Did you ever think that salt could be ESSENTIAL? Probably not. Most women have heard that decreasing your salt intake, especially during pregnancy, is the way to go. But why do so many women crave salty foods early on, like pickles and olives? Unfortunately, new research is telling us otherwise.
With pregnancy comes an increase in fluid levels (both blood volume and amniotic fluid) and that increases your need for electrolytes. Electrolytes are essential for a number of bodily functions and can even help prevent those nasty night time muscle cramps. Salt is also important for baby's development. In Real Food For Pregnancy, Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE states that "a salt restriction during pregnancy is connected to intrauterine growth restriction or death, low birth weight, organ underdevelopment" and can "affect fetal hormonal, vascular and renal systems to regulate fluid homeostasis in the fetus".
Many women have come into my office stating that they were told to avoid salt during pregnancy to keep their blood pressure from going up. However, according to Lily Nichols, this is not evidence-based as salt does not have an impact on blood pressure for most people. Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine actually found that only about 25% of the population is salt-sensitive with regards to blood pressure.
Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure seems to be non-responsive to salt restriction and studies show that low salt diets do not prevent or control preeclampsia. IN FACT IT CAN ACTUALLY MAKE IT WORSE! A low salt diet can also cause issues with blood sugar. Consuming more salt may actually IMPROVE your blood pressure. Studies dating back as early as 1958 actually note that there are lower levels of preeclampsia in women who had high salt diets. They also observed a reduction in blood pressure and swelling. These findings have been replicated with numerous studies over the years.
The best salt to consume is unrefined sea salt. Adding 4 heaping teaspoonseat to salt to water daily can help with preeclamptic symptoms. Be sure to continue this regiment until the time of delivery, or symptoms can return. So if you start swelling in your 3rd trimester, consider drinking plenty of water AND add some sea salt to the water!
Please do not forget that it is always important to have a conversation with your health care provider about any symptoms you may be experiencing.
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