WHAT IS SODIUM?
Sodium is a type of mineral that is present in many of the foods we eat daily. The most common type of sodium that exists is sodium chloride, otherwise called salt, the same one we find in foods. The dietary sodium we consume mostly comes from the processed foods we eat.
However, the real question is why is sodium so important in the body? To start with, sodium is a mineral component that your body must possess for utmost functionality. The functions of sodium in the body include:
Related: How Much of Your Body is Water?
MUSCLE AND NERVE FUNCTION
Sodium is an electric-carrying mineral. The electrical charge it carries is known as an electrolyte, and this helps in the facilitation of the contraction of the muscles and the transmission of nerve cells. It is highly needed for the signals and general operation of the brain.
In the body, sodium works with potassium for the appropriate water balance. Chemically speaking, these minerals draw water to themselves. This ensures hydration remains at optimal levels both on an intercellular and extracellular basis.
For healthy people, the body has a defense mechanism for beating down high levels of sodium. However, if sodium continues to be taken in at high amounts, it could get quite critical and hypertension could set in.
Sodium is also needed in the body for the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine. In the kidneys, it’s also necessary for nutrient reabsorption. Nutrients such as glucose, water, and amino acid must pass into the bloodstream from the small intestine. To do this, they must go through the intestinal walls while heading to the bloodstream. The movement of these minerals is facilitated by sodium and potassium.
SUFFERING FROM SODIUM DEFICIENCY
The condition of having an insufficient amount of sodium in the blood is also known as hyponatremia. This condition happens when there isn’t a balance between water and sodium in the body. Either there is too much sodium or there is too much water in the blood.
SYMPTOMS OF SODIUM DEFICIENCY
Symptoms of sodium deficiency don’t affect everyone the same way. You’re likely not to experience any of the symptoms if your sodium levels gradually diminish. However, if they fall very quickly, the likelihood of the symptoms appearing is severely high.
The most common symptoms of sodium deficiency or hyponatremia include:
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Spasms or muscle cramps
THE DAILY SODIUM AMOUNT FOR OPTIMAL BODY FUNCTION
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), you should consume no more than 500 mg of sodium, and at least one-quarter teaspoon, to give your body what it needs. However, most Americans can’t keep to such amounts because the majority of the food they consume has high amounts of salt, especially snacks and junk foods. For the record, the average American consumes up to 2400 mg of sodium daily, 71% of it comes from processed foods.
Ensuring you cut down on your salt intake will lessen the risk of developing many health problems that come with a high sodium diet.
RISK FACTORS FOR SODIUM DEFICIENCY
There are specific factors that make you vulnerable to developing low sodium levels in the body and they are:
- Consuming low-sodium diet
- Use of diuretics
- Being an athlete (especially a high-performance one)
- Having heart disease, kidney disease, or other similar conditions
LOW SODIUM LEVEL TREATMENT
Treatment for having low sodium levels varies as it is dependent on the cause. However, it could include:
- Reducing your intake of fluids
- Getting daily amounts of sodium from the diet
- Treating any underlying conditions
The body doesn’t need a lot of sodium to function, but it does need enough. Know the following best sources of sodium:
- Table Salt
Sodium is quite an essential mineral, but it should be consumed scarcely to ensure there are no resultant health complications.