Salt and headaches

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  • I have been on the diet for 4 weeks now and have been having headaches, tiredness and dizziness on fast days. The tiredness has gone and the dizziness is better but the headache today is worse than ever. I don’t drink caffeine ever and have been drinking lots of water today. I read that my problem could be a lack of salt. This is entirely probable as I have never liked salt, never use it, and as I am now consuming no bread and much fewer processed foods I think on some days (like today) I get no salt at all. I can’t make head nor tail of the advice about salt now. How much salt should I be eating and what is the best way to eat it, how often, bearing in mind I don’t like it?

    I’m happy with the diet and lost 5kg so far so am willing to grin and bear a bit of salt if that’s the problem.

    My blood pressure is low/normal so not worried about high blood pressure.

    Thanks

    You need about a teaspoon per day. Are you water only fasting or 500 cal? If you are still eating processed foods it is very unlikely that you would not be getting salt. Its not uncommon to get headaches initially. Sometimes salt will help. Initially your liver will be very poor at converting stored fats into ketones and glucose. Your brain is screaming for a glucose hit. It gets easier the longer you do it. The good news is that your brain can run on ketones as well as glucose. Salt and high blood pressure is unsupported by research. Dissolve some salt in water and try drinking it. Sports drinks have lots of salt, unfortunately they also have lots of sugar to hide it. You want to avoid sugar at all costs.

    It’s possible you aren’t getting enough salt, depending on what foods your 500 calories include. Most processed foods include salt but if you aren’t eating those you may not be getting enough and if you’re drinking a really lot of water or other fluids, you could deplete your salt supplies. Hyponatremia is a condition caused by insufficient sodium in your blood. It’s a more common condition than I realized until it affected me a couple years ago. I was taking a blood pressure medication that had a diuretic in it and drinking enough water (because I was thirsty) to deplete my sodium levels. After blood and urine tests to diagnose it, the doctor prescribed a different medication without the diuretic in it. (This was long before 5:2 and I wasn’t dieting.) He also told me to not drink any water unless I was really thirsty. I had to go the next morning for another blood test and my salt levels had increased some by then.

    Headache was the first symptom, then nausea and lightheadedness. I felt pretty bad by the time I went to the doctor. He probably didn’t tell me to drink salt water because of the high blood pressure, but I imagine that would have relieved it more quickly.

    Salt does indeed have an effect on blood pressure. During the time losing 17 pounds on the 5:2 plan, I’ve had to reduce my blood pressure meds a couple times because it was too low and I felt lightheaded. When I checked it, both numbers were very low. Dissolving half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of water and drinking it, brought it up to normal levels in less than an hour. There have been studies that dispute the salt/high blood pressure connection, but the vast majority of scientific research shows that there is a connection. That said, I think on a 500 calorie FD it’s possible to not get enough salt, especially because most of us drink more fluids to keep us from feeling hungery.

    Most headaches when dieting aren’t caused by hyponatremia, but it’s something to be aware of because it can be very dangerous. Usually hyponatremia is caused by drinking excessive amounts of water in a short time, like many athletes do during marathons when they’re overheated or trying to stay ahead of salt depletion. Or from taking a diuretic like in my case.

    Thank you that information is very useful. Yesterday was an FD and I ate a small piece of turkey with tomatoes and avocado for lunch and a small piece of cod with steamed veg for tea. No added salt. I see that the extra water I was drinking could have made matters worse. I suspect my blood pressure which was already on the low side may be a problem so I will be very careful to make sure I get a teaspoon of salt on those days that I have no bread/processed foods.

    Thanks

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