What Happens If You Eat Too Much Salt?
Rapid urbanization, increasing production and consumption of processed foods, and changing lifestyles are transforming dietary patterns. Highly processed foods, fast foods, sandwiches, burgers, chips, nuggets, pizza, fried foods, noodles, and heavy sausage foods; are readily available at affordable rates, the taste of these foods and the convenience to eat them make such foods popular. People around the world; are consuming more foods high in saturated fats, sugars, and salt. While sugar and fat always get a lot of bad press when it comes to; unhealthy food choices, salt never gets discredited!
The flavour/palatability enhancer, salt greatly exceeds the minimal physiological need in most of the world. Did you know? Elevated dietary sodium has direct adverse effects on multiple target organs and causes a bad impact on health.
SALT & SODIUM – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
The words salt and sodium are often used interchangeably, yet they do not mean the same thing. Sodium Chloride (the chemical name for salt) is a white crystalline solid that consists of 40% sodium and 60% of chloride. In other words, 5g of salt contains 2g of sodium and 3g chloride.
Sodium is a mineral that’s found naturally in foods and salt. The name ‘sodium’ derives from the English soda and Latin ‘sodanum’ for a headache remedy.
Note: If the nutrition facts panel on foods says ‘no salt added’ or unsalted, it may not contain salt but may contain sodium.
FUNCTIONS OF SODIUM IN THE BODY
Sodium is an electrolyte that is required to conduct nerve impulses in the body, maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, blood pressure, has a key role in contraction and relaxation of muscles, resides in extracellular fluid, regulates plasma volume as well as cellular transport.
WHAT IS THE RECOMMENDED INTAKE OF SALT?
WHO recommends that adults consume less than 5g (just under a teaspoon) of salt per day. A salt intake of 5g/day is sufficient to meet both sodium and chloride requirements.
WHAT IS EXCESS SODIUM INTAKE?
Consumption of sodium more than the daily value (more than 2.3g per day or intake of salt more than 5g/day) combined with insufficient potassium intake (less than 3.5g/day) will cause excess sodium intake, also known as hypernatremia and increase the risk of consequences of high sodium intake. The sodium intake is generally the sum of discretionary (from salt added to food in the kitchen or at the table) and non-discretionary sources (sodium naturally present in foods and that added during the industrial food transformation).
IS THERE A CHANCE FOR OCCURRENCE OF LOW SODIUM?
This is very rare case. The condition of low sodium concentration in the body of an individual or hyponatremia may be caused due to drinking too much water, or without enough replacement of depleted sodium. Sweat, diarrhea, and other causes of dehydration may cause your body to have low levels of sodium.
SODIUM RICH FOODS
The major source (90%) of sodium in our diet is salt, and 80% of salt consumed is added to foods at the stage of manufacturing or during food preparation, at the table, or the form of condiments, derives from processed food, or in the form of hidden salt.
Sodium intake can come from sodium glutamate (C₅H₈NO₄Na), baking soda (NaHCO₃), disodium guanylate, chile saltpeter, di and tri sodium phosphate, sodium thiosulfate, sodium benzoate, Himalayan pink salt, kosher salt, black salt, sea salt contribute to different form of sodium intake in foods.
Generally, canned soups, pizza, sandwiches, burgers, egg dishes, soy sauce, salted pretzels, potato/corn chips, commercially prepared tomato sauce, cheese, sausages, biscuits cookies, cakes, processed meat, mayonnaise, ketchup, salted nuts, frozen dinners, breakfast cereal, pastries, crackers, bread, spreads, burritos, omelets, cereals contain high amount of sodium.
It should be noted that while pickles, soy sauce taste salty, they are certain foods like breads, pastries, cereals that contain sodium but don’t taste salty.
HIGH SALT INTAKE MAY INCREASE CHANCES FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
In the body, sodium is located in the blood and the fluids around cells. The more salt you intake translates to more sodium intake. As sodium accumulates in the blood, the body holds onto water to dilute the sodium, it causes extracellular fluid and the volume of the blood in the bloodstream to increase. Increased blood volume has a direct effect on your blood pressure which puts a greater strain on the arteries. High blood pressure causes muscles of the arteries to constrict more and blood pressure gets further raised. This ultimately causes arteries to become narrow, cutting the oxygen and nutrient supply to organs and causing fatal damage. Initially, it may cause a slight reduction in the amount of blood reaching the heart, and may lead to chest pain, but the prolonged usage of high salt may even lead to a heart attack.
HIGH SALT INTAKE MAY CAUSE KIDNEY DISFUNCTION
Kidneys have a major role in controlling blood pressure by drawing extra water out of the bloodstream through osmosis. Osmosis uses a delicate balance of sodium and potassium to put the water across a wall of cells from the bloodstream into a collecting channel that leads to the bladder. Too much salt intake will disturb this balance, reducing the ability of the kidneys to remove the water. Over time, high blood pressure puts extra strain on the delicate blood vessels leading to the kidneys. Gradually this strain can damage the kidneys, where kidneys can no longer filter the blood. The body slowly becomes poisoned by its toxic products.
HIGH SALT INTAKE MAY CAUSE EXCESSIVE THIRST
Sodium consumed in large amounts will draw too much water into the cells. On those days when you eat foods super rich in sodium like chips, pizza, or other junk food, you tend to drink a lot of water. Then, your brain’s thirst center gets the signals that it will do everything possible to help your body restore the balance of fluid. So, thirst is highly sensitive to increased plasma sodium concentration. Under normal conditions, high salt intake temporarily increases plasma sodium level, which is soon buffered by the movement of water from the intracellular to the extracellular compartment. Thus, an increase in plasma sodium concentration also stimulates the thirst center, to restore plasma sodium concentration to a normal level while increasing and maintaining extracellular fluid volume. If your mouth feels dry all the time and you always crave water, chances are you are consuming too much salt.
HIGH SALT INTAKE CAUSES HEADACHES, HYPERTENSION, FATIGUE, AND DEMENTIA
The increased blood pressure caused by eating too much salt not only causes harm to the heart but can damage the arteries leading to the brain. Initially, there can a slight reduction in the amount of blood reaching the brain, which will cause the scarcity of oxygen and nutrients reaching the brain. The reduction in blood reaching the brain may cause dementia/brain fog. The prolonged intake of excess sodium may even lead the arteries to burst and get clogged causing stroke. The dehydration caused by excess salt intake could be the reason for hypertension, headache, and mental fatigue.
HIGH SALT INTAKE CAUSES INFLAMMATION
Sodium draws in water, if you eat salty foods, you’ll experience fluid retention or feeling bloated in the morning, a condition known as edema. Excess sodium intake can lead to puffiness under the eyes, and swelling of the feet, and hands which is a sign that your body is trying to balance the excess sodium somewhere and it has to hold extra water somewhere.
TIPS TO REDUCE SODIUM INTAKE
- Look for the words, salt-free, low sodium, and very low sodium on the food label.
- Government policies should create an environment that enables populations to consume adequate quantities of safe and nutritious foods that make up a healthy diet including low salt.
- Use herbs, and spices instead of salt to flavour foods.
- Avoid eating processed, packaged foods, try to prepare your food.
- Reduce sodium condiments (even bread can be high in salt), pick no-salt-added nuts, and seeds, and do not have a salt shaker on the table.
- Do not season your fruits and salads with salt, improve the availability and accessibility of the low salt product.
- Try to eat food with the lowest salt level, initially, it would taste bland, but gradually you will adapt.
- Educate children and provide a supportive environment for children so that they start early by adopting low salt diets.
If you want to keep your vital organs functioning properly, then you need to keep your sodium intake moderate and the quickest way to do that is to eat less salt.