Increasing My Sodium Intake

Serendipity is often a pleasant thing. It's funny how events just sort of compile themselves in a useful shape, sometimes.

A few days ago, I was annoyed when I opened the freezer on the top of my kitchen fridge, and a bag of steak bones, accumulated over many months, fell out at my feet. I figured that was the universe's way of telling me it was time to make beef broth.

So I put the steak bones in my soup kettle, covered 'em with water, added a little salt and vinegar, and let them simmer for a couple of days. But seeing as it's in the 90s here in Southern Indiana (I believe that's the 30s or thereabouts for those of you in Celsius-land, but I didn't look it up), a nice pot of vegetable beef soup just didn't sound appealing.

On an entirely different front, I've had a cluster of annoying minor symptoms recently -- tired with no reason, a little queasy, when the side effects of the Victoza had stopped a few weeks ago, lightheaded when I stand up. When I point my toes to stretch, my calves would start to cramp. A little achy, a little headache-y. I've just been irritable, cross for no good reason. Most frightening, I've made some odd, inexplicable errors in very basic arithmetic, and used the wrong word for simple things -- saying "purple" when I meant "green," that sort of thing -- enough times to disturb me.

I wondered if I might be slipping a little hypothyroid again, and thought maybe bumping up my dose of Armour thyroid might help. I emailed my doctor to inquire.

Then I went outside to read The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, which has been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks now. It's great, and I recommend it highly, though I'm only about 85 pages in.

Having seen both authors, Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek, speak during the Q&A at the Nutrition and Metabolism Society symposium back in April, and having read New Atkins For a New You, I knew they put an emphasis on adding sodium to a low carbohydrate diet, because of the kidney's increased excretion of sodium when insulin levels drop. (This is why you lose water weight the first few weeks, and why blood pressure drops so fast on a low carbohydrate diet.) Hadn't really thought much about it, though. I've been low carb for so long, I figured my body had it figured out by now.

Then I got to the piece in the beginning of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living about the symptoms of sodium deficiency, also known as hyponatremia. And guess what? It sounded very familiar. I looked up hyponatremia online, and the list of symptoms was spot-on. (Except for the coma part, thank heaven.)

I got to thinking about it, and it seemed possible I've been eating less salt than I used to. I've been eating less in general since I went on the Victoza. Too, I haven't been eating a lot of dishes that have much salt mixed in, soups and stews and the like, because of the hot weather. Been eating a lot of veggies, too, so my potassium intake has been up. More than once I've substituted Greek yogurt with strawberries and nuts -- and very little sodium -- for supper. And of course, like everyone else, I sweat more in hot weather, losing sodium that way. All told, it seemed very possible that I had become hyponatremic.

Well, I knew that Volek and Phinney recommended bouillon as a source of sodium, and there I was with a big pot of beef broth -- beef broth with considerably less sodium than commercial bouillon, I might add. Still, there had to be some way to use the broth.

I flashed on church coffee hours back at dear old Christ Church, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, in my childhood. Along with coffee, tea, and juice, they served a popular 50-50 mixture of beef broth and tomato juice. Indeed, I included it in one of my cookbooks. And tomato juice is fairly high in sodium. So, for that matter, is V-8, which I prefer to tomato juice. And I had some in the basement.

So I poured a 4 ounce can of V-8 and a half-cup of my nice beef broth in my little saucepan, and added a teaspoon of Beef Better Than Bouillon. Heated it up, stirred till the bouillon paste dissolved, poured it into a mug, and tried it.

It was lovely. Very tasty, and light enough that it didn't seem overwhelming in the heat. I think it might even be nice chilled. And by my calculations it had more than a gram of sodium, putting into the range recommended by Volek and Phinney. Seven grams of usable carb.

I have three more little cans of V-8, and several little cans of tomato juice, too. Heaven knows, I've got plenty of nice, fresh beef bone broth. And -- more serendipity -- I just noticed the other day that I somehow managed to acquire two nearly full jars of Beef Better Than Bouillon, and one that's mostly empty. (Have I mentioned I'm pathologically disorganized?)

So I'll be having a mug of this -- or maybe a chilled glass of it -- every day for the next week or so. If my symptoms go away, I'll know I got it right.