We all are aware that our body sweats when we do certain activity or exercise. This makes us realize that we are tired or the action is accomplished. What does our sweat contain? Why do we have the problems of high and low blood pressure? It is Sodium. The sixth most abundant element on the earth and commonly referred to as table salt. Sodium is an important mineral for the human body and hence is found as an ingredient in snacks and a food preservative for many delicacies.

What is the role of Sodium in the Human Body?

Approximately 1.3 grams of Sodium is present in the human body, of which, the bones contain about one third of it. The remaining two thirds is in the form of body fluids. Sodium is absorbed into the body through food in the form of Sodium Chloride. Sodium draws the nutrients to the cell walls and helps in retaining the water of the body. Sodium, closely associated with chlorine and potassium, plays a major role in the nerve function and muscle contraction. Also, it plays a major role in controlling the origin and maintainence of the heartbeat. Sodium plays an important role in regulating the fluids outside the cells when potassium carries its by-products out, and it pumps the fluids into the cells.

What quantity of Sodium is enough for the body?

Generally, the Sodium intake of a normal adult should be 2300 mg a day. However, people who do heavy work or who move around very often should increase their consumption a little more as the Sodium gets lost in the sweat. For other individuals, it should not be more than 2300 mg.

How does lack of Sodium affect you?

Our body needs the electrolytes and minerals for the smooth and systematic functioning of the muscles as well as the nerves that connects various organs together in the human system. Low levels of Sodium may occur due to several reasons. It is also referred to as hyponatremia. Too much vomiting may deplete the levels of Sodium from the body. Also sweating and increased urine production may decrease the proportion of Sodium in the body. Lack of Sodium may lead to muscle spasms, nausea, fatigue, and headache. Sometimes, decreased level of Sodium may cause confusion, hallucinations and low consciousness. The major complications may even lead to the brain cells in the brain, to swell.

What illness does lack of Sodium gives rise to?

Low levels of Sodium occur when there is less Sodium in the blood or there is too much of water in the blood. Following are the illnesses that are caused due to low level of Sodium or deficiency of Sodium in the body:

  • Hyponatremia: It refers to the low levels of Sodium in the body and is responsible in regulating the blood pressure. It is caused when Sodium is lost from the body during sweating or excessive vomiting. However it may also lead to adrenal insufficiency, hypothyroidism and cirrhosis of the liver.

  • Kidney Failure: Low level of Sodium may affect the most important part of the body which are the Kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood from the waste, for balancing the levels of electrolytes in the body, to control the blood pressure and to stimulate the production of the red blood cells.

  • Heart Failure: Heart failure does not necessarily indicate that the heart has failed. The symptoms can be very severe as it is a serious condition where the heart does not pump blood efficiently around the body. Hypertension is one such symptom that causes heart failure.

  • Cirrhosis: Cirrhosis scars the liver causing an injury to a healthy liver. Liver makes proteins that helps fight infections and clean the blood. A common cause of cirrhosis is high blood pressure.
How does excess Sodium affect you?

The intake of Sodium is crucial to perform the bodily functions. The consumption should not exceed more than 2300 mg in a day. However excess absorption of Sodium in the body can disturb the normal functioning of the body. The major indications of too much Sodium ingested in the body are as follows:

  • Extreme Thirst: This is a common sign and can make a person feel thirsty in the middle of the night.

  • Bloated Feeling: Too much intake of Sodium makes you feel uncomfortable as the mineral retains water.

  • High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure may further lead to heart disease and stroke, or certain disorders in the kidneys.

  • Osteoporosis: Too much intake of Sodium decreases the density of the bones and makes them weak and brittle.

How can you increase or decrease Sodium in your body?

Highly processed food items have a large amount of Sodium. These include bread, pasta, meat, egg, pizza, cold cuts and bacon, cheese, soups and fast foods. Consumption of these may result in increased level of Sodium. Also there are some foods that naturally contain Sodium. They are all vegetables, dairy products, meat and shellfish. In order to decrease the level of Sodium, you must pay careful attention to the below foods:

  • Foods prepared in brine

  • Salty and smoked foods

  • Junk Food

  • Condiments

  • Cheese

  • Salad dressing

  • Soups

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