How Does Sodium Affect Health?


Despite all of the hype surrounding it, sodium is not inherently bad for you. In fact, your body needs some sodium to regulate fluids, keeping a proper pH balance. The muscles and nerves also require sodium to contract properly and to transmit information, respectively. However, the body does not require nearly as much sodium as most Americans consume. When you eat too much sodium, the kidneys cannot excrete it fast enough, causing it to build up in the blood. That is when it starts to negatively affect your health.

High blood pressure

If you consume more than 2400 mg of sodium a day, you put yourself at risk for high blood pressure. This is because sodium-rich blood attracts water. This increases the volume of blood in your arteries which in turn increases your blood pressure. High blood pressure can put serious strain on your heart and lead to a heart attack or stroke. You’re more likely to have these conditions if you’re predisposed to hypertension or heart problems. Problem is it is hard to tell if you are predisposed, so everyone with a high sodium intake must consider himself or herself at risk.

Stomach cancer

Some studies, such as one published in the Annals of Oncology on July 31, 2008, also link high sodium intake to an increased risk of stomach cancer. This is thought to be due to sodium’s relation to astrophic gastritis, a condition that causes inflammation and degeneration of the stomach’s lining. This condition is often pre-cancerous.

What to do

Take stock of how much sodium you eat a day. First of all, stop putting extra salt on your foods. The food itself most likely has more sodium in it than you need already. If you need some flavor, use pepper instead. Secondly, cut processed foods out of your diet as much as possible. This includes canned foods and most instant “meal kits.” More often than not, they have copious amounts of salt in them acting as a preservative. Also, stop eating foods that are pickled, which means they were soaked in salt and vinegar, and those that contain monosodium glutamate, often referred to as MSG. Lastly, cut out the ketchup, mustard and soy sauce. Just take a look at each bottle’s nutrition label and you will know why. Then drink lots of water, at least eight eight ounce glasses a day, to help your kidneys flush the excess sodium out of your body. If you have a serious problem with sodium intake that you can't solve on your own, consult a doctor or nutritionist.

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