Side Effects of Too Much Salt Intake


Salt is a condiment that isn't just for flavor enhancement. It's also for preserving a variety of foods, such as cured meats, canned foods and baked products. Common side effects of too much salt intake, such as salty urine, water retention and elevated blood pressure, occur depending on the salt sensitivity of a person. Knowing the maximum amount of salt that you can consume helps prevent any undesired effects to your body.

Close up view of a salt shaker.
Close up view of a salt shaker. (Image: Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images)


Salt is made up two micronutrients, sodium and chloride. These micronutrients are needed in maintaining body fluid equilibrium and in performing normal body functions. There is a limit to the amount of every micronutrient you consume. Exceeding above or below the limits alters normal body processes such as blood circulation and toxic waste elimination.

Sodium Silicate crystals magnified 200x.
Sodium Silicate crystals magnified 200x. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Tolerable Intake Level

In general, the tolerable upper intake level (UL) for salt-containing foods, according to the Food and Nutrition Board, is 5.8 grams per day. As reported by the Institute of Medicine, this UL is applicable to Americans and Canadians, and aims to avoid side effects resulting from excessive salt intake.

Measuring cup
Measuring cup (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Salty Urine

Salty urine, according to the Florida Health Encyclopedia, may be caused by too much salt in the diet. It can be measured via urinalysis, as well as blood testing. The normal range is 15 milliequivalents to 250 milliequivalents per liter per day (mEq/L/day). Although having salty urine is a logical consequence of high salt intake, there are other factors that could affect the urine output: kidney stones and kidney failure. It's best to consult your doctor if you have an abnormal urine output.

Doctor looking at urine specimen in cup.
Doctor looking at urine specimen in cup. (Image: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Water Retention

Water retention results when your body lowers the amount of water to excrete, in perspiration or in urine. As stated in the Micronutrient Information Center of the Linus Pauling Institute, “excessive intakes of sodium chloride lead to an increase in extracellular fluid volume….” This side effect is also known as fluid retention. It's often accompanied by an altered thirst mechanism and abdominal pain. Furthermore, prolonged water retention may lead to edema or swelling of body parts.

Mid-section view of a woman fastening her pants.
Mid-section view of a woman fastening her pants. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension--as reported by doctors Ken Flegel and Peter Magner of the Canadian Medical Association--is “the greatest harm” arising from too much salt intake. The normal blood pressure for adults (18 years and older) is less than 120/80mmHG systolic/diastolic. Excessive salt intake interferes with the normal blood flow and causes high blood pressure--for instance, 140/90 mmHG. This abnormal blood pressure is often associated with dizziness, headache and related feelings of stress, which may be mistaken for other causes and go unnoticed for several years.

Doctor taking patient's blood pressure.
Doctor taking patient's blood pressure. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

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