralizing and expelling it. This loss of chlorine, from the organic compounds of the body, resulted in death. This does not prove that ordinary table salt is valuable to the body. The statement by Prof. Morgulis that "this effect was produced entirely through the withdrawal of chlorine from the tissues and not by the diuretin itself, since this had no effect whatever when administered in conjunction with sodium chloride" does not prove that we need table salt, it only proves that we should not take diuretin. For, while diuretin may combine with inorganic salt and, while this may save the cell-chlorides, it by no means follows that inorganic salts of chlorine are of use to the tissues of the body. The body can utilize sodium and chlorine only when received from foods in organic combinations.
Prof. Morgulis repeats the old myth about animals craving salt and seeking salt licks and says, "hunters of deer, for instance, have always exploited this instinct, waiting for their game near the salt licks." Hunters have, also, always exploited the instinct of the ostrich to hide itself from danger by burying its head in the sand, waiting for their game near the sand dunes. The ostrich never runs his head in the sand and the deer never seeks the "salt licks" and hunters do not even know where the "salt licks" are. This salt lick myth is like the vegetarians' craving for salt. The few vegetarians who use salt, use it sparingly. Most vegetarians do not use salt--most meat eaters use it freely. I do not know why "orthodox" men continue to lie about vegetarians. They cannot plead ignorance of the fact, for the facts are obtainable and it behooves a man of science to obtain the facts before he writes.
Colburn says: "It should not be overlooked that the manufacture and distribution of salt as an article of commerce is a thing of history, and has attained its enormous dimensions within the past century and a half. It is inconceivable that in past times the population of the world, made up as it was largely of pastoral and nomadic people inhabiting the interior of the great continents, should have supplied themselves with salt as an ingredient of food as we do. The omission of any mention of it in the older chronicles and even among the more perfect records of the classics, except at the luxurious tables of the rich, goes to confirm this supposition."
It is everywhere admitted that taken in large doses sodium chloride is an "irritant poison." In smaller doses it is said to be a beneficial stimulant. This is a medical delusion. Stimulation and irritation are identical phenomena. The only difference between the stimulation of small doses and the irritation of large doses is that of degree, not of kind. Farmers use salt as an insecticide.
It is generally known that salt is commonly proscribed by regular physicians in diseases where elimination is impaired. This is especially so in kidney disease. Physicians employ a salt-free diet in epilepsy, in Bright's disease and often in tuberculosis, because of its deteriorating influence upon the nerves, kidneys and lungs. I can discover no reason why the detrimental influence should not be eliminated in all states of disease and in health, as well.
Some individuals are said to be "allergic" to salt in the usual quantities eaten. So strong is the delusion that salt is indispensible, these people are not advised to discontinue its use, but to use it in reduced quantities.
Salt is a powerful irritant. A small bit put into the eye or a cut will reveal its irirtating power. Put into a cut or wound it causes a sharp pain. Taken into the body it has the same effect upon the tissues and nerves.
Salt is everywhere met with vital resistance--this resistance constituting its so-called "stimulating" effect. A teaspoonful of salt given to a child or to a non-user increases the heart beat ten or more beats a minute. A teaspoonful dissolved in a glass of water and swallowed, if the sensibilities of the stomach have not been too greatly impaired by the previous use of salt, will occasion vomiting. Or, much mucous is poured into the stomach to protect its delicate lining and the salt is flushed into the intestine, where more protective mucous is poured out upon it and it is hurried along to the colon and expelled. It occasions a diarrhea. In either case, it is hurriedly expelled from the system, because the organic instincts recognize that it is wholly innutritions and indigestible and an irritant.
All irritants "act" as "stimulants." The repeated use of any irritant results in debility and atony, these developing in a degree commensurate with the irritating effect of the substance. Such irritation or "stimulation" is wasteful of vitality and is never justifiable.
If salt is taken in small quantities, it is not met by such a violent reaction. Part of it finds its way into the blood, to be eliminated by the skin and kidneys. It is excreted as salt, having undergone no change in its passage through the system. The sweat of the salt eater is salty, it tastes of salt. The writer has many times seen the shirts of salt users, who were laboring hard in the heat of summer and sweating profusely, become stiff with salt. Salt could be seen upon the shirt, which smelled of brine. Such sweat is irritating to the skin and its glands. The sweat of the non-user is not so salty, and does not taste so strongly of salt.
It has long been observed that salt aggravates some conditions of organic deterioration, this being due to the inhibition it places upon the elimination of certain of the metabolic wastes of the body. For example, in Bright's disease, salt increases the edema (dropsy). Mayer mentions salt as one of the causes of war-malnutritional-edema. Berg agrees with him. In rheumatism or eczematous conditions the so-called "salt-rheum" is increased. Dr. Haig, of England, proved that the elimination of uric acid is impeded by salt. It increases blood pressure and acts as a stimulant. Its anti-vital properties make it an excellent embalming or pickling agent. Along with oils and spices, the ancient Egyptians used a salt solution in their mummy-wrappings to preserve the bodies.
"Salt dissolved in water in a certain proportion and taken internally before breakfast, cleanses the intestines," says one author. This only means that salt is an irritant and that taken in this way it induces rapid peristalsis--a so-called laxative effect. This very effect proves its unsuitableness for human consumption. It is also due to this irritating effect that salt is used in various baths to "stimulate" the skin. Stimulation is excitement. I recall one patient to whom a "salt-rub" was so "stimulating" that it left him exhausted and depressed for the remainder of the day.
Salt causes a decay of the sense of taste until it is no longer capable of appreciating the final delicate flavors of foods and loses its power of discrimination. The use of salt, the same as the use of spices, etc., depraves the sense of taste and weakens or utterly destroys our powers of discriminating between the various food substances eaten. Salt is used in many eating places in unusually large amounts with the object of concealing lack of flavor in inferior or spoiled foods. The one who habitually uses salt does not relish his food if no salt has been added. It is true, also, that the longer the use of salt is continued the more salt is required to produce the desired effects. Salt disguises the natural taste of food, thereby, hindering the precise adaptation of the digestive juices to the nature of the food eaten. It cannot, in any true sense, improve or aid digestion, as is often claimed. Rather, it interferes with the normal action of the digestive organs and impairs their powers and sensibilities. It always, in proportion to the freedom with which it is used, diminishes gustatory enjoyment.
The sense of taste is not only a very important and necessary factor in adapting the digestive juices to the food eaten, but it is also a guide to the amount of food to eat. A perfectly normal taste is a perfect and reliable guide as to when to cease eating, providing one is eating natural unseasoned food. A perfectly normal taste is rare. If, however, the taste is "stimulated" and confused by rich spices and condiments, dressings and flavorings, it cannot serve this true function. Salt is an equal offender in this respect with these other articles.
Although the writer was once addicted to the heavy use of salt, and did not enjoy his meals without additions of salt crystals, he has not used salt for over thirty years and does not relish food containing even small quantities of salt. My wife and children do not employ it, the children never having tasted it. I do not feed it to my patients in my institution.
When patients are first deprived of salt they have the same experience I had when first I discontinued its use--the food tastes flat, insipid, dead. Only a short time passes, however, and then the foods yield many fine, delicate flavors, which taste a thousand times better than salt.
Salt is said to make foods more palatable. It is said that "unsalted or feebly salted foods are extremely insipid. Only those who are compelled to eat such foods for a considerable time can realize how indispensable ordinary salt is to all of us. In the case of patients whose appetite is already affected by illness, severe restriction of ordinary salt becomes a fearful hardship. Sooner or later it undermines the patient's desire for food and he may be seized by an unaccountable aversion to eating and at times may decline any food."
It is said by those who eat conventional foodless foods prepared in conventional ways that the amount of "natural salts" contained in foods are not sufficient to render these foods palatable. Therefore sodium chloride must be added. This is not the fault of nature's products, but of the manufacturer's and the cook's arts. It is folly to rob the foods of their tasty, usable, organic salts and then add to them a useless irritant.
One author tells us that "one reason for the universal use of salt for seasoning foods is that it sharpens the sense of taste and therefore brings out the characteristic flavor of different foods and thus gratifies the palate." It would be difficult to put more fallacy into one short sentence than this author has succeeded in getting into this sentence. Salt is not, and never was, universally used to season foods. It does not sharpen the sense of taste, but blunts it. It does not bring out the flavors characteristic of the various foods, but smothers them. The salt eater tastes the salt rather than the food. Salt does not gratify the palate of any save the man who has cultivated the salt-eating perversion.
Adding salt to apples, canteloupes, watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery and other delicious foods, as is done by many salt eaters, smothers the fine delicate flavors in these foods--flavors that are as superior to that of salt as day is to night--and serves no useful purpose.
One author says: "Another reason is that the body absolutely needs some salt for various purposes and this need causes a craving for it." This craving for salt is pure fiction. It exists only in the imagination of salt eaters. If these people will do without salt long enough to recover from their perversion, they will discover that both the need and the craving for salt are fictions. He says: "The craving for salt is so deeply rooted in human beings that no other condiment is able to replace salt satisfactorily."
The amount of salt used by peoples and individuals is in no sense correlated with any need for salt, but with custom and individual taste.
He says: "Children take much less salt than adults, not only because they eat less food but also because their craving for salt is considerably less." Young smokers also crave less tobacco than hardened perverts. The salt-eating habit is progressive. Increasing dullness of the sense of salt, caused by salt using, calls for increasing quantities of salt to give the desired taste to the food.
Salt-eating is often advocated on the ground that it aids digestion. It is even said to be essential to the formation of gastric juice. Strange is it not, if this is true, that carnivorous animals do not seek and eat salt?
Sylvester Graham says: "It is a little remarkable that some have contended for the necessity of salt as an article in the diet of man, to counteract the putrescent tendency of animal food or fresh meat, when there is not a carnivorous animal in Nature that ever uses a particle of it, and few if any of the purely flesh-eating portions of the human family ever use it in any measure or manner and most of the human family who subsist mostly on vegetable food wholly abstain from it."
The stimulating influence of salt upon the flow of saliva is well known. It is employed in some institutions in the form of a bath as the "salt-rub," because of its "stimulating" effect. The saliva poured out when salt is taken is an inactive juice mixed with much mucus.
Salt retards gastric digestion. Three parts of salt added to one thousand parts of gastric juice will, as shown by Linossier in 1900, retard protein digestion to the same extent as does the reduction of the amount of pepsin by 40 to 50 per cent. This is about the amount of salt consumed by the average person in an ordinary meal.
The genuinely absorptive work of the villi that line the small intestines can be understood only if we realize that it depends upon a selective absorption--the digested food is secreted into the blood; there is no mere osmotic passage of food through the intestinal wall. It must be that salt has a paralyzing effect upon the function of the villi, also, so that it hinders the absorption of food. It would be valuable to know how much of the reported failure of certain individuals to absorb vitamins is due to the large quantities of salt they habitually use.
At all times under normal physiological conditions, fluid is continually passing from the blood into the tissues and from the tissues into the blood. Held in solution in this fluid is the food materials and waste of the body. The transudation of fluid is not a mere filtration; it is no mere process of osmosis. On the contrary, it is due to secretory activities on the part of the endothelium (lining of the blood vessels) which incorporates such substances in solution, both from the blood and from the tissues, and selectively passes them on to the other side. Sodium chloride has a paralyzing effect upon the secretory activities of the vascular endothelium, thus interfering with the exchange of nutritive substances and waste.
The tissues of the body are adapted to a specific osmotic pressure and as soon as this pressure is exceeded, the substance responsible for the excess is automatically excreted by the kidneys. When this rise in osmotic pressure is due to salt eating the process of excretion is not normally carried out due to the inhibiting effect of salt upon kidney function. Both sodium and chlorine hinder the normal excretion of water by the kidney cells.
The genuine regulatory work of the kidneys can be realized only if we recognize that it depends upon a selective excretion. Salt paralyses the selective excretory action of the kidneys in the same way that it paralyses the selective secretory activity of the endothelial lining of the blood vessels. The excretion of salt by the kidneys is always a tardy process, the salt itself, actually retarding kidney function, although at the same time raising the osmotic pressure throughout the body.
One of the body's regulatory apparatuses is its ability to store toxins and unusable materials in the comparatively inactive tissues--bone, cartilage, connective tissues--pending its elimination at a more favorable opportunity. A favorite site for such deposits is the subcutaneous connective tissue. In heavy salt eaters, especially those with impaired kidneys, a hidden edema (dropsy) and sometimes an edema that is not hidden results from the storing of diluted salt in the subcutaneous tissue. The salt is diluted with water and is held in solution. Some of it escapes in the sweat but much of it remains in the body. Storage of this unusable substance in the less active tissues removes it from the circulation and prevents it from damaging the more vital organs of the body.
A number of competent observers have shown that the isolated administration of water does not promote the retention of water, and the isolated administration of sodium chloride does not promote retention of this salt. Only when these are taken together is there retention of both water and salt. Thus the present practice of taking salt tablets and drinking lots of water (salt creates a demand for more water) assures retention of both. Nothing but harm can come from the practice.
Profuse sweating eliminates much water and some of the salt; much salt is deposited in the clothing and left there as the water evaporates. The salt is not all evaporated and the artificial thirst produced by the salt results in re-introducing an excess of water. The profuse sweating thus produced is enervating.
The use of salt with considerable quantities of water leads to polyuria (frequent urination), while the blood at the same time becomes hydræmic--containing an excess of water. Although urination is frequent under such conditions, only small quantities of water are passed at a time. The frequent urgent desire to void urine is due to a partial paralysis of the sphincter vesicae, produced by the salt.
"Salt-spitting," that is a salty saliva with spitting, is frequently seen in salt users who discontinue its use. This is, no doubt due to the rapid elimination of salt from the tissues that has accumulated therein over a long period of time.
Individuals just beginning a vegetarian diet are often prone to season their foods strongly. In these there is likely to be delayed excretion, due to the inhibiting effect upon the kidneys, so that they are forced to rise several times a night to void urine. As the salt is eliminated from the diet the delayed action of the kidneys gradually ceases, nocturnal diuresis diminishes and day-time urination increases.
This same frequency of urination is often seen in those who adopt a vegetarian diet and exclude salt therefrom. Here the explanation seems to be that the increased intake of bases permits the body to begin the work of excreting the accumulated salt. The frequent urination continues until much of the stored sodium chloride is eliminated.
The tears of the salt user are salty and are irritating to the eyes. The tears of the non-user are not salty and are not irritating. It cannot be possible that nature intended that the tears, which are intended to lubricate and cleanse the eyes, should be irritating to these. Salty tears must be regarded as part of the process of eliminating salt from the body.
The excretion of common salt is a slow business and in persons who have habitually consumed quantities of this crystal, months or years of abstinence from its use must elapse before the deposits of salt are excreted.
Ship dropsy was the term applied to malnutritional edema when it developed, as it frequently did, in sailors and passengers, on the old-time sailing vessels. These people were at sea for long periods and their diet was composed of hardtack, salt meats and other salted foods and water. They lacked all fresh foods. Prison dropsy was the term applied to the same condition when it developed, as it commonly did, in prison inmates on a similar diet. Famine dropsy was the term used to designate malnutritional edema developing in famine victims, whose diet, also, was of a similar kind with plenty of salt.
Sodium chloride has a paralyzing effect upon endothelial activity. Edema can be induced by large quantities of salt. Ship dropsy, famine dropsy, malnutritional edema may be due, as much to the ingestion of large quantities of salt (coincident with a lessened intake of bases) and water as to the actual food deficiencies. Where edema develops in one whose diet contains common salt there will always be retention of this substance in the blood.
Berg says: "As a matter of experience, all observers are agreed that in malnutritional edema there is a retention of sodium chloride by the body, and that when the edema subsides there is a profuse excretion of the salt. Burger noted that when the edema was setting in, there was marked craving for sodium chloride, although as much as 12 grammes were consumed daily. The explanation doubtless is that during the onset of malnutritional edema, as during all the maladies dependent upon an ill-balanced diet, there gradually arises a loss of appetite, and sometimes a positive loathing for food, the patient attempts to stimulate appetite by over-seasoning the food,"
It would be difficult to determine how much of this dropsy is due to dietary deficiency and how much is due to the large use of salt. There can be no doubt that the salt contributes greatly to the aggravation and production of the dropsy, if not to the more serious symptoms. If the plain implications of the loss of appetite and repugnance to food were heeded and food abstained from, instead of forcing the appetite (not hunger) with salt, the dropsy would be readily eliminated and chemical balance restored in the body. The fact that sodium chloride has a paralyzing effect upon the activities of both the kidneys and the ureters has been known for more than fifty years.
Supplying salt tablets to men in industry who are subjected to great and prolonged heat was extensively practiced for years. The same foolish practice was carried on by the U. S. Army during the recent murder-fest. Many industries have now abandoned the practice and are supplying their men with candy instead. Many men in the Army refrained from using their salt tablets and these report that they fared better than those who did eat the salt. The practice of giving men salt tablets when they are subjected to great heat has neither sense nor science to support it.
It was claimed by the U. S. Army medics that the use of salt by troops when subjected to hardships under extreme heat was to stabilize the amount of "natural" salt in the body. The use of salt by troops was to protect the men from sun-stroke, although many salt-eating soldiers did have sun-stroke when in high temperatures. One soldier wrote me: "I actually saw men fall on their faces from sunstroke, although they ate salt."
In view of the known facts that both man and animals can live and maintain the highest degree of health and development and live to advanced ages without salt, that salt is not metabolized in the body, but is excreted in the same form in which it is consumed, that salt exerts an inhibiting influence upon certain functions of life, and that inveterate salt eaters can discontinue its use abruptly and permanently, not only without harm, but with positive benefit, how can it longer be maintained that this irritant is necessary or beneficial? That the use of salt does not add to the pleasures of life, but does, on the contrary, detract from these, will be asserted by all who have given up its use.
In concluding this chapter a few words about other salts in common use will be of value to the student. Soda, saleratus, etc., destroy the vitamins in food, destroy the pepsin of the gastric juice and neutralize the hydrochloric acid. They "act" in the same manner as do all other inorganic alkalies when introduced into the body.
The vegetized salts, vegetable salts, celery salt and other such products sold in the Health Food stores at high prices is just common salt with powdered vegetables added. They should be abstained from.
Most baking powders are made of bicarbonate of soda and bitartrate of potash. The baking process results in the formation of rochelle salts from these. Rochelle salts is a laxative drug, for which there can certainly be no need. Prof. A. E. Taylor, of Philadelphia, says: "We must not, however, be oblivious to the fact that a saline cathartic residue results from the reaction of every form of baking powder now commonly employed."
Rochelle salts "act" by irritating the lining membrane of the intestine, producing thereby a demand for fluid to wash away the irritation. The general system gives up some of its fluids which are poured into the intestine. The lack of water thus produced renders the subsequent state of the intestine dryer than ever. The daily use of such laxatives must be a common cause of chronic constipation. Rochelle salts produce nephritis in animals and are probably a prolific source of this trouble in man.
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