You Make Me Sick
November 26, 2016 6:55 AM   Subscribe

I like salt. Why do certain types make me sick?

I really like salt. However, some types of salt make me feel nauseated, and I don't really understand why.

For example, I got some pink Himalayan salt made me sick each time I ate it. I've had other salts (I think they've mostly been rock salts) that have had the same effect, sometimes actually leading to me actually getting sick. The solution is clearly to stop eating these salts, but I'm confused to why it's happening in the first place!

Does anyone have any insight onto why rock salt would make someone sick? Is there something in particular that I should be avoiding? My Googling tells me that it's just like any other salt, so I'm kind of flummoxed.

Thanks!
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
As you say, different kinds of salt are mostly the same - sodium chloride with varying but tiny amounts of potassium, magnesium and calcium salts. However, the pink color of Himalayan salt is due to presence of iron oxides - could you be sensitive to those? The less refined the salt (such as Himalayan salt or rock salts) the more likely it is that there are other minerals present in very tiny quantities that you could perhaps be reacting to. Table salt and sea salt are the most likely to be free of these and mostly just be sodium chloride.
posted by peacheater at 7:08 AM on November 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


They're not necessarily better but they're not *exactly* just like other salts.The fancier salts are typically un (or less?) refined and thus still have trace amounts of other things in them other than the standard sodium chloride. Here is the analysis of what's in Himalayan Pink Salt. Science-Based Medicine (the website) opines here that those traces of various elements are neither enough to do much good nor (in the case of some that are radioactive, like radium) enough to do harm. Here is another analysis of the trace elements in some gourmet salts.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:11 AM on November 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


My guess would be iodine. You or your thyroid might be sensitive.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 7:45 AM on November 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, the elephant in the room is the sodium itself. In my experience, if you eat too much salt you will feel ill immediately, and it doesn't take as much as you'd think. Over-salted food may also be difficult to detect, especially if it's a type of salt you're not used to or if there are other strong flavors in the dish.

Per unit volume, I would think mined rock salts are slightly more concentrated than sea/table salts, which in turn would be more concentrated than kosher. So a pinch of rock salt is a bit more than a pinch of other salt. Plus people want to "experience" the fancy salt so they intentionally add more or use it as an edible garnish. You can really ingest a whole lot more sodium than you intend that way.
posted by zennie at 8:34 AM on November 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


My guess would be iodine. You or your thyroid might be sensitive.

That doesn't really fit with the kinds of salts the OP says are making her sick - there's no added iodine in Himalayan salt or rock salts, while there is in regular table salt.
posted by peacheater at 8:51 AM on November 26, 2016 [8 favorites]


Per unit volume, I would think mined rock salts are slightly more concentrated than sea/table salts, which in turn would be more concentrated than kosher.

This comment made me curious, but dubious, because most 'fancy' salts I've cooked with were flaky sea salts or which are less dense due to being composed of big flakes that pack less well. Surely the answer would be to grab a kitchen scale and weigh them like this guy did. He didn't measure any Himalayan pink salt, but this blogger compared several other kinds. Her results agree with zennie's suggestion - if you use ground rock salt like you would a flaky sea salt you may be adding about 1.5 times more NaCl.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:17 AM on November 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


For what value of "sick"?

Do you mean nauseated, or something similar like bloating, indigestion, gas, weird poop, etc? Or something else (headaches? some kind of histamine reaction?)

Also, what foods are you eating these types of salt in? Is there a certain dish you've prepared which calls for pink salt, which made you sick after you ate it? Could you have an intolerance to something else in that dish?

Here's an experiment. Make some food. Something you know tends to go down easy for you. Sprinkle it with plain old Morton's iodized table salt (which is a rock salt, not a sea salt). Eat the food. Did you get sick? Make the exact same dish. Sprinkle it with sea salt like Maldon or Fleur de Sel. Did you get sick this time? If you truly have some kind of reaction to rock salt, you will get sick the first time, but not the second time.

My favorite theory is that salt is delicious, so you tend to overeat foods that contain a lot of it. No idea why this would be more because of rock salt than sea salt, but sea salt is expensive and tends to be more used on fancier dishes you are less likely to overindulge in. Large flaky types of sea salt are also used with a little more restraint, in my experience.
posted by Sara C. at 2:17 PM on November 26, 2016


mined rock salts are slightly more concentrated than sea/table salts

At least in the US among ordinary middle class people, table salt is not sea salt, it's rock salt. The stuff that comes in the dark blue canister with the girl with the umbrella on it is definitely rock salt. Any salt you've ever sprinkled into your food from a restaurant not owned by Alice Waters (or her ilk) was rock salt, not sea salt.
posted by Sara C. at 2:19 PM on November 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


As I understand it, Himalayan salt is mined from ancient dried up lake beds covered by more recent strata; and since cooler salt lakes support microbial life right up to saturation and precipitation, it seems very likely to me that as mined, Himalayan salt contains remains of those microbes, and it's conceivable to me that you could be reacting to those remains.
posted by jamjam at 3:49 PM on November 26, 2016


Yeah, Sara C., I was attempting to make a distinction between what I imagine are the relative densities* of the commercial products, not implying that table salt is sea salt. Sorry.

* Thanks for the links, deludingmyself. I couldn't remember the word "density" earlier!
posted by zennie at 3:55 PM on November 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


I vote the mineral composition. Pink salt has never been an issue for me, but certain high mineral foods can make me nauseated and/or bloated.

Why it does that? I don't know. I had a c.dificile infection in my stomach - maybe that has something to do with it?
posted by Neekee at 6:11 PM on November 26, 2016


Okay, so this response is a bit "out there" but taken from personal experience. You may be reacting to what is known as "sudden salt load" which, for most people, doesn't matter but for those who suffer from painless migraine is an issue as, even though you don't get a headache in the classic sense, you might get the other things that can go with a migraine, particulary nausea.

After eating salt but before you actually sense nausea does it seem as though the room or space you are in is smoky? Do you get a stange sensation on the sides of your tongue or the feeling of wind on your face?

Is the onset of nausea rapid?
posted by bz at 8:54 PM on November 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Okay, so this response is a bit "out there" but taken from personal experience. You may be reacting to what is known as "sudden salt load" which, for most people, doesn't matter but for those who suffer from painless migraine is an issue as, even though you don't get a headache in the classic sense, you might get the other things that can go with a migraine, particulary nausea.

Under your "sudden salt load" scenario, then, bz -- if a salt which has the same mineral balance as human blood is much more rapidly absorbed than purer NaCl, as I have often seen claimed, that would cause a sharper increase in blood volume to maintain optimal concentrations, which would in turn cause more rapid and therefore difficult to adapt to brain swelling and the sort of nausea associated with the cerebral edema of altitude sickness, for example, and the balanced, 'natural' salts would be more likely to cause Enchanting Grasshopper problems.

I think "sudden salt load" is a very good possibility.
posted by jamjam at 9:59 PM on November 26, 2016


It was an h.pylori infection, c.dificile! My bad.
posted by Neekee at 8:28 AM on November 27, 2016


Thanks for all the suggestions/explanations. I'm still not 100% certain what it is, but I think the most plausible explanation for my particular situation is increased sodium quantities.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 9:20 AM on November 27, 2016


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