Salt and Constipation: Three Weird Ways Salt Can Help with an Ailment

Mar 17, 2016

Salt and Constipation
To put it bluntly, salt is some pretty potent stuff. It finds its place in a broad array of natural remedies, ranging from ear infections to balding. On the SaltStick blog, we’ve listed several ways salt can help alleviate chronic medical conditions (such as POTS and chronic fatigue syndrome), common maladies (such as migraines, stress and insomnia), hangovers, and the common cold. Because there seem to be endless uses for salt, we decided to continue the series, and provide some of the lesser-known ways salt can help alleviate annoying conditions, ranging from gum disease to constipation. Here are three weird ways salt can help with an ailment:

1. Salt and Sore Throat:

One side effect of respiratory infections, ranging from the common cold to the flu virus, is a sore throat. The body tries to flush out the infection by producing mucus in the nasal passages that is then swallowed and destroyed by the stomach acid. However, this process often aggravates the throat, producing coughing and painful swallowing. You may have heard that gargling warm salt water can help mitigate a sore throat, and there is some evidence to back this up. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a study in 2005 in which researchers found that gargling salt water “tended to attenuate bronchial symptoms,” among the 387 participants. (BONUS) The study also found that participants who gargled salt water three times per day during the course of the 60-day study also contracted fewer respiratory tract infections overall than the control group. Put it into practice: According to WebMD, sore throat sufferers should gargle at least once each hour with one teaspoon (five grams) of salt dissolved in eight fluid ounces (240 mL) of warm water. If you have postnasal drip, gargle often to prevent more throat irritation.

2. Salt and Constipation:

While you may only associate “salt” with table salt, or sodium chloride, "salt" actually includes a broad array of chemical elements, commonly referred to as "salts". In fact, the salts contained in your sweat are a combination of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Similarly, the name “Epsom salts” (originally named after Epsom, England, which contained a spring from which residents would boil water down into obtain the mineral) refers to magnesium sulfate. One popular, and even FDA-approved, use of this mineral is as a laxative. According to a 1996 Magnesium Research article, Epsom salts owe their effectiveness to the body’s low ability to absorb magnesium ions, which are released upon digestion of the mineral. The body releases water into the digestive tract to try and flush out these magnesium ions, which moves everything else along with it. One of the primary reasons for constipation is low water content in the intestinal tract. The article also postulates that Epsom salts signal the release of certain hormones that promote digestion as well. A similar study conducted by the University of Bristol’s Department of Medicine in the UK supported these findings. Put it into practice: Use these steps from Everyday Health: Dissolve one dose of Epsom salts in eight fluid ounces of water. Stir and drink all of the mixture right away. This should produce a bowel movement within 30 minutes to six hours. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids afterward.

3. Salt and Toothaches, Canker Sores, and Gum Disease:

If you’ve ever received oral surgery, you may have been advised to rinse your mouth with warm salt water for several days to keep you mouth clean. This is because warm saltwater briefly increases the pH value of your saliva, which is harmful to bacteria that usually prefer a more acidic environment. At least that’s what researchers concluded in a 2003 study published in the British Dental Journal. Also, saltwater is isotonic, meaning it has the same osmotic pressure as the fluid inside your cells. Therefore, it is unlikely to aggravate the new cells that are working to heal your mouth. Put it into practice: According to the University of Cambridge’s Dental School, the best results can be obtained by mixing a teaspoon of salt in warm water. Hold the solution over the affected spot for a few minutes, until the liquid begins to cool. “It is not a quick rinse and spit, but a mouth bath, at the end of which your mouth should feel warm and glowing,” writes the author.

What does this mean for you?

The above solutions work well and produce minimal side effects, likely because the body needs salt for a variety of functions. This is just as true for athletes as it is for the average person suffering from sore throat or toothache. Last year, we published a series of blog posts that examined the ways an athlete’s body utilizes four key electrolytes (or salts) during exercise. Ranging from muscle contraction to bone density to reducing oxidative damage, salt is used in many ways. Therefore, it is important to ensure you eat a varied diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes and lean meats, which contain the necessary minerals you need to keep yourself performing at your best.

How does SaltStick fit in?

Beyond your everyday diet, athletes may find it beneficial to supplement intense or lengthy periods of exercise with additional electrolytes in a form the body can easily absorb. That is where SaltStick comes into play. SaltStick Caps are the only electrolyte capsules formulated to closely resemble the electrolyte profile lost during sweat: A ratio of 220-sodium to 63-potassium to 16-calcium to 8-magnesium. The buffered salt composition helps digestion and absorption. To learn more about how electrolyte supplementation can benefit you as an athlete, check out our “Salt Science” web page here. Important Note: The above should not be construed as medical advice. Contact your physician before starting any exercise program or if you are taking any medication. Individuals with high blood pressure should also consult their physician prior to taking an electrolyte supplement. Overdose of electrolytes is possible, with symptoms such as vomiting and feeling ill, and care should be taken not to overdose on any electrolyte supplement.