Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation

Log in to your ANA Ketogenic Nutrition Training Course HERE


Can’t see what you are looking for? Try typing a keyword into the search box below or search our Nutrition Digest Archives.

Newsletter Signup

Newsletter Homepage

Volume 38, No. 2

Natural Cures for Chronic Conditions and Diseases

Natural (or "alternative") methods for treating chronic conditions and diseases are almost always much more effective, economical, and long lasting than those based on our current drug-based medical system. Given that the rates of obesity, diabetes, asthma, chronic fatigue, stress, depression, osteoporosis, and cancer (just to name a few) are all skyrocketing at exponential rates, along with our medical costs and insurance rates, why is it that many more of our doctors are not even aware of and do not use these effective, low-cost natural cures, which last so much longer? The answer is unfortunately that (1) most of these natural cures are not taught in medical school, and (2) the big pharmaceutical companies want to earn large profits. Any natural hormone or other biological chemical cannot be patented and re-sold at a large profit. Therefore, the pharmaceutical companies spend all their time, money, and research developing synthetic hormones or other drugs that have only one or two molecules of difference from the true natural ones (see figure 1 below). This leaves no time, money, or motivation to research natural alternatives, which cannot be patented. The pharmaceutical companies challenge any study showing the benefits of natural cures, but they will never test their own synthetic drugs against the natural ones. (Figure at upper left is author, David Brownstein, MD).

Most medical schools teach that X symptom should be treated with Y drug. This greatly simplifies the practice of many doctors since, with a minimum of time listening to the patient, and with only a couple of short tests, they can send the patient away with a prescription to an expensive, symptom suppressing drug (often with many bad side effects for which they will get even more drugs with even worse side effects in a vicious negative feedback). If a doctor wants truly and effectively to help their patient, they should find the root cause of the illness by: (1) carefully listening to each individual patient with their different story and a detailed description of their unique symptoms, and (2) carefully testing the patient for the natural hormones, iodine, and/or salt levels they could be low in based on their story, and (3) giving the patient several low "physiologic" (see below) doses of at least two or more natural hormones, iodine, and/or salt.

A hormone is a chemical substance produced in the body by a gland, which has a specific regulatory effect on the activity of the body. Natural hormones are always better than synthetic hormones or conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

The Woman's Health Initiative (WHI), which took place between 1996 and 2002, and involved 16,608 women around the US in 40 medical centers, proved conventional HRT had many more bad effects (coronary heart disease, lung blood clots, and breast cancer) than good effects (a decrease in osteoporosis and colorectal cancer). The WHI was causing so much damage from conventional HRT, it had to be halted after only 5.2 years instead of the 8.5 years as originally planned.

Synthetic vs Natural Hormones
Natural hormones can be manufactured from plant products to mimic the body's own hormones, both structurally and chemically. Hormones that have been chemically altered are synthetic hormones. Synthetic hormones do not naturally occur in the body or in any life form. Hormones work in our body like a "lock and key" where the hormone is the "key" and the hormone receptor in our body is the "lock." The better the fit is the better for all. However, when pharmaceutical companies alter only a few atoms in the molecule so that they can patent it, the "fit" is not nearly so good into a receptor designed for the natural hormone. See figure 1 below:



Figure 1: A Comparison of a Natural Hormone (Natural Progesterone) and a Synthetic Hormone (Provera). The arrows show the additional molecular chains added to Provera making it a foreign substance to the body leading to likely adverse effects. [Reprinted with permission]

This un-natural fit into the body's receptors—with these additional molecular chains added by the pharmaceutical companies for their patentable profits—results in many adverse side effects.

Dosage—Physiologic (small) vs Pharmacologic (large)
The dosage or amount a patient takes of a hormone is very important too. The proper dose to take is a relatively small "physiologic" dose. This dose is less than the body's own gland produces, so the body continues to produce the hormone. The larger "pharmacologic" dose will shut off the body's production of the hormone altogether. The body becomes dependent on these larger doses, reduces its own production of the hormone, then negative side effects start. However, with the smaller physiologic doses, the body continues producing the hormone and side effects rarely occur.

Hypothyroidism or Low Thyroid
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly shaped gland under the neck weighing less than an ounce, but it is critical—every muscle, cell, and organ in the body depends on an adequate supply of thyroid hormone. Even the slightest deficiency of thyroid can have a huge impact on the patient's health.

It has been known for years that low thyroid causes fatigue. Today there is a condition known as chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS). CFIDS strikes over one million Americans. It is characterized by over six months of fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, and more. It strikes women three times as often as men. CFIDS is difficult to diagnose and many conventional doctors doubt that it exists.

Other symptoms of low thyroid include: headaches and migraine headaches, poor recovery from infection, infertility, and seizures. It is very important to measure the basal body temperature as well as a single blood level test for thyroid. A low basal temperature by itself is enough to indicate low thyroid.

The thyroid gland produces thyroxine or T4, which is inactive. To have effects on the body, T4 has to be converted into Triiodothyronine or T3. Synthetic thyroid products like Synthroid and Levothyroxine contain only T4. The best treatment is from desiccated thyroid hormone, most commonly known as Armour thyroid. It contains both T4 and T3 in the proportions closest to the natural thyroid proportions made in the human body. Since all the hormones work excellently synergistically together, it is always best to treat patients with at least two hormones at the same time—not thyroid alone.

The Adrenal Hormones
These essential hormones create the "fight or flight," which allows the body to adapt to stress and to fight infection. Figure 2 shows the biosynthetic pathways for the adrenal and gonadal hormones. Note that they are all produced from the fat-like substance cholesterol.



Figure 2: Biosynthetic Pathways for Adrenal and Gonadal Hormones

Dietary supplements for adrenal hormones include: vitamin C—3,000mg/day (the highest concentration of vitamin C is in the adrenal glands), vitamin A—5,000mg/day, vitamin E—400IU/day, and pantothenic acid—500mg/day. Lots of pure water and Celtic sea salt are good as well.

DHEA is an acronym for dehydroepiandrosterone, an androgen adrenal hormone. When adrenal hormones, including DHEA, are not produced in adequate amounts, the body's ability to fight diseases and promote healing becomes compromised. It is necessary to maintain DHEA at close to its peak level to achieve the best results. These peak levels are 1,200-3,000ng/ml for women and 2,000-4,000ng/ml for men.

Symptoms of low DHEA include: headaches; poor immune response and susceptibility to many more colds and other viral infections; allergies and asthma; ulcerative colitis (bleeding of the colon); hypertension; cancer; fibromyalgia, depression, mood swings, and aging. Low DHEA levels are found in patients with lupus, Crohn's disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and more. Many drugs negatively impact DHEA production.

Most people respond positively to small physiologic doses of DHEA when indicated. A University of California study in 1998 showed a remarkable improvement in both the physical and psychological well being of the majority of elderly men and women in the study. Even though DHEA is readily available over-the-counter at most health food stores, it should only be taken in small physiologic doses and under the supervision of a health care professional.

Progesterone is mainly produced by the ovaries during the second half of a women's menstrual cycle and is necessary for the survival of the fetus. Men produce a small amount of progesterone in their testicles, and both men and women make a small amount in their adrenal glands. The main symptoms progesterone can help are: endometriosis (abnormal endometrial tissue outside the uterus), osteoporosis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), depression, and fibroid tumors. Coronary heart disease, wrinkled skin, and other signs of aging can be helped and even reversed in post-menopausal women who eat plants containing natural progesterone and estrogens. In other countries where the normal diet is healthy foods, menopause is a symptomless event. However, here in the US, with our reliance on processed and packaged fast foods, about 50% of the women experience hot flashes and mood swings during menopause.

There are three different types of estrogens made in the body: estrone, estradiol, and estriol. They are made mainly in the ovaries of women during both the first half and second half of their menstrual cycle. These three estrogens have very different properties in the body and were measured to occur in these proportions: 80% estriol, 10% estrone, and 10% estradiol. Unfortunately, the most common estrogens used in conventional medicine do not contain these proportions at all. Premarin, the most common synthetic estrogen, contains primarily estrone. Estrace, another common synthetic estrogen, has 100% estradiol. Neither contains all three forms of estrogen naturally found in the body, and definitely not in the natural proportions. Iodine—in the proper combination of both iodine and iodide (see part II on iodine)—helps maintain the proper proportion between the three estrogens. Iodine helps metabolize the estrogens in favor of the safest form—estriol.

Because estrogen may cause breast cancer, women should carefully consider whether or not to use it. Symptoms that natural estrogen replacement therapy can benefit are: menopausal symptoms, retarding osteoporosis, skin tone, and memory loss. Among the three estrogens, estradiol is the greatest stimulator of breast tissue, and may even cause breast cancer! The ratio of breast tissue stimulation between estradiol and estriol (the estrogen with the greatest 80% natural proportion in the body) is 1,000:1. Research has shown that both estradiol and estrone cause breast cancer, whereas estriol was shown to be protective. The Journal of the American Medical Association stated, "Estriol may not only be non-cancerogenic, but indeed anti-carcinogenic." (JAMA, 239(1):29-30, 1/2/78).

From the overexposure to estrogen mimickers in the environment (pesticides, conventionally raised animals, plastics, etc.), natural progesterone is necessary to balance the excess estrogens. The high levels of petrochemical derivatives from pesticides and plastics may be responsible for the high rate of breast cancer, hysterectomies, and fibroid tumors today.

Natural testosterone, when used properly and prudently, can greatly benefit both men and women. Testosterone is a major regulator of sugar, fat, and protein metabolism in the body. Symptoms testosterone can help include: osteoporosis, diabetes, improved sex functioning and drive, one's sense of well being, negative moods, anger, irritability, nervousness, fatigue, coronary artery disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, aging, and low muscle mass. Often patients with lupus have depressed levels of both DHEA and testosterone. Testosterone lowers patient's cholesterol an average of 74%. Conventional cholesterol lowering medications have side effects of nausea, abdominal pain, gall bladder disease, decreased libido, liver problems, and more. Chemotherapy tends to kill many good regular cells as well as the cancer. In men especially, chemotherapy affects the testosterone. In women it affects the ovarian hormones like estrogen and progesterone.

Adequate production of hydrocortisone gives the body defense against stress, infections, and injuries. Hydrocortisone is produced in the same adrenal gland that produced DHEA. Symptoms helped by hydrocortisone include: Chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and more. Adequate hydrocortisone is necessary to convert the thyroid hormone from its inactive T4 state to its active T3 state. Possible side effects of using hydrocortisone and other steroids in large pharmacological doses include: weight gain, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, blood sugar abnormalities, and more. No side effects other than a small five-pound weight gain are noticed when giving the proper small physiologic doses. Herbs such as licorice root extract 600mg/day and Gotu Kola 50-100mg help build up the adrenal gland and stimulate hydrocortisone receptors throughout the body.

The "mother" adrenal and gonadal hormone, since it is the precursor to all other adrenal hormones, is the steroid adrenal hormone pregnenolone (see figure 2). Pregnenolone is also produced in the brain. In fact, pregnenolone levels in the brain are higher than in any peripheral tissue. Symptoms helped by pregnenolone include: arthritis, depression, fatigue, memory loss, and moodiness.

Benefits from melatonin include: improving sleep disorders and preventing jet lag. It is a potent antioxidant and improves the immune system. Melatonin may fight cancer and slow down aging. Melatonin is made by the pineal gland, located in the brain. Melatonin is able to enter every cell in the body and is made from an amino acid, tryptophan. High levels of tryptophan are found in fish, lamb, chicken, turkey, and pumpkin seeds. The pineal gland produces the most melatonin at night between 2 and 4AM. Light at night, sensed through the eyes, inhibits the production of melatonin. As with many other hormones, melatonin levels decline with age. Aging is caused by free radicals that damage all our cells. Melatonin is a much more effective antioxidant (a "vacuum cleaner" cleaning up and eliminating the free radicals) than either vitamin C or E.

Human Growth Hormone
The pituitary gland, located in the center of our brain, produces human growth hormone. After the pituitary gland secretes human growth hormone, this causes the liver to secrete another hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 or IGF-1. The main benefits from human growth hormone are to slow or even reverse many aging factors: thinning hair, wrinkled skin, loss of muscle tone, low resistance to stress, depression, low resistance to infection, poor healing of wounds, and varicose veins. Human Growth Hormone can help: cardiac disease, fatigue, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, and perhaps cancer. As with DHEA, melatonin, testosterone, and other hormones, the level of human growth hormone declines as we age. Perhaps by raising the level of human growth hormone and the other hormones, we can slow down or even reverse many signs and symptoms of aging.

Human growth hormone treatment is very expensive, close to $5,000 a year! At that high cost, how can most of us ever hope to gain from its benefits? The answer is simple and healthy—a regular exercise routine! As a natural response to exercise, the body will secrete increasing amounts of human growth hormone. After consulting your physician, do aerobic exercise for thirty minutes at least three to five times per week.

One of the most feared and misunderstood elements essential for human health is iodine. Currently, iodine deficiency is epidemic. About 1.5 billion people or a third of earth's population lives in areas of iodine deficiency as defined by the World Health Organization. Whenever the body's raw materials (vitamins, minerals, hormones, enzymes, etc.) are either lacking or out of balance, this leads to poor health and disease.

Iodine has been known for a hundred years as essential for thyroid production, but it is rare to see any information about iodine's other effects. Iodine is found in each of the trillions of cells in the body and without it life would not be possible. Even though the highest concentration of iodine is in the thyroid gland, other areas of the body with high iodine concentration include the salivary glands, cerebrospinal fluid and the brain, breasts, ovaries, and the ciliary body in eyes.

In addition to thyroid production, proper iodine levels are necessary for immune system function. Iodine contains potent antibacterial, antiparasitic, antiviral, and anticancer properties. Iodine also treats fibrocystic breasts and ovarian cysts. Iodine is essential for the proper growth and development of children. Iodine deficiency can result in mental deficiency, deafness, spontaneous abortion, and delayed physical as well as intellectual development.

Iodine was first used medically by Jean Francois Coindet (1774-1834) for the treatment of goiter (i.e., swelling of the thyroid). This was the first time a single element (iodine) was used to treat a specific illness (goiter), and is cited by some as the birth of western medicine. Jean-Baptist Boussingault (1802-1887) verified the work of Coindet and showed that goiter did not occur at many silver mining sites where there was iodine in the water.

In 1829, Jean Lugol, a French physician, found an effective way to overcome the fact that iodine is not very soluble in water. He did this by using potassium iodide and came up with "Lugol's Iodine Solution."

For many years refined iodized salt has been used to treat goiter. However, this iodized salt still leaves us with many diseases and symptoms of low iodine. Unfortunately, from the 1960s to the 80s, bromine—a toxic substance that has no therapeutic use in our bodies—replaced iodine in the commercial baking industry. Some NIH (National Institutes of Health) publications and researchers questioned the safety of iodine and suspected it could cause malfunctions in the thyroid gland.

Why Iodine Levels Are So Low
Iodine is quite rare in the earth's crust and ranks 62nd in abundance among the elements on earth. Seaweed is the primary natural source of iodine because seaweed concentrates iodine. Iodine is relatively abundant along the seashore, but inland areas—such as the US Midwest (known as the "Goiter Belt")—have very little iodine in the soil so all the food grown there is also low in iodine.

With the introduction of iodized salt, it was assumed that iodine deficiency would go away. The NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) tests (1971-2000) showed that iodine levels in the US for all demographic categories dropped 50%. The percentage of pregnant women with low iodine levels increased 690% over this same time period.

The bioavailability of iodine from iodized salt is very low. Instead of the expected 17.2 g/l serum level, the serum level for the salt group was only 1.7 g/l by a 1969 test.

Reasons for the widespread human deficiency in iodine include low salt diets as well as the low bioavailability of iodine from iodized salt. Other causes of iodine deficiency include diets that: (1) lack ocean fish or sea vegetables, (2) are too high in bakery products which contain bromine, and (3) are only vegan and vegetarian.

Proper Measurement of Iodine Level—The Iodine Loading Test
Even though the generally accepted measurement for iodine levels is by measuring the amount in the urine, this method is not reliable. A much more accurate method is the iodine loading test. It is based on the assumption that the more iodine deficient an individual is the more iodine their body will retain. Iodine binds to receptors in the body. If the person has enough iodine, a large percentage of ingested iodine will be excreted. However, in an iodine deficient person, much more of the iodine will be retained.

The procedure is to take 50mg of an iodine/iodide combination. After twenty-four hours the urine is tested. In an iodine sufficient state, 90% of the iodine/iodide would be excreted (i.e. 45mg). Any levels below 90% excretion indicate an iodine deficient state.

Different Forms of Iodine
Iodide is an iodine atom with an additional electron that allows it to form a salt with potassium or sodium to form a full complement of electrons. It was originally thought the intestine could convert iodine to iodide, but research has shown this not to be true. Different tissues in the body respond to different forms of iodine. The thyroid gland mainly uses iodide, so to fight goiter, potassium iodide was added to table salt.

With different tissues responding to different forms of iodine, it should make sense to use both iodine and iodide for the greatest therapeutic benefit. One of the best iodine/iodide combinations is "Lugol's Solution," which is 10% potassium iodide, 5% iodine, and 85% distilled water. This is currently available in tablet form as Iodoral®.

Iodine, Breast Cancer, Fibrocystic Disease, and Prostate Cancer
For over 60 years we have known that iodine concentrates in and is secreted by the mammary (breast) glands. Adequate iodine is necessary for the development and maintenance of normal breast architecture. Milk from lactating breasts has four times more of the ingested iodine than is taken up by the thyroid gland.

Iodine has been shown to cause apoptosis (death) of breast cancer and thyroid cancer cells. When iodine joins the lipid or fat cell membranes, it helps each cell maintain its normal growth cycle—where the cell is born, lives, and dies—and not the continuous growth of cancer cells.

Iodine deficiency causes increased estrogen production and an increase of breast sensitivity to estrogens. This greatly increases the chance of breast cancer. With our increased exposure to environmental estrogens such as plastics, pesticides, meat, and dairy products, is it no wonder that breast cancer has reached an epidemic state? Lugol's solution (iodine and iodide) helps maintain the correct balance between the three estrogens. This helps the body metabolize in favor of the safest estrogen—estriol.

Fibrocystic breast disease is a condition where the breasts have cysts that are usually painful to touch. Estrogens also cause fibrocystic disease. Many doctors feel the abnormal architecture found in fibrocystic disease is a precursor for breast cancer. Dietary factors such as caffeine and trans-fatty acids can also exacerbate fibrocystic breast disease. Iodine has been most effective in both preventing and treating fibrocystic breasts. It has been shown for fifty years that there is a relationship between breast cancer and areas with low iodine levels, including the US.

There is a much lower prostate cancer mortality rate in Japan, where the iodine level is higher than in the US. Japanese men have lower rates of prostate cancer and most maintain that low prostate cancer rate even after moving to the US.

Iodine vs the Toxic Halogen Compounds: Bromide, Fluoride, Chloride, and Perchlorate
Iodine is in the class of elements known as the halogens. Because the size and weight of bromine is very close to iodine, these two elements can compete in the body for iodine receptors, especially in the thyroid gland. The toxicity of bromine and fluoride is exacerbated in an iodine-deficient state. Bromine is a toxic element to the body and should be avoided. Bromine intoxication has been shown to cause delirium, psychomotor retardation, schizophrenia, and hallucination. Bromine can also cause severe depression, headaches, and irritability. Bromine is found in many fire-retardant chemicals that are added to furniture, carpets, etc.

The best ways to lower bromine levels are; (1) stop ingesting bromine-containing foods, sodas, and medicines by eating organic foods, and limiting bakery products that contain bromine, (2) take iodine supplements, which will attach to the body's iodine receptors and help the body detoxify from bromine while retaining iodine.

Fluorine is another toxic halogen. Fluoridation has been linked to dental fluorosis (discoloration of the teeth), hip fractures, bone cancer, lowered intelligence, kidney toxicity, and other bad effects. No studies show that long-term ingested fluoride has any positive effects.

Chlorine has dioxin as one of its byproducts. Dioxin is one of the most toxic carcinogens known. It does not readily break up in the environment. Chlorine and its byproducts are linked to birth defects, cancer, reproductive disorders including stillbirth, and immune system breakdown.

Perchlorate is one atom of chlorine surrounded by four atoms of oxygen. Perchlorate is both found in the natural environment and is man-made. Consequences of perchlorate exposure include: breast disease, hypothyroidism, immune system problems, mental retardation in newborns, poor fetal development, poor neonatal development, and thyroid cancer. The entire lower Colorado River—on which 15% of the US crops and 13% of the US livestock is raised—is contaminated with perchlorate.

Insuring both an adequate intake of iodine and iodine sufficiency for the body is the best protection against any of the toxic halides, including perchlorate. When enough iodine is present, it competes with the halogens for binding to the receptors in the body. With enough iodine, the toxic halogens (e.g. bromine, fluorine) cannot bind to the body and are excreted. Iodine supplementation along with a holistic nutritional program, which facilitates the body's detoxification abilities, will decrease one's level of toxic halides.

Iodine and the Thyroid Gland
Iodine is essential in all three of the thyroid hormones. Without enough iodine, the thyroid gland could not make hormones in adequate amounts. Due to this dependence, the thyroid gland has developed a special system—the sodium/iodide symporter—to concentrate large amounts of iodine, compared to its size. This same special system to concentrate iodine is used in the breasts.

Since thyroid is essential for normal brain development and iodine is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones, abnormal brain development can be the result of an iodine deficient state. Many studies have shown that children in iodine deficient areas have lower IQ's than children in iodine sufficient areas. One large analysis showed a difference in IQ scores of 13.5 points between iodine deficient and iodine sufficient areas.

The third of the world's population living in iodine deficient areas closely correlates with estimates for the number of people with thyroid disorders. If iodine is found to be deficient, often reversing the iodine deficient condition can improve or even cure hypothyroid symptoms.

Two autoimmune diseases of the thyroid gland—Graves' disease and Hashimoto's disease—were shown by research to occur more often with falling iodine levels. This was done in two cities in Denmark—Copenhagen and Aaborg.

Conventional treatments for autoimmune thyroid disease include antithyroid drugs, surgery, and radioactive iodine. All of these reduce the amount of thyroid but do not address the underlying condition. Radioactive iodine destroys thyroid tissue, can cause thyroid cancer, and costs around $3,000 per treatment.

Replacement with a natural form of iodine is the best treatment for Graves' and/or Hashimoto's disease. Side effects are rare and are easily rectified by adjusting the dose. Often patients with hypothyroid, Graves' and/or Hashimoto's disease, who start iodine supplementation, have to adjust their original thyroid dosage.

Iodine Dosage Guidelines
It is estimated that Japanese ingest about 13.8mg of iodine per day, which is about a hundred times the US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of 150 mcg/day. Japanese have much lower rates of breast, endometrial, ovarian, and prostate cancers as well as fibrocystic breast disease.

Allergies to inorganic iodine/iodide are rare. Allergies to radioactive iodine (used to dye many medical images) do not mean an allergy to inorganic iodine/iodide.

Some believe that autoimmune thyroid problems are caused by iodine intake over the RDA. If iodine was really the cause of autoimmune thyroid illness, these illnesses should have decreased over the last 30 years, but instead the opposite has occurred.

A detoxification reaction can occur when iodine is used to get rid of the toxic halides if the body's detoxification pathways are overloaded when the halides are released. The best way to minimize a detoxification reaction is to provide nutritional support with vitamins and minerals, eat a healthy and holistic diet, and balance the body's pH properly.

If iodine is used in a previously iodine deficient population, hyperthyroidism—too much thyroid—may temporarily result, but the symptoms will gradually decrease.

A dose of iodine that is too large will cause a state called "idoism." The symptoms include a metallic taste in the mouth, increased salivation, sneezing, and headache. Idoism only occurs in a small number of patients and can easily be rectified by adjusting the iodine dose.

Since everyone is different, there is no exact iodine dose. The best way to find the proper dose for you is to take the iodine loading test (see section above). Our daily exposure to so many of the toxic halogens (bromide, fluoride, chloride, and perchlorate) can increase our need for more iodine. An effective daily dose of iodine will probably be between 12mg and 50mg. Balancing iodine with vitamins, minerals, and hormones is much better than iodine alone.

Most of us have heard that (1) a low salt diet is healthy, and (2) there is no difference between table salt and sea salt. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Without salt life would not be possible, it's as essential as oxygen and water. Unrefined sea salt contains over 80 essential minerals, while refined salt has no minerals. It is impossible to have a well-functioning immune system and adrenal glands in a salt deficient state.

History of Salt
In ancient cultures salt was used as currency for trading. The earliest writings about salt were in China about 5,000 years ago. Nearly 3,500 years ago the ancient Egyptians made pictures of salt production.

Hippocrates (450 BC) was the first to recognize the healing power of salt. He used salt for healing infections, clearing congestion, and curing spleen diseases. Paracelsus (1493-1541 AD) wrote that we humans definitely need salt and that without salt everything would rot.

Before refrigeration, salt was invaluable for preserving fish, butter, and other foods before shipping. During the US Civil War, a strategy, which helped the Union win, was to cut off the South's salt supplies. When the US pioneers moved west after the Civil War, their movement was determined by salt sources, so salt mines soon developed.

In the twentieth century we use salt for many more purposes—the manufacture of pulp, paper, soap, dyes, for melting snow and ice on roads, and in medicine for intravenous (IV) solutions.

Refined vs Unrefined Salt
Natural unrefined sea salt, contains over 80 minerals and elements essential for life, while refined salt has no beneficial minerals, but contains conditioning agents—sodium ferrocyanide, ammonium citrate, and aluminum silicate—which have no positive use in the body. Refined salt also contains refined sugar, or dextrose, to stabilize the iodide in the salt.

Salt is refined to greatly increase its shelf life (since refined salt is lifeless). This increases the profits of food manufacturers. Manufactures also believe that the all-white salt will look "cleaner" to the customer and will increase sales.

Natural Celtic Sea Salt is manufactured in northwestern France where seawater is channeled into a series of clay-lined ponds and allowed to evaporate. This gentle method will ensure that the salt contains healthy minerals and other elements naturally found in salt. Another source is Redmond's Real Salt®, which is mined from salt deposits near Redmond, Utah. Both Celtic Sea and Redmond's salt contain many beneficial minerals, but in different relative amounts.

Acidity and Alkalinity
Consuming refined salt promotes acidity in the body. Acidity and alkalinity are measured by the pH, which should be 7.2 in a neutral state. The organs of the body (the brain, immune system, liver, kidneys, etc.) cannot function properly unless the pH is neutral.

Generally, refined foods—with all healthy vitamins, minerals, and enzymes removed—will acidify the body. When we eat these devitalized foods, our body has to use its own store of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes to break them down. Over time this will lead to nutrient deficiencies and chronic illness. Cancer and chronic illness are two consequences of an acidic pH since cancer cells proliferate in an acidic environment.

Since minerals are among the most alkalinizing agents in the body, to promote a neutral pH use unrefined salt instead of refined salt. Avoid refined salt whenever possible.

Low Salt Diets
Hypertension and low blood pressure are the main reasons a low salt diet is recommended. The literature and actual practice have shown little relation between salt and either hypertension or low blood pressure. Only a few salt sensitive patients have a beneficial blood pressure lowering from a low salt diet.

Researchers found that a low salt diet was associated with an over 400% increase in heart attacks in men! Low salt diets raise fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance is associated with cardiovascular disease.

Benefits from Salt
There are many benefits from natural, unrefined salt which include:

  • Proper support and balance for the adrenal glands
  • Proper support and balance for the thyroid gland
  • Sodium and water keep the nervous system healthy
  • Minerals from salt and water help all cells discharge their waste
  • Sodium helps the adrenal glands maintain normal blood pressure
  • Detoxification of bromine in the kidneys with chloride

Helping the body's own natural biochemical systems by balancing the proper levels of the hormones and providing enough iodine and natural salt, in which most people are low, will "cure" almost any symptom we have and will prevent more chronic diseases. However, these holistic, natural approaches require a lot more attention by the patients—not only to testing levels and taking supplements—but also paying very close attention to everything they eat by avoiding the refined foods, sodas, baked goods with bromine, and eating organic (without pesticides) food whenever possible.


This material is based on Dr. Brownstein's lecture to NOHA* on May 10, 2007, and three of Dr. Brownstein's books: (1) The Miracle of Natural Hormones (3rd Edition), David Brownstein, MD, 2003, (2) Iodine, Why You Need It, Why You Can't Live Without It (2nd Edition), David Brownstein, MD, 2006, and (3) Salt Your Way to Health, David Brownstein

Article from NOHA NEWS, Summer 2007

*The American Nutrition Association was formerly known as the Nutrition for Optimal Health Association [NOHA].

For informational purposes only - not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor an endorsement by the American Nutrition Association®. Use permitted for non-profit and non-commercial uses or by healthcare professionals in their practice, with attribution to Other use only with written ANA℠ permission. Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ANA℠. Works by a listed author subject to copyrights as marked. © 2010 ANA℠