Salt Withdraw or Too Little Sodium?

I’m trying to decide if what happened to me the other day is a case of water intoxication or sodium withdraw…

I had an interesting experience, to put it mildly, the other day.  The day before I went on a great hike with friends, a total of six miles.  Afterwards we all hung out and even did some steam room and sauna time.  Between the 90 degree weather and that I sweat a ton, and I hydrated back accordingly.  I also ate the nutritarian diet religiously that day.  That included a bowl of the Mushroom soup, which has no added sodium.  Lunch was a whole bunch of greens, raw veggies, the home made black bean hummus (again negligible salt in that).  Dinner was a huge salad with a nutritarian Caesar salad dressing recipe.  Again, negligible sodium. I went to bed feeling wiped from all the exercise and heat therapy, but quite full.

Morning arrived and I woke up feeling a bit hung over.  Even with all the eating the day before I still barely cracked 1700 calories in but I burned over 3500.  I figured it was just that I needed a breakfast, so when I got to work I started chowing down on my three pounds of watermelon and cantaloup.  Okay, that made me feel a bit better for a little while but as noon rolled around the headache started building again.  I had the same experience the previous week but I was also dealing with jet lag and caffeine withdraw.  That’s not the case this time around.  Again throwing a hail mary at the cause I started eating my lunch of carrots, peppers, dates, and almonds.  None of this made me feel any better, in fact my headache just kept getting worse.  I had been sipping on water all day, so I figured I was pretty well hydrated by that point so I thought maybe I was getting sick or getting a migraine.  I decided to pop an Aleve to get better focus on my work, and while it certainly helped it didn’t totally do the trick. As the afternoon wore on it just kept building.

I was meeting a friend for dinner at a restaurant and on the drive over I just felt really off.  A cold it must be, so I thought to myself.  For the dinner I got a salad, a side of asparagus, and a side of mushrooms.  I kept up a good game face for my friend, but I was really just feeling like crap.  Then I ate a few of the mushrooms.  Certainly not immediately, but over the next fifteen to twenty minutes I started feeling much better.  They were far more heavily salted than would be permissable on a nutritarian diet.  I thought to myself that maybe the salt did the trick.  I order a second cup of the mushrooms and polished them off too (it didn’t hurt they were delicious).  After another twenty minutes or so my headache was mostly gone.  I wasn’t feeling off anymore either.  I had a residual very mild headache sensation for the rest of the night, but for the most part I felt fine.

Of course consulting Dr. Google about symptoms of water toxicity, something I am familiar with from my running, and you see the symptoms of it are exactly the same sort of thing I was feeling.  Literally all three symptoms were on the list.  If I consult Dr. Google about sodium withdraw symptoms it didn’t match what I experienced at all, in fact in extreme cases only you get the opposite effect: excessive blood sodium levels.  I didn’t even think that it would be possible to get too little sodium in my diet.  People ate and drank regularly before we had refined salt, or high sodium products after all.  Unfortunately my nutritional analysis software, based on the USDA database, assumes a lot of the cooked foods on it were cooked with salt added (such as boiled kale).  So right now I don’t have a way of accurately tracking my sodium intake.  If I stick with this long term I’ll set about fixing that, but in the mean time I can’t quantify the problem.

Since there is a good chance of it however, I’m going to stay on top of it, especially on and after heavy exercise days.  On those days I’ll try to make sure I’m eating foods with some of the coconut aminoes added, or just a dash or two of salt to balance things out if I start feeling at all off.  In the mean time I’ll try to seek out some nutritarian people who have been at this longer than I have to see if they’ve heard about it…



Picture of Me (Hank)

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