An entire book could easily be written about the ratio of sodium to potassium on a hair mineral analysis. Dr. Eck called this ratio the vitality ratio. Earlier in his life, he called it the life-death ratio, as it is so important. It could also be called the electrical ratio or the internal ratio.
The Na/K on a retest is completely different from the Na/K on an initial test. Most of this article applies only to the Na/K on an initial test.
On a retest, the Na/K ratio can swing wildly from high to very low as body chemistry rebalances, as the body eliminates toxic metals, and as the body retraces traumas. These swings do not mean much, except that a lot of change is going on inside the body.
What matters is to stay on a nutritional/mineral balancing program, and one’s healing will progress.
Ideal ratio. Dr. Eck found that the ideal hair sodium/potassium ratio is about 2.5 in humans. A good range is between about 2.4 and up to about 4 or even 5 in a human being. In an animal, the ideal is closer to 0.5. In plants, it is closer to 0.1. This is important from an electrical standpoint. The sodium/potassium ratio is a measure of the electrical potential of the cells.
THEMES BY WHICH TO UNDERSTAND THE SODIUM/POTASSIUM RATIO
1. Adrenal strength indicators. Sodium and potassium are both associated with the activity of the adrenal glands. Aldosterone, an adrenal cortical hormone, causes sodium retention and affects serum potassium as well.
An elevated sodium/potassium ratio is an indicator of some adrenal strength in most cases.
A low sodium/potassium ratio is an indicator of adrenal weakness. This is the case regardless of the levels of sodium and potassium.
2. Electrical charging and discharging, and the cell membrane potential. Sodium is pumped out of the cells, while potassium is pumped into the cells by the so-called sodium pump mechanism. This causes an electrical charge or potential across all cell membranes. It is very important for our health.
A higher sodium/potassium ratio is associated with a higher electrical charge on the cells or a charging state. A low sodium/potassium ratio is associated with a discharging state and a lower electrical potential between the inside and the outside of the cells. Many factors can influence this, such as the condition of the cell membranes, and more. However, the Na/K ratio is a good overall indicator of the electrical balance of the cells in relation to their extra-cellular environment.
This is to be contrasted to the calcium/magnesium ratio which measures the electrical potential or charge of a person with respect to his or her extra-corporeal or external physical and other environment. It is an interesting comparison that bears out in practice.
3. Yin and yang. A higher sodium/potassium ratio is definitely more yang. A lower ratio is definitely more yin in nature.
4. A movement indicator. The idea of movement is that one can tell how a person is moving ahead in one’s life from certain indicators on a hair mineral analysis. This is a subtle concept, but very useful for clients and practitioners, at times.
When elevated, the sodium/potassium ratio is associated with movement in the proper direction, and faster forward movement.
When low, the ratio is associated with reversal of movement, slowing of movement, and exhaustion. Reversal or backward movement is explained below in more detail.
5. Love versus will. Both sodium and potassium are power minerals. They are solvents, and they control the other minerals because they can dissolve them. This is a philosophical concept that is valid on a physical level. In other words, they are regulators of the other minerals by being powerful solvents.
Sodium is associated more with basic strength and power. Some would say this is also the expression of the love of the Creator. It is represented by the adrenal glands, which are far more than just the fight-or-flight glands, as is taught in physiology classes and medical schools.
Sodium covers and protects potassium. When sodium is high relative to potassium, for example, a person generally has plenty of power or energy with which to function and express one’s will. When the ratio is low, however, there is not enough love or power to cover the willfulness of the person. As a result, degeneration of the body always occurs. I call it a catabolic state, which just means that more destruction occurs rather than more building up of the body.
6. The energy center system of the body. Sodium is more related to the first and second centers of the physical body, which is the location of the adrenal glands. Potassium is more associated with imbalances in the fourth and fifth centers of the physical body, which is where the thyroid gland is found.
An elevated or normal sodium/potassium ratio indicates better balance of the energy centers, in general, than a low sodium/potassium ratio.
7. A directional indicator of the oxidation rate. A high sodium/potassium ratio is more associated with a increasing or speeding up of the oxidation rate. A low sodium/potassium ratio is more associated with a collapse or slowing of the oxidation rate. It is an excellent indicator, in fact. This has a lot to do with the electrical aspect of this ratio, explained below.
8. Hormonal relationships. Hormonal relationships are rough associations. However, they are very important and interesting relationships. Among the adrenal hormones, sodium is more associated with aldosterone (a pro-inflammatory hormone), while potassium is more related to cortisol and cortisone (an anti-inflammatory hormone).
Sodium is more associated with the fast-acting adrenal hormones, while potassium is more associated with the longer-acting or slower-acting adrenal hormones.
Among the female hormones, sodium is more associated with estrogen levels, while potassium is more associated with progesterone levels. This can become important in conditions such as premenstrual syndrome and estrogen dominance.
For this reason, a higher sodium/potassium ratio may be more associated with estrogen dominance, although this is not always the case, as many people with a low Na/K ratio also have some estrogen dominance due to liver toxicity and sluggishness.
9. An inflammation indicator. Higher aldosterone than cortisol, represented by a high sodium/potassium ratio, is more associated with inflammation because aldosterone is a more pro-inflammatory hormone, whereas cortisol and cortisone are more anti-inflammatory hormones.
In contrast, lower aldosterone and higher cortisol or cortisone levels, represented by a lower sodium/potassium ratio, is more associated with a degenerative state, rather than an inflammatory state. This may also be called a more catabolic state, or one in which the body is breaking down tissue faster than it is regenerating tissue. It is known that tissue breakdown and catabolism is one action of cortisol and cortisone.
10. A tissue breakdown or catabolism indicator. A low sodium/potassium ratio is an important indicator of excessive catabolism or tissue breakdown.
11. Acute versus chronic stress. A high Na/K ratio is more associated with more acute stress, while a low Na/K is more associated with chronic stress.
12. Diabetes, heart disease and malignancy. A low Na/k ratio is highly associated with blood sugar imbalance and diabetes. It is also associated with the development of cancer and cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes.
13. An important trauma indicator. While not always the case, a sodium/potassium ratio less than 1 in a human being is associated with hidden or overt trauma. This is discussed in more detail below.
14. An important emotional/mental indicator. A mildly elevated sodium/potassium ratio is associated with a more positive response to life, forward-looking, upbeat and moving ahead. A low sodium/potassium ratio is associated with a more negative attitude, chronic stress, and negative emotions such as frustration, resentment and hostility.
Other mineral relationships. Zinc raises potassium and lowers sodium. Copper, in contrast, raises sodium and tends to lower potassium. This is one way that these trace minerals control the levels of the macrominerals or electrolytes.
Effects of other minerals on the sodium/potassium ratio. Many minerals raise the ratio such as manganese, chromium, and selenium. Others are iron, aluminum, nickel and perhaps others.
Vitamins can also affect the ratio. Most of the B-complex vitamins raise the ratio. Vitamins A and D tend to lower it a little. Vitamin E tends to raise it a lot, and at times dangerously if one takes over 1000 iu of natural vitamin E daily. Fatty acids (vitamin F) may lower it. Vitamin C tends to raise the ratio.
MORE DETAILS ABOUT A HIGH NA/K RATIO
As the sodium/potassium ratio rises on a hair mineral analysis above about 5 or perhaps 6, more symptoms involving this ratio are likely to arise. These may include a tendency for acute stress, inflammation or pain somewhere in the body. Other symptoms may include water retention, edema, and perhaps a higher blood pressure or a labile or fluctuating blood pressure due to water retention and/or kidney stress. These are among the prominent physical symptoms that come with higher aldosterone levels in relation to cortisol, for example.
When the ratio is above about 12, it is an indicator for liver and kidney stress in some cases. Interestingly, this is found in a low sodium/potassium ratio as well.
The Na/K Ratio and PMS. In young adult women, a high sodium/potassium ratio can be more associated with high-estrogen premenstrual tension with symptoms of inflammation, anger, acne, bloating and breast swelling and tenderness. As a general rule, the sodium/potassium ratio rises before the menstrual period.
Emotional and mental symptoms of a high sodium/potassium ratio. These may include a tendency for anger or acute emotional stress. A mildly high ratio may also indicate a forward-looking attitude, moving ahead in life, and a more positive, future-oriented approach to life.
SYMPTOMS OF A LOW SODIUM/POTASSIUM RATIO
Physical symptoms. Dr. Eck found that a low sodium/potassium ratio is associated with fatigue, sugar and carbohydrate intolerance, allergies, adrenal weakness, chronic infections, liver and kidney stress, cardiovascular stress, reduced immune response and possibly malignancy, and a more catabolic state or state of tissue breakdown.
The physical and physiological imbalances above can be expanded upon. For example, tissue breakdown can cause arthritis, ulcers, and practically any other disease depending upon where the tissue breakdown occurs. Cardiovascular stress can easily lead to a heart attack or stroke, and so on.
Mental and emotional symptoms. Dr Eck found that a low sodium/potassium ratio is associated with negative thinking and negative emotions in most cases. Prominent among these are frustration, resentment and hostility. It is also associated with reduced awareness in many cases, chronic stress, and “beating one’s head against a wall when the door is nearby”.
When the ratio is less than 1, often a person has hidden traumas that he or she is not aware of. The very low sodium/potassium ratio can perhaps be a protection against feeling the pain of the trauma. This can make the person appear to be less emotional, in fact. As the Na/K ratio approaches about 1 during correction on a nutritional balancing program, the traumas may surface, causing more feelings of anger, depression or others as the awareness grows.
Degree of low sodium/potassium ratio important. Both the physical and emotional symptoms tend to become more pronounced as the sodium/potassium ratio becomes lower. A ratio less than about 2 is moderate, while a ratio less than 1 is considered extreme.
Trauma Na/K. A sodium/potassium ratio less than 1:1 I call a trauma Na/K. The reason is that any time the Na/K ratio is this low, the person has usually experienced a trauma.
Trauma points and the sodium/potassium ratio. An interesting phenomenon is that there appear to be two “trauma points” associated with the Na/K ratio. They are Na/K = 0.4 to 0.5 and Na/K = 0.9 to 1.0.
This knowledge is important because a person heals and passes through these trauma points, often feelings and memories of the trauma will surface.
Therefore, any time a person has a sodium/potassium ratio less than about 0.9, and especially if it is less than 0.4, it is helpful to warn the person that he or she may experience unusual or unpleasant thoughts or feelings as they heal and their Na/K ratio increases.
Quantifying a low Na/K ratio. This is very helpful to evaluate the number of adrenal burnout patterns are on a hair mineral analysis:
1. Na/K between 1.7 and 2.4 = single low ratio pattern
2. Na/K between 1 and 1.6 = double low ratio pattern
3. Na/K between 0.5 and 0.9 = triple low ratio pattern
4. Na/k less than 0.5 = quadruple low ratio pattern
High Na/K Ratio
Low Na/k Ratio
More acute stress
More chronic stress
Acute: anger, rage, acute stress
Chronic: frustration, resentment, hostility
More reactive tissues and organism
Less reactive, more fatigued
Stage of stress
STRESS AND THE SODIUM/POTASSIUM RATIO
Acute stress. A high sodium/potassium ratio on a hair analysis is more associated with acute stress. The reason is as follows:
1) Acute stress causes increased adrenal gland activity.
2) This results in a rise in the secretion of the hormone aldosterone.
3) Aldosterone secretion causes sodium to be retained in the body by the kidneys. Thus the sodium level in the soft tissues rises.
Sodium retention by aldosterone is part of the alarm reaction or fight-flight reaction to stress. Early in the alarm reaction, the potassium level remains low. Thus, on a tissue mineral test, the ratio of sodium to potassium is elevated early in the alarm stage of stress.
Chronic stress. In contrast, a low sodium/potassium ratio is more associated with chronic stress and usually an exhaustion stage of stress. This is because a low sodium/potassium ratio is an indicator of adrenal weakness.
Acute stress or alarm reactions in slow oxidation. Some people ask how it is possible to have an alarm reaction if one is a slow oxidizer or in an exhaustion stage of stress. The answer is that fast and slow oxidation are indicators or a more yang or more yin body situation or posturing. They are also associated with the alarm and the exhaustion stages of stress according to the stress theory of disease.
However, Dr. Eck found that within slow oxidation or an exhaustion stage of stress or a yin condition, one can still mount an acute stress response. This is indicated by a high sodium/potassium ratio and is a common occurrence. In fact, it is essential if a person is to move out of slow oxidation.
Double acute stress. A fast oxidizer with a high sodium/potassium ratio is a double inflammation pattern.
Double chronic stress. A slow oxidizer with a low sodium/potassium ratio means a double exhaustion pattern, which is definitely less desirable.
MORE ON INFLAMMATION
Aldosterone is a pro-inflammatory hormone. It tends to increase inflammation in the body. Cortisol and cortisone, associated more with potassium levels, are anti-inflammatory hormones because they diminish inflammation. The pro and anti-inflammatory hormones must be in a good balance with each other for optimum health.
A person with a high sodium/potassium ratio may be secreting more aldosterone, in relation to cortisol. Because there is more pro-inflammatory hormone, a tendency for inflammation exists in the body. This is particularly true when the sodium/potassium ratio is greater than 10:1.
Inflammation can take the form of any ‘itis’, such as arthritis, bursitis, colitis, or tendonitis. It is a tendency for aches and pains. A high sodium/potassium ratio is also a tendency for mental excitation. A ratio that persists between 3 and 6 suggests a forward-looking person. A ratio greater than 6:1 suggests aggressiveness and anger.
SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE – A SECONDARY INDICATOR IS A HIGH SODIUM/POTASSIUM RATIO
A hair sodium/potassium ratio above about 5 or 6 is also an indicator of a sympathetic dominant personality type. These are individuals who overuse the sympathetic or fight-or-flight nervous system. They are usually very active, either mentally, physically or both. The tendency is greater when the Na/K ratio is above about 12.
These people may overdo on exercise, run around a lot, worry a lot or, in some other way, keep themselves in a fight-or-flight mode. Note that the body becomes exhausted from this tendency, and has gone into a parasympathetic state of slow oxidation. However, the person keeps right on using the sympathetic system instead of slowing down. This prevents the recovery of health.
Note: the more common indicator for sympathetic dominance is a low potassium level, not the sodium/potassium ratio.
SOME TOXIC METALS CAN ELEVATE THE SODIUM/POTASSIUM RATIO
Hidden or overt copper, cadmium and mercury toxicity usually elevate sodium levels and can cause a higher sodium/potassium ratio. This is true even if the cadmium or mercury are hidden within body tissues and not revealed on the hair test. As cadmium, copper or mercury are eliminated, a retest mineral analysis will reveal an improved sodium/potassium ratio.
An exception is if a retest is performed during a toxic metal elimination. The sodium/potassium ratio may temporarily rise or fall as any toxic metal is being eliminated. This occurs because the metals irritate the kidneys. This may cause the sodium/potassium ratio to be temporarily skewed. The ratio will normalize when the metal elimination is complete.
ALUMINUM TOXICITY, ALONG WITH BIOUNAVAILABLE IRON AND/OR MANGANESE, CAN ELEVATE THE SODIUM/POTASSIUM RATIO
A higher ratio of sodium to potassium may also be due to an accumulation of toxic amounts of aluminum in the body. This will elevate the Na/K ratio, as will an excess of biologically unavailable manganese or iron. This is a very common situation, and true in practically all slow oxidizers. The metals appear to be in the form of oxides, which are damaging and can cause oxidant damage and tissue irritation. They are called the amigos on this website.
Manganese and iron are not toxic metals. However, when present in excess, usually in a biounavailable form, they seem to raise the sodium level in relation to the potassium level. This may occur because they irritate the adrenal glands, or perhaps the kidneys, or perhaps other structures, in such a way as to alter the balance of sodium in relation to potassium.
We know this because as excesses of these metals are eliminated, the sodium to potassium ratio decreases, often substantially.
The amigos. Since they are often found together in the body, these metals are called the amigos. Some other minerals can be in an amigo or oxide form, including chromium, selenium, copper, nickel, boron, vanadium, molybdenum, cobalt and perhaps others, as well.
SALT-EATING AND THE SODIUM/POTASSIUM RATIO
Many people assume that a high sodium/potassium ratio indicates an excessive salt intake. While possibly true, in many instances salt eating has little impact upon the sodium/potassium ratio.
A high ratio frequently occurs in people who consume no salt whatsoever! The main causes of a high sodium/potassium ratio are excessive aldosterone secretion due to stress or anger, toxic metals or a zinc and magnesium deficiency. Salt-eating plays a secondary role.
We recommend everyone avoid table salt, which is a very poor quality food. One may have sea salt (unrefined salt), which contains more magnesium and trace elements.
We recommend limiting salt slightly when the sodium/potassium ratio is above 12, especially if blood pressure is elevated. However, it is not usually necessary to eliminate all salt from the diet. Also, sea salt is often tolerated much better than table salt.
KIDNEY AND LIVER STRESS AND THE IMMUNE RESPONSE
A sodium/potassium ratio greater than about 10 or less than about 1.5 often indicates kidney stress, liver stress and perhaps an impaired immune response.
BIOUNAVAILABLE SODIUM AND POTASSIUM
This is a more advanced topic. It appears that sodium and potassium may not always act as solvents and regulators in the body. It appears that at times, a normal or even an elevated hair sodium or potassium level, for example, could be so due to kidney stress or perhaps other factors. It may not be quite as bioavailable to the body for certain purposes.
As toxic metals are removed, the level might decrease, or it might rise on a retest hair mineral analysis. Even if it decreases, the metabolic effect of the sodium and/or potassium may increase. The explanation may be that the original level did not reflect all bioavailable sodium and potassium, whereas on the retest, the sodium and/or potassium may have become more available for certain metabolic purposes. This needs more research.
COMBINATION PATTERNS INVOLVING THE SODIUM/POTASSIUM RATIO
These are many and include:
1. The bowl pattern (an elevated Ca/Mg ratio and a low Na/K ratio).
2. The hill pattern (a low Ca/Mg ratio with an elevated Na/K ratio).
3. Double high ratio pattern (an elevated Ca/Mg ratio with an elevated Na/K ratio).
4. Double low ratio pattern (a low Ca/Mg ratio with a low Na/K ratio).
5. Sympathetic dominance (often an elevated Na/K ratio is part of or reinforces this important pattern).
6. Fast with inversion (fast oxidation with a low Na/K ratio).
MORE ADVANCED CONCEPTS
The ratio of sodium to potassium in the soft tissues of a human being is probably the most critical ratios to consider when interpreting a hair mineral analysis. I am not sure why this is so, but it was an absolute truth for my teacher, Dr. Paul C. Eck. I have come to agree with him, even if all the reasons for it are not clear.
It is primarily for this reason that Dr. Eck insisted that the hair must not be washed at the laboratory. Washing the hair at the lab always tends to skew the sodium and potassium levels and ratio because sodium and potassium are highly water soluble elements.
Also true for animals. The sodium/potassium ratio is not just critical for human beings. It also appears to be critical for animals of all species, as well.
Also true for plants and foods. In fact, it is true for plants.
Also true for the soil and for rocks and other minerals. This is quite extraordinary and speaks of a universality of the ratio of sodium to potassium in all of nature, both living and non-living.
The ratio in human beings is about 2.5. In animals it is about 0.5. In plants, it tends to be between 0.1 and 0.2. In the soil it tends to be about 0.12-0.15. In minerals, it tends to be roughly 0.02 although it varies with each mineral. You will notice that as one moves up the ladder of the complexity of life, the ratio goes up by about a factor of 5 each time. This may be significant, and will be discussed later in this article.
In food, the ratio varies a lot, depending on the nature of the food and how it was grown, where it was grown, etc.
RELATIONSHIPS AND THE NA/K RATIO
In relationships between men and women, the ratio matters, too. It should be about 10-12:1, man to woman, yang to yin. However, it cannot be measured in the sodium and potassium in the hair. Instead, I am told it is measured in the ratio of indium to rubidium. (I have not confirmed this, however.)
This may be called the “relationship ratio”, as it has a lot to do with the happiness of a couple. Now let us examine why the sodium/potassium ratio may be so important and its meaning at a physics level.
SODIUM/POTASSIUM AND CANCER
Oddly, cancer can raise a low sodium/potassium ratio. Cancer is associated with excessive iron, in some cases, and iron can raise the ratio. Estrogen may also raise the sodium/potassium ratio, at times, and it is associated with the growth of trophoblast cells. The trophoblast is a normal cell line that can cause cancer when it grows in the wrong place or time.
Some chemotherapeutic agents raise the sodium/potassium ratio. In some cases, this is known, while in others the action of the drug, or other anti-cancer substances or herbs, is not well understood.
Cancer, however, is much more than just a low sodium/potassium ratio because we see many people with a low ratio who do not have a lot of cancer. However, Dr. Eck found that a low sodium/potassium ratio is associated with more cancer.
SODIUM TO POTASSIUM, A BASIC TRANSMUTATION
One theory as to why the sodium/potassium ratio is so important has to do with the theory of biological transmutation of the elements. This theory was put forth most eloquently by a French scientist of the twentieth century, Dr. Louis Kervran. He is the author of a wonderful, easily understood book entitled Biological Transmutations. The theory holds that the action of certain hormones, enzymes and/or micro-organisms can, under the right circumstances, change one element into another at low temperatures and pressures.
Dr. Kervran offers a number of proofs of this theory that, at least to my mind, are hard to disprove. They include such experiments as noting that chickens excrete much more calcium in their egg shells than the chickens take ingest in their food. How is this possible, we should be asking?
Perhaps Dr. Kervran is wrong, but I have not seen experiments or proof to the contrary. Dr. Kervran also includes the chemical formulae in his book to suggest how the transmutations work, and many are simple.
Chapter 6 in the book is entitled Principal Transmutations, and a sub-heading is called The Sodium/Potassium Ratio. In this chapter, Dr. Kervran notes that the adrenal hormone aldosterone appears capable of transmuting sodium into potassium. As proof, he notes that in people with Addison’s disease, a condition of low aldosterone, the sodium level declines and the potassium level increases.
NA/K AND MOVING ENERGY DOWNWARD THROUGH THE BODY
Moving or pushing etheric energy downward from head to feet increases the Na/K by moving electrons downward toward the feet, leaving the head more electro-positive and the feet more electro-negative. This effectively raises the Na/K ratio throughout the body, and especially in the head. This topic is critical and discussed in several separate articles entitled Downward Moving Energy And Healing and Meditation For Healing.