Sodium gets a lot of negative attention so much that unfortunately, people forget that it is classified as a major mineral. Over time, too much sodium leads to increased risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, the development of kidney stones and other types of ailments. The body needs more than 100 milligrams per day to function properly but most people consume far more than is necessary. Luckily, the body is usually able to eliminate the excess.
Sodium is an electrolyte meaning that it (along with chloride and potassium) helps control the electrical charges that occur between cells. These electrical charges are used by cells to communicate with one another. The electrical charges are also what give our five senses the ability to see, smell, touch, hear and taste.
Approximately 30% of the sodium inside the body is stored in the bones and the balance is found in body fluids. Sodium is a main component of blood plasma and approximately 60% is contained in the fluids that surround cells. About 10% of the body’s sodium is stored inside the cells. This division helps maintain a proper balance of water inside as well as outside these cells.
Its presence in the circulatory system helps the body keep blood pressure and the overall volume of blood flow within normal ranges. Sodium helps keep the blood from clotting, which can be a very dangerous situation. In the blood, sodium together with potassium helps maintain the blood’s delicate pH balance. Sodium also helps carry important nutrients to the cells.
In the digestive system, sodium assists in the process of metabolizing foods into energy. It protects the stomach lining by preventing the acids inside the stomach from burning it.
High quantities of sodium are in most processed and preserved foods. Potato chips and pretzels, hot dogs, ham and bacon, tomato sauces, ketchup, lunch meats and canned soups are good examples. Lower levels of sodium also occur naturally in many foods including meat, chicken, eggs, nuts, seafood, fish, carrots, beets, artichokes, cauliflower, celery and even milk. Since so many of the foods we eat already contain salt, it isn’t necessary to add more prior to consumption.
Symptoms of Sodium Deficiency
The body loses sodium every day. It escapes the body by way of the urine and also via sweat, which is why a considerable amount is lost on hot days and after a strenuous exercise session. Because so many foods contain sodium deficiencies are rare. However, a serious loss of sodium can result from excessive vomiting and/or diarrhea. Diuretics, such as those that are prescribed to help lower blood pressure, can also deplete sodium levels.
Symptoms of a sodium deficiency that is combined with a loss of water most often include muscle cramps and weakness, dizziness, an inability to concentrate, memory impairment and nausea. If the deficiency becomes serious, the circulatory system can collapse and the body can go into shock.
A deficiency in sodium alone can allow water to enter the cells causing the cells to become swollen. Water intoxication may result. Symptoms include fatigue, apathy, muscle twitching and anorexia.
Dr. John Spencer Ellis
Each week, over one million people enjoy a fitness and wellness program created by John Spencer Ellis. His programs are implemented in the top resorts, spas and health clubs. John is the CEO of NESTA (National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association), the Spencer Institute for Life Coaching, and the Get America Fit Foundation.
He created Adventure Boot Camp, the largest fitness boot camp system in the world. His TriActive America signature series of outdoor exercise equipment is used worldwide. John has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, FOX, FOX Sports, FOX Reality, SPIKE and ESPN. He is the fitness and lifestyle expert on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Orange County and Daybreak OC (KDOC news). John is the producer of the documentary The Compass (Jan. 2009).