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Paleo/Primal, Salt & Vasovagal Syncope

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  • Paleo/Primal, Salt & Vasovagal Syncope

    Hello Everyone,

    I was introduced to the paleo diet orignally in some articles posted on and decided to try it a couple of months ago!

    When I started I was around 250lbs and after roughly 6 weeks I weighed about 215lbs. To say I was happy is an understatement.

    Unfortunately, my lack of education about an ailment of mine bit me at the 5/6 week mark and for a variety of reasons I decided to scale back my adherence to primal for a bit-I wanted to share this with everyone to help anyone out that has vasovagal syncope like myself.

    While the paleo/primal adherence wasn't the sole factor in my "accident", it was a contributing factor. I happened to be lacking sleep from a camping trip I took my small kids on just two days prior, suffering from dehydration(camping at the beach), and lastly I came down with a sore throat.

    Unfortunately the factor the paleo/primal diet contributed to my accident was elimination of salt from my diet. In short, I usually catch my symptoms in time to stop myself from feinting and overcome it by sitting or lying down but with a combination of all the above factors this go around I went out very quickly with virtually no advance "notice".

    In somewhat of a fluke occurrence I knocked an old glass pitcher off of a shelf in our kitchen and fell into it face first(unconscious of course) and woke up a few minutes later in a puddle of my own blood on/in broken glass. 80 stitches later and a 2 day hospital stay gave me some time to reflect on things but more importantly I had a visit from a doctor with the same ailment(vasovagal syncope) who consulted with me a bit and informed me of my personal need to keep salt in my diet. Unfortunately the original doctor who diagnosed it for me failed to mention the import of salt in my diet to help give my blood pressure a wider "cushion" to operate in.

    I hope that my accident will serve to help any of you that may have this issue. I will continue to eat in a "primal" manner(I originally started paleo but found the primal method more to my liking) with the exception of salt obviously but I have spent the last two/three weeks in a more "moderate" state to give me a chance to reflect and increase my knowledge base before diving back I still hold at 215lbs currently. (I had a trip to visit family in Canada two weeks ago so I cheated a bit more then this week)

    One good thing to note for anyone interested is that when my blood work came back in the ER the doctor made a point of telling me that my cholesterol was "absolutely perfect" and that with the exception of signs of dehydration that my overall bloodwork was fantastic. It was just a few years ago I was being chastised for high cholesterol and out of wack LDL/HDL.

    I don't know if it was solely the adherence to the paleo/primal eating that has done it...because for 3 months prior I put myself on a fish oil/red rice yeast/niacin regime....but if nothing else I know now that increased consumption of meat has no adverse impact on cholesterol. I did take myself off the regime when I started the paleo/primal diet.

    Coincidently I'm 39 years old, 5' 11.5" and I've managed to lose all of this weight and get good cholesterol with NO exercise.

    Is that my long term goal? No. I do plan on integrating primal style workouts but I'm doing things 1 step at a time so as to not overwhelm myself. I have to say I'm really happy though that I actually can see some muscle from when I was in my mid 20's and I worked out all the time is still's gets me all excited about the possibilities despite my age & the restriction on time I can dedicate to such endeavors.

    Best Regards to all,

    Last edited by Nickelodeon; 09-26-2010, 08:13 AM.

  • #2
    Good to alert those who might have vasovagal syncope to the potential issues with dietary change. I haven't had vasovagal problems, but was interested in blood sodium levels on initiating a low sodium paleo diet and checked them from time to time. Just curious, do you have the results of any of your blood chemistries and in particular your blood sodium levels during the course of your problem and recovery?

    Intracellular magnesium deficiencies are extremely common and often cannot be ascertained from blood Mg levels, which are very poor indicators of intracellular Mg status. Proper intracellular magnesium levels are essential to the operation of the sodium potassium pumps which operate in our cells, and an intracellular magnesium deficiency could cause retention of intracellular sodium through inefficient pump operation, which in turn could lower serum sodium levels and cause hyponatremia. Elsewhere in this forum, there are good posts on restoring a magnesium deficiency, the process of which is not necessarily simple or straightforward.

    Dehydration is common during outdoor activities and can strongly predispose toward syncope. There is sometimes a tendency for primal folks to be more relaxed than others about hydration during such activities, but if one has a history of vasovagal syncope, maintaining hydration is probably very important. A good reminder on your part for anyone with this issue.


    • #3
      Eat more natural bacon. It has lots of sea salt. do you look, feel, and perform? -- Robb Wolf

      My Blog.


      • #4
        Good Information!

        Thanks for the note. I haven't looked at my paperwork since the incident but I'll go back and check to see what they gave me and get back to you.

        As far as the magnesium goes...I had incorporated pumpkin and sunflower seeds into my diet so I'm hoping that was sufficient to keep my magnesium levels up. But you never know...

        I'm going to assume the Dr.'s had it right on the sodium levels as they specifically mentioned it to me in the context of the bloodwork/hydration discussion....but given it was an ER situation I couldn't expect that they would necessarily catch everything. (When I went back a week later to have some my stitches removed I had them look at a wound that was healing "funny" and it turned out there was still glass in it!)




        • #5
          Palaeolithic people ate salt. I'm not sure why "no salt" has become part of the primal lifestyle. One of the first trade routes ever recorded is for salt, and in the research I've read there is some evidence of hoarded salt in palaeolithic cave deposits. Also, many early palaeolithic people lived close-ish (within a day's walk) of the ocean for a reason. Easy access to sea-food is one reason...but salt is certainly up there in the importance department.
          Down almost 40 lbs. 70 to go.


          • #6
            An acquaintance without cardiac risk factors had an occasional episode of syncope. Frustratingly, as is often the case, always resolved by the time she could be medically assessed. Even wore a Holter monitor for a while, but did not have an episode during that monitoring. The episodes were so far apart that it was hard to catch one for appropriate analysis.

            As luck would have it, she started having an episode in a home where I had an emergency medical kit. We got an Omron ECG on her and used it to capture several 30 second rhythm strips. Also checked blood glucose, oxygen saturation with a pulse oximeter, and blood pressure. The only abnormality was the ECG, which reflected an episode of supraventricular tachycardia, which in the last rhythm strip spontaneously reverted to normal sinus rhythm. Oddly in her case, there emerged a pattern where the occasional episodes of supraventricular tachycardia occurred only after she ingested a sugary carbohydrate sweet.

            If a person has persistent problems with occasional syncope or near syncope or other such issues that can't be adequately medically explored because of the sporadic nature, in some cases it might be worthwhile maintaining an emergency kit with some monitoring instruments, i.e. an Omron Portable ECG EKG Handheld HCG-801 Monitor (about $330 from Amazon), blood pressure monitor, blood glucose test kit, and fingerclip pulse oximeter (about $40 from Amazon).

            The Omnon ECG monitor is especially helpful. It does its own quick analysis to determine whether rhythm and rate are normal or abnormal, displays the rhythm stip on a built in screen, and contains cable and software for downloading the 30 sec rhythm strip to a computer where it can be printed with a grid on paper or saved in PDF format to email to a physician for analysis. The printed or downloaded rhythm strip is quite a bit more detailed than the strip that can be seen on the device readout, but both are helpful. These instruments and such testing might be superfluous where the syncope is established to come from other than cardiac, SaO2, or blood sugar issues.


            • #7
              Thanks for sharing your story, Nickelodeon. I'm glad you're okay. What an experience!!

              The sudden change of salt to no salt and the tremendous loss of water weight initially were problematic. Gradually decreasing 'added' sodium intake over time would not likely be problematic but rather beneficial.

              Having said that, I really like my Maldon.

              Paleo Man, good to see you posting Even before I could see your screen name above the post (my screen was scrolled all the way down), I 'knew' it was you.


              iherb referral code CIL457- $5 off first order


              • #8
                My bloodwork

                In the interest of helping others is attached my bloodwork for those with the medical training to properly asses it. (per a request of a forum member)

                My cholesterol last time I checked a few years ago was around 230......

                Edit on 9.28.10:

                *****Unfortunately the administrator of the website decided not to approve my blood work PDF uploads******* That is very sad indeed. I would appreciate an explanation as to why.
                Last edited by Nickelodeon; 09-28-2010, 01:01 PM. Reason: Uploads rejected, point noted.


                • #9

                  Not to be contentious or difficult, but I have to disagree with "Gradually decreasing 'added' sodium intake over time would not likely be problematic but rather beneficial." as it is in direct contradiction with the advice of the doctor and medical "establishment" in relation to vasovagal syncope.

                  Now I know that the Paleo/Primal diet is not exactly endorsed by the "medical establishment" and that we are all doing this outside of CW...but that being said I want to make sure everyone knows that suffers of vasovagal syncope need to maintain higher levels of sodium then the rest of the population according to "conventional" medical wisdom as it currently stands.

                  There are many risk factors which sufferers can read about from a variety of google'd sources of course....but the sodium issue was something I was not aware of obviously until after my event.

                  Best Regards,



                  • #10
                    I was speaking generally - rather than specifically about your case - and should have clarified.

                    Having said that, I'll further clarify (generally...not specific to your case): many seem to struggle with dizziness, lightheadedness and lower blood pressure with lower sodium initially on a paleo diet. Over time they adapt. Adaptation to a more biologically appropriate sodium to potassium ratio can be eased by more slowly reducing sodium intake.

                    I do wonder though, specifically in your case, if this would have happened in the absence of dehydration, extreme fatigue and the onset of illness....

                    I've had numerous syncoptic events - always related to illness (kidney infection, influenza) and several near syncoptic events - mostly related to the arrythmia I used to have.
                    Last edited by cillakat; 09-26-2010, 11:09 AM.

                    iherb referral code CIL457- $5 off first order


                    • #11
                      Yes I agree Katherine, probably not...or most likely I would have had an onset "warning" like I normally do before such an event had it not been for an accumulation of the risk factors.