Is it true that sodium is bad for you? Let’s find out all about sodium, what it is used for, how it is taken, and which foods are rich in it. Closely linked to the functionality of potassium, sodium is also one of the essential minerals for the human body. It is present in abundant quantities (almost 100 g) in the blood, extracellular fluids, and bone tissue. It is essential to regulate various vital functions, such as those relating to the transmission of nerve impulses.
Often demonized as being considered the cause of some ailments, the reality, and its excess is problematic. As with all the other elements, sodium must also be kept at normal levels in the body to produce benefits by introducing it in the appropriate quantities through a correct diet. So let’s see what sodium is for specifically, the average values to be respected to ensure well-being, and what happens if the sodium level is too high or low in the blood.
Sodium: What It Is Used For And How It Works In The Body
Like other mineral salts, sodium is essential for human growth and ensures good health. It is mainly contained in extracellular fluids, bone tissue, and cartilage. It allows the transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and the cells’ absorption of nutrients and liquids. In particular, it facilitates the communication between cells during the nerve impulse to move, ensuring the contraction of the muscles. Sodium is also responsible for the permeability of cell membranes and the pressure of body fluids.
Therefore it is involved in their concentration within the body. Its function is also essential for blood pressure and the structure of bones, cartilages, and teeth. Finally, it works in close correlation with potassium in muscle contraction and hydro-saline balance mechanisms. The one is indispensable for the other in the regular functioning of the organism. Therefore a balance between these two minerals is essential.
The sodium concentration in the blood is guaranteed by the kidneys, which are responsible for its absorption and expulsion when introduced in excessive quantities. The daily sodium requirement for an adult corresponds to about 3.5 g. Beyond this threshold, the excess mineral is eliminated from the body through the urine, feces, and sweat.
How Is Sodium Taken? Food And Dietary Indications
Since the body cannot provide for the metabolism of this element independently, it is essential to introduce sodium with food and liquids. Assuming that it is one of the minerals present in drinking water, this suggests the importance of providing regular and constant hydration by introducing at least 1.5 liters of water per day. For the rest, it is good to know that sodium is contained in many foods, especially those of animal origin. However, the most important source of sodium remains the common table salt, which scientifically takes the name of sodium chloride.
Generally, seasoning dishes with a bit of salt every day (5 g is the daily quantity recommended by the WHO) is sufficient to guarantee the daily requirement of this mineral. However, it is essential not to exceed the amounts since too much salt is wrong, as it risks bringing too much sodium to the body. Other sodium-rich foods are meat, dairy products (especially aged cheeses), and sausages as an alternative to salt.
Since all industrial, packaged, and refined products are enriched with added salt and sugars, it is elementary to exceed the recommended dose of sodium without realizing it. In this regard, it is advisable to reduce the consumption of these foods and introduce more fruits, vegetables, and fresh foods in the diet, which are naturally low in sodium and help counterbalance any excesses.
Sodium Deficiency Or Excess: What Are The Effects?
In modern society, with the lifestyle and diet that most of the population leads, cases of hyponatremia or hyponatremia are sporadic. Sodium deficiency, therefore, occurs mainly in those who follow a very unbalanced diet or have severe renal dysfunctions. Since sodium is responsible for the number of fluids retained in the body, a sodium deficiency can cause a reduction in the volume of fluids and, consequently, lower blood pressure. This condition manifests itself with nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, dizziness, up to muscle spasms, and alterations of the nervous system in the most severe cases.
Conversely, a high blood sodium level is a more common condition, especially in industrialized countries where diets are often high in fat, junk food, and processed foods. Hypernatremia occurs with the same symptoms of sodium deficiency but produces very different effects. An excess of minerals in the body can lead to arterial hypertension, favor the onset of osteoporosis and generate an accumulation of fluids in the body, giving rise to edema and water retention.