A Persistent Low Sodium/Potassium Ratio

We receive many questions as to why, although the patient improves in many ways on a nutritional balancing program, the sodium/potassium ratio (Na/K) remains low. The low Na/K ratio often can persist for years at times, although the patient has followed our dietary and supplement recommendations.

Understanding The Sodium/Potassium Ratio

We call the Na/K ratio the vitality ratio. It has to do with the balance of sodium, an extracellular mineral, and potassium, an intracellular mineral. This balance is regulated in part by the so-called sodium pump. Its function is to pump sodium out of the cells while moving potassium into the cells. This in turn maintains the correct osmotic balance and electrical charge of each cell of our bodies.

When the cellular balance is incorrect, it is often reflected in an imbalanced Na/K ratio on a hair mineral analysis. In an alarm stage of stress, the Na/K ratio is often elevated above 2.5. This is often associated with a tendency for inflammation, acute stress and anger. In an exhaustion stage of stress, the Na/K ratio often becomes low. A ratio less than about 1:1 is considered extremely low. This is associated with chronic stress, fatigue, blood sugar imbalance, infections and chronic emotions.

It is most important that the hair is not washed at the mineral analysis laboratory in order to produce accurate sodium and potassium values. Analytical Research Labs does not wash the hair at the laboratory for this reason.


Dr. Paul Eck discovered that a low Na/K ratio is associated with chronic infection somewhere in the body. The average person may have at least half a dozen or more chronic infections. Common sites are the eyes, ears, sinuses, teeth, intestines, joints and elsewhere.

Eliminating these infections is not easy. They may be very low-grade with few symptoms. One may experience post-nasal drip, or slight aches and pains, or other vague symptoms from time to time. Often one has little idea of the presence of these infections.

The infection may be walled off or in areas with poor circulation so that blood circulation and nutritional remedies or even antibiotics have difficulty reaching the infected area.

The nutritional balancing program contains infection-fighting nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc and copper. However, these may not be enough to correct some deep-seated infections. A low Na/K ratio that persists in spite of a balancing program for several years may indicate a hidden chronic infection that requires extra attention.

Vitamins For Chronic Infections

There are many methods to combat chronic infections. Dr. William Risley recommends using higher doses of vitamin C. Ten thousand milligrams daily of vitamin C or more if tolerated orally, or more intravenously, has been shown to be very effective against most infections, whether they are bacterial or viral. One could try a course of vitamin C to test this method.

Exercise caution with high-dose vitamin C, however. Vitamin C is a chelating agent in high doses. It will lower the level of copper in particular, and can lower the level of other vital minerals as well. Therefore, if the high dose vitamin C is not effective after several months, we do not suggest continuing.

Many other natural products may help eliminate chronic infections. Among the best are bee propolis and low-concentration colloidal silver (less than 75 ppm silver). Other methods are high-dose vitamin A and herbal remedies such as Echinacea, golden seal and astragalus. Newer nutritional products are being developed to help fight the wide variety of chronic infections that affect thousands of people today.

Saunas For Chronic Infections

Another superb method of combatting all chronic infections is the therapeutic use of saunas. Saunas heat the body several degrees, which has a stimulating effect upon the immune system. This is a safe way to induce a fever-like condition, a method the body naturally uses to fight infections. Many people have a low body temperature or low vitality and cannot produce a fever very well. Saunas are excellent for these individuals.

Saunas also dramatically improve circulation, which can be a key to eliminating infections. Infrared saunas also penetrate the body and near-infrared provides other healing benefits that can also help fight infections.

Finally, saunas can help reduce sympathetic nervous system activity. Immune function often depends on sufficient parasympathetic nervous activity.

For more information about sauna protocols, we recommend a book, Sauna Therapy by Dr. Lawrence Wilson, available from Analytical Research Labs.

Other Physical Causes For A Persistent Low Na/K

A low Na/K ratio also indicates excessive tissue breakdown or catabolism. This can have many causes, including nutrient deficiencies, the presence of toxic metals or toxic chemicals, or impairment in the metabolic pathways of glucose utilization and energy production.

As we evaluate a low Na/K ratio, we ought to address these causes. A patient could have a persistent low Na/K because the patient is not getting enough rest. It could be due to the presence of toxic chemicals that impair cellular energy production. They may be very difficult to detect and eliminating these chemicals is often a slow, tedious process that requires excellent food, pure water, good elimination, lots of rest and sweating. Sauna use may be of great benefit for this.

Improper diet or subtle difficulty handling sugars and carbohydrates may also cause a persistent low Na/K ratio. Diet plays an important role in sugar-handling, as do mineral deficiencies and toxic conditions.

Mental And Emotional Considerations

Dr. Paul C. Eck found that chronic emotions, in particular frustration, resentment and hostility, correlate with a low Na/K ratio. In other words, these emotions may, if important enough, create chronic stress to such a degree that it affects this ratio.

If these emotions are not addressed, a person may not be able to overcome the low ratio with just diet, supplements and a healthful lifestyle. This is an important reason why a low ratio may persist, especially if the ratio is at 1:1 or lower.

We find empirically that when the Na/K ratio is less than about 1:1, often the person is less aware of their emotional imbalances. Often they appear well-adjusted and emotionally balanced. We believe this is due to a reduced level of awareness.

Repeatedly we have found that as the Na/K ratio begins to increase on a nutritional balancing program, the person is suddenly faced with his or her emotional issues. This can be very disconcerting and uncomfortable. Greater awareness sounds wonderful but is not always pleasant, especially at first and more so if one is not prepared or lacks the skills or support to handle the feelings of depression and others that may arise.

If one is warned about this phenomenon, it can help the patient pass through the clearing of the emotions more easily. However, it is still not a comfortable situation and many people simply will not go through it. They may not have the time or energy to process their feelings, or the feelings may just seem overwhelming. As a result, these individuals may experience significant improvements in some areas, but their Na/K ratio may persist at a low level.

Explaining the reality of deeply buried emotions and traumas is most helpful and perhaps essential to enable some patients to move beyond their traumas and their low Na/K ratio. Techniques such as meditation, relaxation and a number of natural therapies designed to help process emotional traumas more easily may also be excellent in this regard.

While the problem may be deeply buried emotions that are painful to face, an attitudinal adjustment may be needed. For example, having excessive expectations of people or situations easily gives rise to chronic frustration. The habit of holding grievances leads to feelings of resentment and to living in the past.

At times, the correction of a low Na/K ratio absolutely requires a change in attitude. Attitudes that promote a normal Na/K ratio include living in the present, letting go of grudges and grievances, forgiving everyone (which does not mean condoning bad behavior), and keeping expectations reasonable at all times. An attitude of gratitude for what you have may also be most helpful.

Correcting one's attitudes can also assist tremendously to face unpleasant emotions or issues from the past or the present with courage and compassion for oneself. Any therapy or method that assists a patient change his or her attitudes can go a long way to correcting a low Na/K ratio. In fact, cultivating healthful attitudes also helps all aspects of healing the body and mind.

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