Sodium is essential to human health. The mineral helps to regulate fluids, maintain nerve transmissions and stimulate muscle contractions.
But like anything else, it’s only good in moderation.
Warning Signs Of High Sodium Intake
According to the American Heart Association, about 75 percent of the sodium we consume comes not from the salt shaker, but rather in processed and restaurant food (1).
Unfortunately, the tendency to over-salt these foods is having a negative impact on our health: “NIH-funded study that found that lowering salt intake by only 3 grams (about half a teaspoon) could prevent as many as 92,000 deaths nationwide each year. There would be fewer than 120,000 new cases of heart disease. Strokes would be cut by 66,000; heart attacks by 100,000.” via MedlinePlus
Pay close attention to the following signs. These will let you know when it’s time to cut back on the salt.
Excess sodium makes you thirsty because your body wants to keep the same salinity levels at all times. As our salt intake increases, our bodies pull the water out of our cells into the bloodstream in order to re-establish its ideal salt levels.
As a result, cells become dehydrated and communicate with the brain to trigger thirst.
Bloating happens when you regularly consume too much sodium and your body starts to store fluid to help it flush out excess salt. You can reduce bloating by doing more exercise (to stimulate sweat) and drink more water.
“Drinking more water can help you flush the sodium out of your system and bloating will eventually decrease”, explains Rosanna Lee, a nutrition educator and community health promoter based in Toronto. via HuffingtonPost
Edema is a fluid build up in the body that causes swelling in the face, hand, legs, ankles and feet. Like bloating, it’s caused by the body storing fluid to expel excess sodium. via MedicalNewsToday
4. Salt Cravings
A 2011 Australian study (2) found that the brain responds to sodium similar to how it does for substances such as heroin, cocaine, and nicotine. Sodium is a double-edge sword: salt is essential for your nervous system but can quickly become an addiction.
If you find that you often crave salt, you may already be consuming too much in you diet.
5. High Blood Pressure
The extra water that your body stores through edema and bloating raises your blood pressure and puts strain on your kidneys, arteries, heart and brain.
To cope with the extra strain, the tiny muscles in the artery walls become stronger and thicker (3). Yet this only makes the space inside the arteries smaller and raises your blood pressure even higher. Over time, this can leave your more vulnerable to stoke and heart failure.
Long-Term Effect Of Too Much Salt
Your kidneys need calcium in order to expel excess salt through urine. This calcium is typically sourced from the bones if you don’t consume enough of the mineral in your diet. Over time, bones become brittle and thin, which is a symptom of osteoporosis (4).
2. Kidney Stones
The kidneys are in charge of retaining and getting rid of fluid. High salt intake makes the body conserve water to re-establish its ideal sodium concentration. This means that less urine is produced until the body has received enough water. As mentioned before, calcium is necessary to pass sodium through urine. When not enough urine is produced, this calcium builds up in the kidneys and can cause kidney stones.
3. Stomach Cancer
A study (5) published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that death from stomach cancer in both men and women was closely linked to salt consumption.
“Salt apparently riles up the poorly understood bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori. The H. pylori bug causes the vast majority of stomach and duodenal ulcers… and greatly increases a person’s risk of gastric cancer and a form of lymphoma called MALT.” via WebMD
The mineral may also have an adverse effect on the mucous lining of the stomach and cause the stomach tissue to become abnormal and unhealthy (6).
4. Cognitive Decline
A Canadian study found that high-sodium diets were linked to increased risk of cognitive decline: “sodium intake alone may affect cognitive function in sedentary older adults above and beyond the effects of overall diet,” the researchers wrote. via TheNeurobiologyofAging
How To Reduce Your Salt Intake
The best way to reduce your intake of sodium is to avoid processed foods and to read labels when you buy groceries. You should also drink plenty of water and commit yourself to daily exercise.
At home, consider switching to pink Himalayan salt. Processed salt is 98 percent sodium chloride. On the other hand, Himalayan salt is only 85 percent sodium chloride and contains 84 trace minerals.
These minerals include :
Just remember that although it’s important to monitor your salt intake, don’t cut it out completely!
Salt is very important for nerve and muscle health, but must be consumed in moderation.