Current Happenings

Plains & Pastures Bike Tour (2013)

I'm so proud to live here! Fredericton folks are just AMAZING!!!  Thank you one and all!!  My team raised over $2000.  The support was humbling.  What a great place to be!!!

Mind you, the journey isn't about me - it's about people who fight this horrible disease on a daily basis.  If you're reading this now, I hope you'll come back and sponsor me in the ride next time. 


Bike for Breath

Many thanks to everyone and their generosity.  The amazing people in my life supported me to the tune of $377.  Some days it is just great to be here!   (Fall 2012)


Entries in Salt Balance (2)


SALT Conundrum -- cont'd

I am amazed at the generosity of people sometimes.  I decided to just be bold & brazen and go ask the people most likely to know the answers.  Amazingly, they respond.  What's more they're downright helpful.

This is the second post about my salt conundrum.  I have since tweaked my regular table salt intake upwards even more, continued regular potatssium supplement by using a table salt substitute in a home-made, zero-sugar sports drink, and, started taking some magnesium.  (Ca, Mg, K, Na all work together.)  The tweaking has eliminated the quasi-dizzy spells and has eliminated the leg/calf cramping both at night and in the pool doing laps. 

In the response (below) from the respected Prof. Tim Noakes in South Africa he gently suggests that my stretching regime probably sucked.  So I have increased the amount of stretching I do and that has indeed had a positive impact overall.  However, things are not yet completely well in Camelot.  I still some foot cramps in my sleep.  Compared to calves these are easy to get up and walk through when they happen.  I'm not quite sure how one does foot stretches anyway!  I point my toes and twirl my feet for the range of motion in the ankles.  (That's still pretty lame eh?)

Here is the sage and kind response from Prof. Tim Noakes when I described my salt conundrum in an email.


Dear Meghann
Thank you so much for your e-mail.  It is a privilege to be able to help you with your cramping.
I am glad that you discovered the story about sodium on the high fat diet.
What is really interesting is that there is no evidence that salt deficiency causes cramps, yet it is clear that you have been tremendously helped by taking salt.  So my advice is that you continue to add the salt to your diet, however it is also very well known that proper stretching before you go to bed can completely eliminate nighttime cramps.  So I would advise you to increase your stretching substantially as this is really the only solution we have ever discovered for the treatment of cramping.
I wouldn’t really worry too much about how much sodium and potassium you are taking in your new model.
Probably the easiest way to take some extra potassium would be simply to find a potassium supplement.  We frequently give them to heart patients and I am sure that a few grams a day would be more than sufficient.  Generally it is thought that a high potassium intake is beneficial so half a gram or more a day would be more than adequate.  The only danger is if you have kidney problems, then you might accumulate potassium and that can be fatal, so one just needs to know that you are secreting any excess if you increase your potassium intake substantially.
With regard to sodium, the body is able to regulate its sodium intake extremely accurately and most athletes can regulate sodium even at only 3g of sodium a day.  So, even if you were to take 6g a day on a high fat diet, you would almost certainly be in sodium balance.
In summary, I think that you may or may not be correct that your cramping problem was related to sodium.  As you know, my general statement is that you should let your body decide and if you don’t have a salt craving then, to me, it is improbable that you have a sodium deficiency.  Provided you are getting 6g of sodium a day I don’t think it is possible for you to be in negative sodium balance.  Similarly, you need much less potassium to be in balance.  So the simplest way would be for you to salt your foods a little more and to take a single potassium tablet every day.
In the meantime, I wish you every success as you lose weight.  As you know, I believe the less carbohydrate you eat the better you will be.
With warm regards
Yours sincerely
Tim Noakes

Professor Timothy D Noakes OMS
MBChB, MD, DSc, PhD (h.c.), FACSM, Hon FFSEM (UK)
Discovery Health Professor of Exercise and Sports Science at UCT


Just for fun ... here is me riding in Bike for Breath last weekend for the NB Lung Association.  I'm sure I'll get flack for this but hey.... it's my blog.  I never promised that you would see my face in EVERY picture that I post!!!!


The Salt Conundrum

(Multi-part post - several edits)

Salt balance is a subject that has recently become very near and dear to my heart.  It's rather a long tale, but recurring muscle cramps bring it to my regular attention.

I've mentioned before, we have gradually changed our diet from what was actually considered a fairly reasonable diet (according to current nutrition or medical recommendations and the Canada Food Guide).  One aspect was to specifically reduce salt as Alan was on medication for high blood pressure.  "Everywhere" you turn, the standard recommendation across North America is to reduce salt in your diet.  

This did not work well for me.  I was getting a lot of cramps during exercize, and, bouts of agonizing cramps that would bring me out of a dead sleep.  I am exercizing regularly (see Accomplishments post) and with all that sweat equity I need to replace the salts.  My current summer daily exercize is to bike to & from work (approx 24k), and, to swim each work day lunch hour (1.5km).  This is approx. 2 hours of exercize daily. 

Potassium is especially indicated in the prevention of muscle cramps, so I use a potassium-based table salt.  A common dietary source is bananas - however both Alan & my daughter are allergic to bananas, AND, they are really high in carbs so I stopped buying them.

Sodium is maligned in modern nutrition, and people are told to reduce this on all occasions.  However, when the body has become adapted to consuming lower amounts of carbohydrates and is more efficient at burning fat, THEN your body starts excreting sodium in much higher proportions.  In research by Dr.'s Phinney & Volek (references) they recommend you add salt back into your diet.  One indication of sodium deficiency is dizziness - which I was having quite regularly!!!!  So I use a sodium-based salt too.

Further research on cramps & exercize have unearthed a solid link between other things like calcium and magnesium.  So, we've started taking Ca/Mg vitamin pills.  The recommendation is to use "Slow Mag" otherwise you get the same impact as Milk of Magnesia, but we haven't been able to find any yet.  Hmmm.

Another piece of total balance is the relationship between Zinc and Iron.  Excess iron means that zinc is unavailable and that has trickle down effect on pretty much all the other micronutrients I've been talking about here.  Oh bother.

How much does a person need?  That's an incredibly difficult question.  To date I have not found a source that indicates how much a person needs.  The recommendations are all about REDUCING it, and especially below certain levels for sodium.  There are a few dietary sites where you can plug in your age, weight, height, sex, etc. and it will spit out recommended body weight, caloric requirement, yada yada.  NONE of them will give a recommended amount of salts to consume.

So in the meantime I have concocted a homemade (and constantly tweaked) version of saline replacement solution (without added sugar), and I take vitamin pills.  The good news is that I now have very few nighttime episodes of wake-up cramps, and they are much less severe than before.  I still get some cramps in the pool but not in biking any more.   The dizzy spells appear to have been resolved (touch wood!).

This is an ongoing quest!  Salt & water are both hotly debated with little relevant science.  Sigh.  In keeping with before & after photos, here's an oldie but goodie from an era when hiking & camping were a normal part of life.  Here's to doing that again!