Food & Drink · Lifestyle

Roz Warren: Damn! It’s a Low-Salt Life for Us

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Marlon E via Flickr. (Creative Commons License)

My sister laughed out loud when I told her that one of the few things I could do about the Meniere’s Disease that I’d just been diagnosed with was to drastically reduce my intake of salt.

Why? I’ve been known all my life for over-salting my food. Before I even bother to taste it, I douse everything I eat. When a meal begins, everybody in my family automatically hands me the salt shaker.

I even carry a little packet of salt in my wallet, for Salt Emergencies. Such as? When we order take-out pizza at the library where I work, but when it arrives I find that the library’s sole salt shaker has gone missing.

It’s long been my claim that I’d rather go hungry than eat under-salted pizza.

Pouring salt on my food is one of the cornerstones of my identity. “Would you like some soup with your salt?” my brother-in-law will joke, watching me rain salt into his delicious homemade fish chowder.

I’ve always been lucky enough to have very low blood pressure. So when dinner companions cautioned me about the health risks of covering my entrée with salt, I’d respond with a cheerful “Not to worry. I’ve got low blood pressure. I’m just self-medicating.”

Then came my Meniere’s diagnosis. And wham! Just like that, I was one of those seniors who scan the ingredient label of each item before placing it in my shopping cart, and grill waiters about the sodium content of the soup.

The only silver lining? The man in my life and I are in this together.

On the very same week that I was told to eliminate salt from my diet because of Meniere’s, Mark was told to eliminate salt from his because of his skyrocketing blood pressure.

What are the odds?

In the two decades we’ve been together, Mark and I have shared many things. A love of reading. Good conversation. Taking long walks. Visiting museums.

Apparently one thing we now get to enjoy together is shunning salt.  “It isn’t a ghastly ordeal,” we tell each other. “It’s a fun new adventure!”

Actually, it’s a ghastly new adventure.

But we’re making the best of it. I’ve always thought of our relationship as an ongoing conversation. Now we have a brand-new topic! And going grocery shopping gives us plenty to talk about.

“Who knew that there was so damn much sodium in Original V8? 480 mg per serving! Are they insane?”

“And classic Cheerios! 138 mg of sodium? Really?”

“The folks who make this chicken noodle soup are obviously trying to kill us.”

There’s stealth salt, we’ve discovered, hidden in nearly everything. There’s even salt in romaine lettuce! (But only 5 mg, so pigging out on romaine—if that’s what you want to do—is okay.)

And then there’s the joy of finding something delicious with a reasonable salt content.

“We can still enjoy vanilla yogurt! As long as we do it in moderation! Hurrah!”

Although I toyed with the idea of holding a little ceremony in which the two of us threw away our salt shakers and pledged ourselves to a new life, I can’t quite bear to part with mine.

I do take comfort in the knowledge that low sodium life is better for us. Experts agree that we should eat no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day. Instead, most of us eat at least twice that amount. Of course, I was always willing to take that risk. Over-salting my food was one of the few ways a mild-mannered librarian like me could live on the edge.

This new way of eating is a challenge. But at least I’ve got company. (And everyone knows that the couple that shuns salt together, stays together.)

But if I ever hear that a meteor is heading toward earth and will destroy us in an hour? I‘m going to dust off my salt shaker and spend that last hour enjoying a big batch of matzoh brei with as much salt on it as I damn well please. And Mark will be right there with me.


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  • John Wilson April 7, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    I was diagnosed with cochlear hydrops about 6 weeks ago. It’s basically Meniere’s without the vertigo. It is unclear whether it will eventually become Meniere’s or if I’ll be forever lucky to avoid the worst symptom. Carol Cassara, you might want to read up on cochlear hydrops – it might be what you have.

    I was fortunate to have one week of complete remission – my hearing was back to normal, the tinnitus was gone, and I didn’t have the “water in my ear” feeling for 7 whole days. During that time I was able to enjoy reasonable meals with normal amounts of salt, drink alcohol, and enjoy as much coffee as I wanted. Then on day 8 I woke up with my symptoms again – I guess I should have stuck to “the rules”.

    I can say that over time my taste buds are adjusting. What I’m still struggling with are triggers other than salt, alcohol, and caffeine. I need to start keeping a journal of everything I eat, drink, my stress level, the weather, etc. until I figure out the remaining triggers.

    Good luck!

  • Ruth Nathan April 6, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    So, this means the you can have 11 portions of Cheerios a day. Given your eating habits, this should come as very good news. Very good. Now you need a good story on lemon, Roz. The world be will shocked.

  • Kelly April 6, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Seems like you have a lot of willpower! I worry that even if I needed to stop eating things with salt in them for the sake of my health I would end up cheating a lot!

  • Christopher Lower April 6, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Welcome to the low sodium journey! Fear not, it is not as tough as people think! I’ve been on this path for 7 years due to heart issues that ended up in a heart transplant. I have recipes and tips on my blog

  • Rosemond April 6, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    I’m a salty girl too! and I’ve got really low blood pressure, so like you I get a way with it too. But maybe I should cut back a wee bit…

  • Wendl in Manhattan April 6, 2016 at 8:19 am

    My friend is so addicted to the stuff she claims she once chased a deer off from its salt lick. Good luck with your transitioning — and most of all, may it make a big positive difference in how you feel!

  • Leanne April 6, 2016 at 12:53 am

    I think it would kill me to have to give up salt entirely – I don’t think I’m on your level of salty awesomeness, but on chips or potato of any kind it’s a necessity – and probably it’s in most of the soups etc that I buy. Hopefully my blood pressure stays low 🙂

  • sue April 5, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    I have to admit that giving up salt to me is harder than sugar. There are just some foods that need salt! However, at least you and your husband have to cut out the same thing so you can help each other. Here is to your good health and happiness.

  • Gordana April 5, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    Love your writing style! Pragmatic with a humorous twist at the end… Seems like trying to live a healthy lifestyle becomes a FULL TIME job.. ?

  • Cathy Lawdanski April 5, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    I had never heard of Menier’s disease until this year when a friends 28 year old daughter was diagnosed with it and now I hear about it EVERYWHERE. Glad you and your husband are in this together. I’m all for a little ceremony! Hope your dietary changes are helpful to you both!

  • Lois Alter Mark April 5, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    Good luck! At least you and Mark have the same dietary restriction – which will make the whole thing easier. It’s so hard giving up things you love to eat.

  • Stephanie Weaver, MPH April 5, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Roz, we should talk! I went through this exact thing two years ago, and created a program (and a book) to help people get onto a low-sodium and migraine-friendly diet. Many doctors I have spoken with think that Meniere’s is not a separate disease at all, but part of the migraine spectrum. Anyway, you’ll find lots of low-sodium recipes on my blog

  • stacy April 5, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    thanks for sharing and good luck to you and your husband

  • Roxanne Jones April 5, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    I’ve never been a heavy salter and Hubs has to watch his salt intake so, like Carol and Cathy, I don’t cook with salt. You really do get used to the taste and, in fact, I think notice foods’ flavors more (especially as you learn to use other herbs and spices). Glad you don’t have to go it alone!

  • Leslie Handler April 5, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    I hear ya! I have low-normal blood pressure, but I lose weight much more easily without the salt. I’ve had people (who love me) knock the shaker right out of my hand I use so much. Takes getting used to to season differently and make food not taste so bland.But if that meteor shows up, how about some lox with capers and whitefish salad?

  • Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski April 5, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    My ears feel like popping all the time, but apparently it’s muscle or neck tension. I have never been big on salting my food but when I do I use Himalayan or Celtic.

  • Mister Wonderful April 5, 2016 at 12:02 pm


  • Meg Root April 5, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Yes, I think salt is the new fat! It’s in everything. Although, I can’t imagine there is a thing as under-salted pizza! Funny, AND helpful post.

  • Diane April 5, 2016 at 11:28 am

    I’ve decided our bodies spend our whole lives trying to kill us. Husby is definitely in the salt camp. Give up salt or die. I think my he would take the second alternative . . .

  • Cathy Chester April 5, 2016 at 11:07 am

    We have salt in our house that is rarely used, only for company because they ask for it. We never, ever cook with salt. We have stroke and heart disease in our family so salt is a definite no-no. Now, whenever we eat out, I can taste the salt and I don’t like it. Enjoy the natural taste of food and use herbs and spices that are salt-free. You’ll get the hang of it! I like it much better.

  • Carol Cassara April 5, 2016 at 10:58 am

    I haven’t cooked with salt in 30 years. It’s not just hypertension, it’s issues with my ears I’ve had for years, attributable to…salt. Honest.

  • lucy burdette April 4, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Roz, condolences on your diagnosis, which I also received last fall. And I write a lot about food–which I now cannot eat! Hope you and Mark find lots of decent things to share.

  • Mickey April 4, 2016 at 10:38 am

    My son was diagnosed with gout and we, (yes, we,) began a regimen of no salt in the cooking (I do the cooking, yes, again). I have to say that after this many years, (I can’t remember how many), low salt is the way to go. I can’t eat most fast food like KFC, augh!, it tastes like a whole box of salt! Forget restaurant soup or soup out of a can. Yes, read the labels, choose the spaghetti sauce with the lowest sodium mgs. per serving. Thank you, Roz, and to your honey, Mark, we offer thanks to him for being such a great companion to our beloved librarian.

  • B.Elliott April 4, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Cute story. Love the headline!