All About Sodium and Hydration

By 07/09/2017 Hydration

Whilst our bodies need water, we also need sodium for maintaining healthy muscle content and also operative nerve function.

Sodium is an electrolyte, which acts as a balancer for the fluid in both your blood and the cells that surround. Sodium is a vital agent, but like most other ‘balancers’ in our bodies, lack of, or excess can cause untold problems. When imbalance occurs, our bodies will react accordingly and you will almost certainly develop a thirst, although this is not the only symptom.

Which foods are particularly high in sodium?

It is surprising just how many foods are high in sodium, and far be it from us to mention ‘junk food’, but if the cap fits….

Excess sodium is found in pizza, hot dogs (in fact any processed meats), processed cheese and manufactured sauces, such as pasta sauce, barbecue sauce, tomato sauce etc. White bread also has a high salt content – did you know that one slice of white bread contains as much salt as a normal size bag of crisps? Let’s also not forget to go easy on the salt grinder as well. Most foods that are not ‘fresh’, will contain salt in some form or fashion, even cakes and biscuits and the obvious culprits such as chips, French fries and savoury biscuit snacks..

Why is it dangerous to eat too much salt (sodium)?

Eating too much salt is not just about getting thirsty, there are some more sinister side effects as time goes on. The majority of people are not able to filter out excess salt from the body, as kidneys cannot perpetually work overtime, which thus creates an imbalance of fluid.

When you consume too much salt, the only place it can go is into your bloodstream. In a nutshell, your blood will send out an ‘SOS signal’ to your brain, at the same time as clawing fluid from inside your cells in a desperate attempt to rebalance. The message sent translates into thirst, and water is needed to restore sodium-to-body-fluid. Hopefully this explains the scenario in not too difficult terms.

The knock on effect will cause other illnesses such as hypertension, stroke and heart attacks if the balance is not redressed by hydration. The best hydration will always be water, fresh fruits and vegetables.

In the UK, the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of salt is 6g (sodium 2.4g), but obviously lower for babies, toddlers and young children. If you think of a teaspoon of salt, that is the maximum you should be consuming per day as an adult, inclusive of any that you cook with, sprinkle on your meals or that occurs in processed foods. Anymore than that, will send you dashing for the tap.

Salt (sodium) is neither a friend nor a foe and consumed in the right quantities is useful to the body – consumed in excess it can, and will, cause dehydration and even hypernatraemia, if ignored. The message is clear that water really is a life-balancer.