Himalayan pink salt is everywhere these days. You might even have Himalayan salt lamps or salt grinders at home.
Himalayan salt, as the name suggests, comes from salt mines in the Punjab region of Pakistan, deep within the Himalayas. And unlike table salt, Himalayan salt is not refined.
People love Himalayan pink salt because it’s said to have many health benefits: extra minerals, air purification, improved respiratory health, and more. Unfortunately, some of these health claims don’t have much evidence behind them.
In this article, you’ll learn what Himalayan pink salt benefits do have evidence behind them. Many of these benefits involve sodium — an essential mineral bound up in all salt products.
Not all sodium sources, however, are created equal.
Okay then. Here come those pink salt benefits.
Salt of all varieties — including table salt and Himalayan salt — is comprised mostly of sodium chloride, or NaCl. Both sodium and chloride are electrolytes with essential functions in the human body. More on this later.
But Himalayan salt has an advantage over plain old table salt. In addition to sodium and chloride, Himalayan pink salt contains other important minerals[*].
In fact, these minerals (especially trace amounts of iron) are what give Himalayan pink salt its distinctive pink color[*].
In a study published in 2010 in the Journal of Sensory Studies, researchers found that — compared to Morton table salt — Himalayan pink salt contains more potassium, calcium, and magnesium per unit measured[*].
Here’s why it’s good to get plenty of these electrolytes in your diet:
- Potassium helps regulate fluid balance and blood pressure[*]
- Calcium helps you contract muscles and build bone
- Magnesium is essential for cellular energy production, DNA repair, muscle function, bone health, and much more[*]
Other minerals found in sea salts like Himalayan salt include molybdenum, copper, iodine, manganese, zinc, cobalt, sulfur, and phosphorous.
To be clear, the mineral content of this rock salt isn’t substantial—and the minerals are only present only in trace amounts. This means you shouldn’t rely on Himalayan salt as your primary source of these nutrients.
Nonetheless, switching out table salt for Himalayan salt is a simple way to add more trace minerals to your diet. It’s also a good way to avoid certain chemicals.
Table salt contains less minerals than Himalayan salt because table salt is refined.
That’s right. The refining process is designed to remove everything but sodium chloride, including trace minerals.
But there’s a bigger problem with table salt production: anti-caking agents.
Anti-caking agents are added to table salt to prevent clumping. These chemical additives, however, are probably not substances you want in your body.
Take sodium aluminosilicate, an anti-caking agent used in many table salts. Sodium aluminosilicate contains aluminum, a potent neurotoxin[*]. No thanks.
Okay, so you’ll skip the table salt. Will any old sea salt do then?
Maybe not. Sea salt is derived from evaporated ocean water, and much of that water contains microplastics with unknown effects on human health[*].
Himalayan pink salt originally came from the sea too, but that ocean water evaporated hundreds of millions of years ago, before humans began polluting the water.
This isn’t to say that pink Himalayan salt is the only pure salt. It seems, however, to be a fine choice.
Early research suggests that inhaling salt — known as “halotherapy” — may alleviate certain breathing disorders. Himalayan salt, or Himalayan salt caves, are commonly used in halotherapy.
In one double-blind placebo-controlled study, 55 children with mild asthma were randomized to either receive halotherapy or sit in a control room with no salt dispersed[*]. These children had 14 salt therapy sessions over 7 weeks.
According to the authors: “A statistically significant improvement in [bronchial hyper-responsiveness] was demonstrated in the treatment group, which remained unchanged in the control group.”
In other words, inhaling salt appears to improve asthma symptoms in young children.
Possibly adults too. In another small placebo-controlled study, people with asthma experienced reduced symptoms after two weeks of fairly regular salt-chamber treatment[*].
But it’s not all good news for salt therapy.
Another group of researchers reviewed 151 published articles on the benefits of halotherapy for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. Unfortunately, only four studies met the criteria for inclusion — and even these studies had methodological issues[*].
Halotherapy for COPD? Definitely not a slam dunk.
Here’s the punchline: It’s still too early to recommend salt therapy as an effective treatment for breathing disorders. More research is needed.
Many people are down on salt, fearing that salting food will spike their blood pressure and increase their risk of developing heart disease.
But these fears are likely overblown. In fact, a large cohort study following 7,154 adults over an average of 13.7 years found that sodium intake was inversely correlated with a risk of dying from heart disease[*].
In other words, those who ate less than 2300 milligrams sodium per day were more likely to die from heart disease than those eating higher sodium intakes.
Too much sodium, it’s true, is linked to high blood pressure. This evidence, however, is mostly observational[*].
And as always: correlation doesn’t prove causation. Perhaps it’s the Standard American Diet, which happens to be high in salt, that drives the sodium-blood pressure link.
In other words: maybe it’s not too much salt causing these issues, but the lack of whole foods in high-salt diets.
In fact, your kidneys are very good at regulating sodium levels in your blood. That said, those with kidney disease should be cautious at higher sodium intakes.
Depending on your diet, activity level, and sensitivity to sodium, you may need more or less salt in your diet. More on this in the next section.
Interestingly enough, natural sea salts like pink Himalayan salt may be better for blood pressure than table salt.
In one animal study, researchers fed “salt-sensitive” rats either refined salt or sea salt for 15 weeks. The results? Compared to the refined salt rats, the sea salt rats experienced less hypertension and kidney damage[*].
Animal evidence — yes — but still worth mentioning.
This benefit isn’t specific to Himalayan salt. All salt can take credit. That’s because, along with potassium, sodium helps balance the fluid in your blood, urine, and other bodily liquids.
Fluid balance is important for many reasons, like helping your blood flow easily through your blood vessels.
Low levels of sodium in the blood, known as hyponatremia, may result from:
- Excessive water consumption (without adding salt)
- Excessive sweating
- Kidney disease
- Congestive heart failure
Hyponatremia is a dangerous condition. It’s an independent predictor of both cirrhosis (liver disease) and heart failure[*].
Plus, having insufficient blood levels of sodium can cause a host of undesirable symptoms: muscle cramps, nausea, fatigue, headaches, bad mood, and more.
Eating salt is necessary, but not sufficient, to prevent hyponatremia. You also need properly functioning kidneys, a good heart, etc.
Similarly, vitamin D is necessary, but not sufficient, for bone health. You also need other nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin K, magnesium, and calcium to support bone growth and repair.
And keto folks, listen up. If you’re on a keto diet, you need to pay special attention to your salt intake. Here’s why:
- Since it’s low-carb, a keto diet can help keep blood sugar low
- Low blood sugar levels mean lower insulin levels
- Low insulin levels mean your kidneys release excess water, flushing out extra sodium (Insulin signals your body to retain sodium)[*].
So on keto, you’ll probably need more salt to feel your best. In fact, inadequate sodium is a primary cause of the infamous “keto flu”!
Avoid the temptation, however, to unscrew the top and dump the entire salt shaker on your meal. Just add 1 to 2 extra teaspoons per day and see how you feel.
And for bonus points (and bonus minerals), make it extra Himalayan pink salt.
Along with regulating fluid balance, sodium’s other main job is to support the transmission of nerve impulses in your body. A bit of explanation will help.
For a nerve impulse to “fire”, there must be a certain balance of sodium (Na+) and potassium (K+) ions on either side of the nerve cell membrane. When the balance hits the sweet spot, BANG: the nerve impulse (or action potential) is generated[*].
So yes, you need salt in your system for your nervous system to work properly.
This is perhaps most obvious in the brain, which contains the highest concentration of nerve cells (called neurons) in the human body. This is why many low salt symptoms — headache, moodiness, etc. — are cognitive.
Prevent this from happening by salting food to taste, drinking a bit of salt water, and replenishing salt after sweating. Sorry folks, water alone does not fully hydrate you!
And remember: if you practice intermittent fasting, the keto diet, or both — you may need to eat more salt than your average person to maintain healthy sodium levels.
Earlier you learned how salt helps you regulate fluid balance. Low serum salt, or hyponatremia, is linked to all sorts of health problems.
Many of these problems stem from improper secretion of the hormone vasopressin, also known as antidiuretic hormone[*]. This anti-diuretic hormone, as you might guess, helps you hold onto fluids.
Vasopressin is secreted at sundown so you can sleep through the night without having to wake up every few hours, stumble to the bathroom, fumble with the light, and pee.
Relevant here: low sodium levels can suppress vasopressin production.
That’s right, eating salt helps you secrete antidiuretic hormone, which in turn helps you (ahem) hold onto fluids at night[*].
In addition to low sodium intake, drinking alcohol can also suppress vasopressin[*]. That’s why a few beers at a party can mean a dozen or more trips to the toilet that same night.
To optimize vasopressin and sleep through the night without having to pee, consider these tips:
- Limit or eliminate alcohol intake
- Consume a few dashes of salt before bedtime
- Avoid guzzling water or other liquids before hitting the sack
Himalayan salt, it’s true, is a bit of a fad these days. It’s a healthy fad though.
Pink salt may not filter the air or regulate your PH, but it does offer other health benefits.
Compared to table salt, Himalayan pink salt contains more minerals and less potentially-harmful chemicals.
Plus, sodium (from salt) is an essential electrolyte that helps you balance fluids and conduct nerve impulses all throughout your body. Yes, without sodium, you wouldn’t get much thinking or moving done.
So go ahead: swap out your table salt for Himalayan pink salt. It’s an easy hack for better health.