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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday that it plans to implement limits on the amount of salt manufacturers may put in processed foods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) re-published in the Washington Post, 77% of U.S. salt intake comes from processed food. There are numerous studies indicating that excess salt in one’s diet leads to health problems, including a study (also referenced in the Washington Post article) “by researchers at Columbia and Stanford universities and the University of California at San Francisco found that cutting salt intake by 3 grams a day could prevent tens of thousands of heart attacks, strokes and cases of heart disease.”

The FDA plans to work with food manufacturers to reduce salt gradually, so that U.S. palates can adjust to new tastes. (Basically, so we keep eating processed foods.) The salt industry is, of course, not so happy about the deal. One representative for the salt industry (also quoted in the Post) managed to say with a straight face that new limits “would be a disaster for the public,” and that scientific research describing the effect of salt on health was unclear.


I, for one, am overjoyed at the new regulations. In fact, I wish that the FDA implemented them long ago, rather than waiting for food manufacturers to do it voluntarily. (That always works so well in business regulation, right?)

I stay pretty aware of the amount of sodium in the foods I consume. It’s not just because I’m concerned about heart disease and other conditions, although those do play a factor. I have Meniere’s Disease.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Meniere’s Disease is defined as:

Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes abnormal sensory perceptions, including a sensation of a spinning motion (vertigo), hearing loss usually in one ear, fullness or pressure in the same ear, and ringing in the same ear (tinnitus).

The biggest triggers I’ve experienced are salt, caffeine, and stress. (I think nicotene is also an issue.) Recommended daily salt intake for those diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease is 1,000 to 1,500 mg a day. That’s if I don’t want to go deaf in one ear.

Let’s consider that number for a moment.

  • One package of ramen noodles has 861 mg of sodium.
  • An appetizer of Buffalo Chicken wings at the Cheesecake Factory (a chain in my area) has 4420 mg of sodium. That’s four days of sodium for me.
  • What about the Cheesecake Factory’s healthier options? Well, their edamame has 1260 mg of sodium.
  • Outback Steakhouse‘s “dressed baked potato” has 2350.2 mg of sodium.
  • Panera Bread‘s “Low Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup” has 1590mg of sodium, which is actually on the low side for soups.
  • Panera’s Greek Salad – a salad – has 1670mg of sodium. (Admittedly, it has feta, which is really salty.) Without the feta, though, it still has 1350 mg of sodium. The dressing alone has 380 mg of sodium.

Need I go on?

I can work to prepare low-sodium foods at home all I want, but it’s really hard to find something when dining out. Like many busy citizens in post-industrial countries, I don’t have time/energy to cook every day. So I endanger my health – and cause potential hearing loss due to Meneriere’s – by eating out.

I really wish these changes were going into effect sooner, as opposed to being gradually phased in over a period of ten years. I know, the public has to get used to it and manufacturers have to adjust yadda yadda yadda.

When my partner and I started living together, she was used to much more liberal amounts of salt in her food. The first time she had a no-salt-added Orange Chicken slow cooked in a clay pot, she thought it was tasteless. After a year of living with us, she thought it was delicious (and didn’t even recognize that she’d eaten it before.) Now when she goes out to places with a lot of sodium, she can taste just how salty things are. At home, we get to appreciate a greater depth of flavor. The nuances of other spices are allowed to come to the forefront. I know it takes time to adjust to lower salt in one’s diet, but it’s so rewarding once you do. Aren’t the health benefits worth it?

So thank you, Food and Drug Administration. I just ask that you hurry up a little bit, before I start going deaf.

I wanted to take a break from my regularly scheduled health/ability discussions to talk about race, ethnicity, and white privilege. I don’t view issues such as racism as distinct or different from health issues, because they are intrinsically linked. What about the soaring HIV/AIDS rate among young African American women? What about folks with multiple identities (e.g. dis/abled and Asian-American)? I could go on, but I hope you get the point.

Anyway, I was eating in an “Asian fusion” restaurant today with someone, reflecting on table manners and the process of eating. I know someone who is Indian-American (as opposed to American Indian), and I’ve noticed her instruct her son to remember not to eat with his hands when they’re at a restaurant. At home, it’s okay to scoop up curry with naan bread. In a restaurant, he has to use silverware.

I always use naan bread. It’s the way the food is meant to be eaten. It’s really hard to scoop up all of a delicious lentil dish with a fork. Bread (or rice) is a necessary and delicious part of the eating process.

I mentioned this to an Arabic friend of mine, who said that her grandmother and mother always insisted that she use silverware in public when she was growing up. She said they didn’t want her to look “common” or like she was “from the country.”

This seems to me to be an issue of racial/ethnic self-censorship: “We must eat with silverware to prove how white/upper-class we are.” I don’t say this to chastise folks who decide to eat with silverware instead – rather, I see it as another facet of privilege and oppression.

I have much more freedom and privilege eating in a restaurant as a white person, particularly since I’m a white person who grew up with class privilege. (I’ve noticed that people who grew up poor/working class often have similar hang-ups about not seeming “common.”)

If I eat with naan bread at an Indian restaurant, then I am (purposefully or not) showing that I know how to eat Indian food the way it’s “supposed” to be eaten. I can fill a role as an urban, worldly person. Even if I don’t use the naan bread very deftly, I’m still making an effort to fit into another culture – another thing that can get me cultural bonus points.

In writing this, I’ve decided to tie it back to dis/ability issues. I’ve found that I sometimes want to “prove” that I’m still able – either to myself, people who know me personally, or to the general public. I end up trying to be a super-productive superwoman, just to show that fibromyalgia hasn’t got me down. Sometimes I feel frustrated when I start feeling pain or fatigue because of all the work I’ve done. It’s then that my friends have to sit me down and tell me that anyone would be tired accomplishing what I’d just done. My disability isn’t the only thing making me tired, it’s how much I try to do. Feeling the need to overcompensate – to show my disability who’s in charge – causes more pain and suffering than I would encounter if I allowed myself to follow my body’s lead.

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About Me

This blog is intended as a place for me to reflect on my own healing journey, in the hopes that others may also gain insight from my experiences. I've "borrowed" a line from Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken:

'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.'

I think the most important thing for me now is that I feel empowered to be a force for positive change in my life. And that, my friends, has made all the difference.

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August 2020


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