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Back in 2001, my Mom decided to put herself on a low-sodium diet. Well, more like a NO sodium diet. This came after hearing some medical report on the radio about high sodium being bad for people. Mom innocently asked her primary doc if salt is bad for you to which she said, "yes." Duh.
Fast forward to the summer of that year, Mom was not doing well--weaker than usual, no appetite and drinking water like no tomorrow. One afternoon I was on the phone with her and she just didn't sound like her normal self. She told me to hang on and never came back on the phone. I should have called 911 right then and there, but instead I decided to check on her and I brought her back to my house. She stayed over that night and had a few seizures. Mom has epilepsy and I just thought she was having issues with her meds and I figured I'd take her to her neurologist in the morning. That night she was hallucinating, thought I was her sister, peed herself, was totally out of it. Damn--I still don't know why I didn't just call 911. The next morning, she was shot. I found her in my kitchen bright and early the next day sprawled out on the floor, her pills all over the place, not sure what or how many of what she took. Finally, I called 911--thinking that she had some sort of a stroke. It turned out that she had hyponatremia which (in English) means an extremely low level of sodium in the blood. It can cause dizziness, delerium, hallucinations, coma and even death. She was hospitalized for a month. It was a nightmare. She was totally confused, vicious, and violent. She had to be restrained, as she was combative with the nurses; kicking, spitting and slapping. The sun-downing was a nightmare. She barely slept, but would call me at all hours saying that the nurses were demons and trying to kill her, then threatening me, saying some pretty unbelievable and ugly things. Weird how she thought it was the 1940's, but she remembered my phone number. It took another month in a rehab until she was able to get home. She barely remembers any of this experience. I only mention this subject because this can be another area that should be investigated when our parents display confusion, delerium, hallucinations.
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HOLY COW! Thanks for reminding me to feed Dad salt! my goodness...his sodium WAS low at one point but I sure didn't know it could do THIS! YIKES!
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I always ask what Mom's sodium level is with her bloodwork. The normal range is 136 to 145. With the way some of these folks eat (or don't eat), it's a good thing to keep track of.
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Joani. Thank you for bringing up this subject.
My mom, a few months ago after a blood-test, was told to eat MORE salt. She had no desernible 'symptons'...just low sodium-level. This was after she'd been told for YEARS to avoid salt because of her blood-pressure. Just WHAT are we supposed to do?!!! Because I am innately skeptical of 'medicos'...and because I have been around animals all my life...I never have bought-in to the "salt demonizing". Salt is ESSENTIAL in the diet. Animals won't thrive on a salt-deficient diet...indeed will go CRAZY if they need salt. Wild animals will eat the SOIL for salt. And neither will animals eat TOO much salt. They "know" how much they want and need, for Pete' sake. I speak only to the benefits of REAL salt...sea salt..kosher...stock salt.,etc. I believe some of the processing of 'table salt'/commonly used salt... may remove some of the benefits. I'm not sure about that.
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Eeeek. I never add salt to my food. Good thing that I eat chips. My mom had to watch the sodium because of dialysis and it was always difficult. This story reminds us of the importance of eating some sodium. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. And what a hellish situation!
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My aunt(who had the operation for bowel cancer a few months ago, and who I went to Fiji with) has low sodium levels.The doctors are very puzzled as to why because she has always used salt. I am wondering if there is something that cancels out the sodium in your body even when you are supposedly getting enough - but I'm no medical researcher.She has to take tablets to get her levels up now.
I don't add any salt to my food but I eat a very wide variety of foods and my levels are healthy. Diet is an interesting thing. I have high bad cholesterol but also very high good cholesterol, and I'm trying to bring the bad chol. down naturally by exercise and eating psyllium husks and more green veg etc. The thing is to keep yourself balanced and not to obsess about it. It's good that they have been able to sort your mother out and get her back to normal.
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Hi, This is a very interesting thread. I am glad you started it, Joanie. I remember when spent summers on mom's uncles farm, there were always "salt licks" placed in the pastures for cattle. It makes sense. If we don't have salt, we won't retain water. If we don't retain SOME water, we get dehydrated. And THAT seems to be a huge problem for our elderly. How many of us have seen that happen. Last year, mom was listless, exhausted, her eyes appeared sunken. Her sensitivity to temperature was ALL off, meaning I went in to her house one day and she had the heat set at something like 82, and she was chilly. Next day the opposite. I think way too much is made of the "demon salt". I agree with whichever poster said that our bodies know what they need, and will seek it. Obviously, of you're on a sodium restricted diet, that's different. But a normal diet should include normal amounts of sodium. Thanks so much for making us aware of yet another very (relatively small) important thing to keep our eyes on. Have a great day!! ~ k ~
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My mother had CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic leukemia for 16 yrs. For most of those yrs you wouldn't even know it. They watched her every 3 months and usually she was on pills for 3 months, off for 3 months...for years. Then the last couple years, the pills weren't doing it anymore so she had to have chemo. Then a stronger chemo and finally at the end of that 2 yrs, the doctor said while the chemo kept her blood count at a stable level, it was a high level and he suggested she see a research doctor he knew. We drove the 3 hours there and that Dr. was very convinced he could help her. He arranged for her to have a different experimental chemo treatment at her own local cancer center and my gosh! it worked much better and quicker than even the research doctor thought it would. The eventual problem? Half way through the recommended treatment plan, her blood counts were just about normal but we saw a little 'distancing' in her. Then all of a sudden, she fell in the tub. ER docs noted that her sodium was low but THEY DIDN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT! Next morning she was incoherent, rushed to hospital, seizures and to make a long story short...she died a week later, first appearing to be slowly recovering, then coding again. The cause: HER SODIUM BOTTOMED OUT; an heretofore unknown side effect of the experimental chemo treatment.She too was always concerned about too much salt intake...wish we had known this info much sooner.
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Interesting thread. If you're concerned about your senior's low salt, maybe Gatorade would help (with doc's approval.) We drink it during the hot summers down here when we're working outdoors.
K, your mother's temperature sensitivity due to dehydration is interesting, too. My mother seems to have no thirst mechanism. Drinks too little, although she gets a lot of salt in frozen dinners (no worries about that, she's fine.) After her most recent surgery I practically poured water down her which helped the delirium pass and she really perked up. And she is always freezing, even when her house is over 80 degrees. Hmm.... E
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One of the skin's functions is "heat regulation" and when the skin gets too old, and dry, it is no longer able to regulate the body's temperature. That's why they freeze even when it's 80*. Silly me, I always used to think they were just sissies. My grandmother, for example......I don't think I ever saw her without her little turquoise cardigan on. Mom's mouth is always dry....she says it's from her meds. Last week she bought some frozen stir-fry thing, and it was LOADED with sodium. SOmething like 1880 mgs in half cup. I was horrified, but then I figured at least it would make her thirsty. One of the first symptoms that popped up when I Googled dehydration in elderly was that they were insensitive to temperature changes (due to the drying out of the skin, no doubt). That, and rapid weight loss. So, does it make sense that if they do not have ENOUGH sodium they will become dehydrated FROM LACK OF THIRST?
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So..... this is starting to make sense. My aunt was recently hospitalized for LOW sodium- complete with paranoia, hallucinations, anger and being what I called "lost in time and space". She had been on a diuretic for her heart etc and when they removed it the sodium started to come back. Dr says the sodium thing is not dietary generally, but a case of too much fluid for too little sodium. Marathon runners who overdo the water thing often get it. So the dilemma is, how do you get the balance just right. BTW, she still is not back to normal- apparently it takes a while to regulate. The hosp staff was really glad to see her go- she had turned into "grandma nasty" - totally not like her. Weird.
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Hi snooze, When my mom was last hospitalized for her fall this past Fall (wow--how appropriate--sorry-sick sense of humor), her level was at about 126. It was low, but nothing like it was way back in 2001. The course of treatment was to limit her liquid intake. I mean, really limit. It was almost cruel and unusual punishment. Was your Aunt found to be leveled out when she was released? It still takes time for her head to catch up.
Kolleen, What's weird is that water, in itself, becomes a duiretic when drank in large quantities. That was Mom's problem. She wouldn't put on the A/C (gotta save Dad's $$$, ya know), but drank a ton of water, barely ate and ta-da lost her mind for a few months. I know that when you start to get dehydrated, you get nauseous, too--don't want to eat or drink. Bear in mind, folks, that sodium is part of the electrolyte system (along with potassium, calcium) that regulates water in the body and too much or too little can reek havoc on the elders. I'm really surprised that Drs don't make a bigger issue out of this. A simple blood test every 3 months would help to get a look at whether it's the diet or something else that's putting their levels off kilter. CHF, kidney problems are just some of the conditions that have an effect on the levels.
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Thanks Joani My aunt had been 124 and was 130 when she was released. Her mental state is coming along, but still sort of loopy. She also was fluid restricted- severely- but the issue is to keep her from regressing now, I guess. It's really amazing to think that something so simple can be the reason for such a mental crisis. snooze
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a friend of mine, in her late 40's
has a low-sodium condition. She actually has to pour salt on everything she eats, or eat salty stuff. (yuck!)
Even taking a pill has no effect for her.