A Norwegian study published in 2004, observed a direct correlation between salt intake and GERD. The study highlighted that participants who added more common table salt to meals were 70% more likely to suffer from heartburn than those who did not. In the same study, it was observed that the consumption of salted fish or meat more than three times a week increased the risk of GERD by 50 percent. Similarly, it was also observed that adding extra common table or sodium chloride to meals also increased the risk of acid reflux.
Excessive intake of common salt is one of the contributing factors towards fluid retention in the body, resulting in weight gain. Studies observed that obesity drives GERD. People who eat out a lot, in restaurants that don’t pay enough attention to the oils used tend to have greasier, trans-fat laden food. Such food also often needs greater amounts of seasoning, usually by way of common table salt, to mask the poor taste of the food. Processed packaged foods too tend to contain more sodium, because it ‘masks’ a person’s ability to taste the poor quality of foods and increases the perception of ‘pleasure’ in the food. This has further potential to increase the risk of heartburn.
One study was conducted in Netherlands to observe whether or not sodium intake is directly related to GERD. However, it concluded that the consumption of large doses of salt did not necessarily increase gastroesophageal reflux in healthy volunteers, even though a decrease in lower esophageal sphincter (LES) pressure was observed. The LES needs to shut tightly, to keep the contents of the stomach, including the acid from sloshing back up to create acid reflux.
The other study, conducted on 268 individuals in China who were newly diagnosed with GERD, was designed to ascertain independent dietary causes for the condition. This study showed that high dietary sodium did not increase the gastroesophageal reflux in healthy volunteers. It must be borne in mind that typical oriental diets tend to be very lightly cooked and often contain fresh ingredients, so the overall quality of food does not need large quantities of salt to mask poor taste.
Amidst this confusion, the holistic medicine take allows you to retain both taste and health.
Acid reflux is caused not by ‘too much acid’, but often by “not enough acid in the right place“. Poor stomach acid production is often the real cause of acid reflux, since this makes the LES (the ‘lid of the stomach’) ‘loose’ and allows whatever little acid is there in the stomach to slosh back up the food pipe and burn us.
Salt has a vital role to play in digestion, since it has the chemical chloride in it. It is the stuff that stomach acid or hydrochloric acid is made of. So doctors of naturopathic and holistic medicine recommend that everyone, including those who suffer from acid reflux, to use Himalayan salt or Pink Salt or Sea Salt, that is unprocessed. This salt is rich in a variety of minerals and support proper acid production in the stomach.
As Dr.Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS puts it “Consuming the right amount of sea salt helps your body produce proper amounts of HCL since sea salt provides chloride, which is the building block of stomach acid.”
So go ahead and include the right salt, in the right amounts in your diet, to enjoy tasty food. Eliminate the additional common table salt from your diet and reap the body-wide health benefits including lowered acid reflux symptoms.
Marissa C Aanen, Albert J. Bredenoord, and André JPM Smout. “Effect of dietary sodium chloride on gastro-oesophageal reflux: a randomized controlled trial.” Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 41, no. 10 (2006): 1141-1146.
Wu, Ping, Xiao-Hu Zhao, Zi-Sheng Ai, Hui-Hui Sun, Ying Chen, Yuan-Xi Jiang, Yi-Li Tong, and Shu-Chang Xu. “Dietary Intake and Risk for Reflux Esophagitis: A Case-Control Study.” Gastroenterology research and practice 2013 (2013).
Jansson, M. A. Wallander, S. Johansson, R. Johnsen, and K. Hveem, “Stressful psychosocial factors and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease: a population-based study in Norway,” Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 21–29, 2010.
Djärv, A. Wikman, H. Nordenstedt, A. Johar, J. Lagergren, and P. Lagergren, “Physical activity, obesity and gastroesophageal reflux disease in the general population,” World Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 18, no. 28, pp. 3710–3714, 2012.