How Do I Manage this Low Salt Diet?
Last updated: February 2023
When I was first diagnosed with heart failure, managing a low-salt diet was very overwhelming, and frankly scary. Not only was it hard to wrap my head around and figure out, but it just seemed so hard to adhere to. Here is something that I wish knew then that would have made it seem a little less scary.
Sticking with my low-sodium diet for heart failure
From my experience at least, my taste buds adjusted. What I mean to say is that the first few months everything did taste bland, and sticking with it meant a) knowing I had to do this for my long-term health and b) having a mentality of just muscling my way through. The mentalities I used were like being in a boxing ring, it's a tough battle (was and is) but you just gotta do it, OR the pain of getting through a bad breakup - the only way out of it is through. You just have to grin down and bear it.
Having discipline, and controlling flavors
I can say that, at least for me, after a few months my taste bud's changed. Food that I was considering blandly awful, tasted okay. And, with the introduction of spices, and focusing on things I had more control of (like texture) I came to a place of acceptance with my sodium-restricted diet. I do believe that your taste buds can alter and food that you found bland before may elicit a different response with some time if you stick with it. The key is that you can't cheat - you truly have to get your taste buds adjusted to this new diet. Now, four years down the line, foods that I cook for myself that I find taste okay, my boyfriend will try and say "EICK!!!! That is not even okay." So I think it's true, your taste buds can adjust.
A few caveats from my experience
I still sometimes find saltier foods better. If I sneak a bit of my boyfriend's food sometimes I think "EICK that is WAY too salty," but sometimes I think "yummmm that is better". The trick is that you have to truly stay away from the saltier foods so that you forget what you are missing. I think managing a low-salt diet requires a huge amount of discipline. Unfortunately, no way around that. So my boxing match mentality is something I still go back to now four years post-diagnosis.
As a follow-up, adhering to a low-salt diet remains as much a mental battle as anything else. You need to figure out what gets you to the finish line. For me, it's accepting that it's about choices. The salt impacts how I feel and the trajectory of my heart failure, so I have to constantly remind myself of the things I have to live for. Said another way, living on a low-salt diet is still a choice I have to make every day; however, I do not bemoan how hard it is. It is what it is, and I focus on what is important and try to find food that is at least palpable. I will say that as a positive, it has helped me truly frame what is important in my life, and that has gotten me through.
I hope this helps! If you are newly coping with a low-sodium diet, how are you doing? Feel free to share below.
Do you have a heart failure story? Click the button below to share with our community!
Have you experienced shortness of breath in the last week?