One of the traditions of Sham El Nessim is eating salted-fish such as feseekh and herrings. Despite the Ministry of Health warnings every year about the health hazards of feseekh in particular, we just can’t seem to stay away!
Poorly prepared feseekh can lead to botulism poisoning. Symptoms can include nausea and/or vomiting and one or more of the following: double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, dry mouth, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, weakness, respiratory failure, paralysis and death in severe cases. Symptoms generally begin 12 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food, but can occur as early as six hours or as late as 10 days after.
The fish contaminated with the clostridium botulinum toxin may not look or smell spoiled, so if you are not giving up feseekh, make sure to buy it from a trusted and reputable store.
Another health concern associated with eating salted fish is the effect of the excessive salt intake, which is not restricted to increasing blood pressure. But even if there is no increase in blood pressure, excess dietary sodium can harm such organs as blood vessels, heart, kidneys and brain.
Excess levels of salt may put you at risk for:
High blood pressure
Enlarged heart muscle
Elderly people are more prone to these adverse effects. They are advised to abstain from salted-fish, as are pregnant women, as high salt intake can increase the likelihood of developing pregnancy-induced hypertension. Excess salt intake can also cause increased water retention which leads to puffiness, bloating and weight gain.
How to Counter Over-Intake of Salt
Drinking plenty of water: Water helps your body dilute the excess salt and decrease bloating. There is no upper limit for daily water consumption.
Consuming potassium-rich foods: Sodium and potassium have complementary functions in your body: sodium ups your blood pressure and promotes fluid retention; potassium relaxes and lowers your blood pressure and helps you flush out excess fluid. So if you’ve overdone it on sodium, eating more potassium can help you re-achieve the “balance” of these two minerals. Potassium is mostly found in fruits and vegetables. Good sources include bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, cucumber and peas. Some dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and dates, are also high in potassium.
Exercising: If you have taken in too much salt and are trying to dilute it by drinking water, go for a jog or spend an hour at the gym to help your body purge some of the excess salt.