Saturday, December 15, 2012

Salt vs. Consciousness

You've heard that variation within populations is larger than variation between populations. One consequence is that the right amount of salt for you in particular is say 80% likely to be far from the average. If your sodium regulation system cannot tell the voluntary muscle system how much salt to eat, then you cannot eat the right amount of salt, because nobody else knows how much it is. This also goes for how your internal signals manifest.

It seemed odd to me that some signals are labelled and some aren't until I went to write this sentence. For all the signals to be labelled, the genes would have to recognize everything in the environment, and would be helpless against chemical novelties. 

 Blarg. (Via.)
"I experienced no cravings even when my sodium intake was too low. I can’t just “listen to my body”."
As per standard evo/paleo principles, what would a hunter on the savanna have to guide them toward eating the right things? Moreover, absent puritanical, secular anti-consciousness, or authoritarian self-abnegation campaigns, they would have been listening to and thus learning about their internal signals since infancy.

It turns out that if you don't do something your entire life, and then suddenly try it once, you do it wrong. You might do this because you feel the need to disprove others, who are also doing it wrong but the other way around. (Hence scare quotes.) However, it is not then safe to conclude it is impossible.

I probably mis-estimate how difficult this question is, because I already know the answer. I don't get salt cravings until months into salt restriction, whereupon I start thinking fondly of Pringles, which I learned not on purpose and self-consciously, but by accident. For me, the salt signal is the taste of salt. If I'm low it is delicious, even straight. This reverses within about half a teaspoon, becoming bitter and terrible. You might think this is a palate interaction, but the amount I can have before it's gross doesn't reset the next day, or even that week.

I'm also like this with water. My thirst seems a little miscalibrated, I don't feel anything for low to moderate thirst until I pick up a glass and start drinking.
"Likewise, while the salt loading phase was difficult for the first two or three days, my taste rapidly adjusted to the added salt."
First he ate less salt than tasted good, then more. What would have happened if he had tried just right? It is hard for me to see this as accidental. How does it fail to occur to someone that the primary conscious impression of a thing is relevant to how you should behave toward it?

One of the things I learned through years of practicing it is that the signals are complex and sometimes the subtle notes are more important. The ache of a bruise is different from the ache of a used muscle is it not? Calling both 'pain' is hopelessly crude. Likewise, saying cookies taste 'good' to me is hopelessly crude. They have a characteristic burning sensation, and they sit poorly. There is 'good,' but it is shallow and reminds me of plastic for some reason. The burning sensation means I don't have to ask if restaurant meals have added sugar, because it shows up there too.

By contrast, for me, the right amount of salt is a symphony of good. I've also experienced adaptation to too much salt, but it acquires bad notes. Once I can stop I prefer no salt for some weeks. The thing to watch for here is psychosomatic influences, but psychosomatics have trouble surprising the mind in question.

"I would not necessarily call these “discoveries” but they are important observations that should be reported."
I can guarantee that he did not report the majority of his observations. If I were to go by his account, he either has almost no consciousness, or it did not react to these events. It did not apparently feel like much to eat different amounts of salt.

That said, this account corroborates my own experiences.

For comparison, I also get vegetable cravings, but only, again, after months of no vegetables at all. Ever looked at a raw broccoli and starting thinking impure thoughts?

I'm told unused neural connections are pruned in early adulthood. I wonder what happens to biofeedback circuits if they're being ignored.
"1. Salt restriction caused impaired thermoregulation."
Sea salt has iodine, and modern mined salt is iodized. Thermoregulation is partly the thyroid's job, and thyroid impairment is a symptom of iodine deficiency. I should stop forgetting to test this with some seaweed. I think I'll go fix this right now.

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