I was surprised when a friend told me that she starts her day with a glass of warm salt water every morning. It’s not something I’d ever heard of and it sounded quite disgusting to be honest.
However, she was quite adamant about the health benefits so I decided to look a little deeper into the subject. I like to keep an open mind about these things until I’ve examined the science behind them. I’m often pleasantly surprised by the amount of hard evidence supporting natural remedies.
I was quite skeptical about making salt water beverages a regular habit because of the well-known effect of sodium on blood pressure and heart health. Read on to find out are there health benefits to drinking salt water in the morning.
What’s The Deal With This Salt Water Drink?
Nearly all of the websites discussing the health benefits to drinking salt water in the morning call this beverage “sole”, pronounced “so-lay”. This name is apparently derived from “sol”, the Latin word for sun.
From this exotic-sounding name, I presumed that this drink had some sort of historic, traditional use (some blogs mention India) but I couldn’t find anything about the origin of this word or who uses it other than alternative practitioners and people selling the expensive salts. If it’s a Latin word, it’s unlikely to have originated in India, right?
I’m open to correction but I believe the term has been coined recently. There’s nothing wrong with that, and nobody directly said that this remedy is thousands of years old, however it made me suspicious from the get-go. (source)
Drinking Salt Water For “Detoxification”
The health claims associated with salt water vary wildly. If you were to believe everything you read, it’s pretty much a cure-all. However, you need to take these claims with a grain of salt, so to speak.
As soon as I see the word “detoxification”, my mouse pointer starts reaching for the little red “x” in the corner of the screen. And the word is rampant in information about salt water. Salt water apparently purifies your system, drawing toxins out of your organs.
That’s all very well, but unfortunately “detoxification” is not a real thing. It’s just a meaningless buzzword with no scientific backing. You have two very efficient “detox” systems in your body, purifying all 5 liters of our blood, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They’re called your liver and kidneys.
Your liver and kidneys don’t need any help removing toxins from your system. In fact, even if you wanted to help, it wouldn’t be possible. If one of these vital organis was truly malfunctioning, you’d know about it. At that point, a home “detox” program won’t help you – you would be in the hospital.
Does Salt Water Decrease Your Blood Pressure?
A rather bizarre claim I read on many websites is that “sole” can decrease your blood pressure. The effects of salt on blood pressure are extremely well documented. If you have taken a basic biology lesson you will understand why salt increases your blood pressure, and quite dramatically at that. If you want to know the details, you can read more here.
Too much salt leads to hypertension, stroke and heart attacks, among other illnesses. This is why the American Heart Association recommends limiting your sodium intake to no more than 1,500 milligrams per day. (source)
Apparently the reason that “sole” is so different is because you make it with unrefined salt (think fancy salts like pink Himalayan or European sea salt), not regular table salt. I’m going to go into a bit more detail on this further on, but there is almost no difference in sodium content between refined and unrefined salt. They are all equally dangerous for heart health – and that’s not just my opinion, it’s the official line from the AHA. (source)
Some sources claim that the extra minerals in unrefined salt counteract sodium’s effects on blood pressure. Unrefined salt does have a lot of minerals but they are in tiny, trace amounts. I don’t believe their quantity is enough to have any significant impact on health.
What’s The Deal With “Unrefined Salt”?
As I mentioned above, most “sole” enthusiasts are emphatic about using unrefined salt rather than table salt. Although both are comparable in sodium content, there are some big differences in composition and preparation.
Most table salt or refined salt is harvested from salt mines as a highly concentrated solution of water and salt known as brine. This brine is often treated with chemicals to remove mineral “impurities”. Next, the salt is separated from the water by evaporation. Other chemicals such as may be added to improve flow, prevent clumping and stabilize the salt. (source)
Unrefined salt comes from the sea or particular salt mines. No minerals are removed and no chemicals are added. Some of the minerals found in unrefined salt include calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, titanium, magnesium and iron. (source) Some sea salts can be refined so you have to check the label to find out if it’s truly unrefined.
Salt Water And Adrenal Fatigue
Many websites claim that drinking saltwater helps cure adrenal fatigue, i.e. feelings of tiredness resulting from reduced performance of the adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands like to increase your blood pressure in the morning – it’s just part of our bodies natural rhythm.
Apparently by using salt water to increase your blood pressure first thing in the morning instead (so now they admit that it does increase blood pressure!) takes the pressure off your adrenal glands. This means they can perform better throughout the rest of the day. (source)
Apparently after a few days drinking “sole” your symptoms of adrenal fatigue will disappear and your energy will be through the roof. Sounds pretty great, huh? Well, it would be, except that adrenal fatigue is not a real medical condition. There is no scientific evidence to support its existence. (source)
Adrenal insufficiency is a real illness but it’s due to damage to your glands and must be treated with replacement hormones – not salt water.
Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Salt Water In The Morning?
1. Mineral Replenishment
So, we know that unrefined salt contains a lot of minerals. For this reason (and the taste), I always use it instead of table salt. The quantity of minerals in “sole” is tiny however so are our requirements. It’s quite possible that you can meet your recommended daily allowance of most essential minerals this way.
However, I don’t think it’s worth it. The negatives associated with massive sodium consumption outweigh the benefit of the minerals. It’s much safer to just take a multivitamin or eat a balanced diet.
2. Improved Hydration
It’s true that salt water is more efficient at hydrating your body than plain water or other drinks. Even so, this is not a reason to drink it daily. If you are dehydrated and low on electrolytes from sweating during sports, or if you’ve suffered severe diarrhoea or vomiting, you could give it a try.
However, even in those cases, you would be better off buying a commercial electrolyte powder as getting the concentration of salt wrong can cause problems.
3. Improved Digestion
Studies show that salt increases saliva production. (source) Saliva is the first step in the digestive process. Salt may also help digestion further along the intestinal tract. In theory, this will lead to improved digestion but there is most likely salt in every meal you eat so is it really necessary to drink salt water every morning (hint: the answer is no)
4. It’s Antibacterial
Salt water is known to kill bacteria. Salt literally draws liquid out of bacterial cells and bursts them. This is why it’s a great idea to gargle with salt for a sore throat or oral thrush infection. If you’re not sick though, I don’t see any reason to drink it.
To make a long story short – I would not recommend drinking salt water. Yes there are some health benefits associated with unrefined salt but the effects of sodium on blood pressure far outweigh any benefits.
If you have even a slight touch of hypertension – and nearly 30% of us do (source) – please stay away from salt water. If your blood pressure is fine and you insist on drinking “sole” make sure to have your blood pressure checked shortly after you start this habit. The results will speak for themselves.