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Monday, September 21, 2020

Sodium: Facts, Health Benefits and Food Sources

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Due to the high rate of chronic diseases even in young people, sodium has a negative meaning in the heart of many people. Most especially, with the epidemic of hypertension, the health benefits of sodium are almost forgotten.

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Sodium is an extremely important nutrient in the human body. This essential mineral serves as an electrolyte. It also functions as an essential ion in your extracellular fluid.

One very important role of sodium in the body is the part it plays in enzymatic processes and the contraction of muscles. Your body needs this vital mineral for osmoregulation and maintenance of fluid within the human body.

Important Facts about Sodium

Sodium is needed for a lot of processes in the body. You need it for heart performance, to aid the absorption of glucose, and also to boost your nervous system.

It is also used for blood regulation and a deficiency in sodium can cause severe malfunctions of the body. Sodium is a versatile mineral and it is present in more than 80 forms.

It transmits impulses in your body and regulates your body fluids. Heat does not have any effect on sodium unlike other nutrients. This means you can use sodium or cook sodium-rich vegetables in many ways without losing the mineral.

Sodium is an important constituent of the nerves and this helps to control muscle contraction. However, despite all these health benefits, sodium can cause problems in the body when it is present in high amounts beyond the normal range.

This cannot be gotten from plant foods but when you engage in excessive consumption of table salt and processed foods containing it and supplements. The risk of getting sodium toxicity from supplements is a bit low because it is regularly and easily excreted through the urine.

Some side effects of excess sodium in the body are increased risks of stomach cancer and high blood pressure. People with chronic diseases like kidney disease are urged to stop their intake of sodium.

Also, sodium deficiency is highly dangerous and treated with supplements. People who sweat profusely or suffer from adrenal insufficiency are placed on sodium supplements.

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Health Benefits of Sodium

Controls the levels of fluids

Sodium regulates the levels of fluid in your body. There is a close link between sodium and water balance. There are sodium channels and gateways in the body that pump water into your cells.

They also regulate the amount of extracellular fluid in the body and prevent dehydration.

Boosts oral health

Brush your teeth at intervals with sodium chloride to help protect your mouth from the effects of harmful bacteria. It kills harmful bacteria in the mouth and reduces your risks of oral diseases like mouth odor, bleeding gums, and tooth decay.

You can do this by using salt as your toothpaste. A little amount of salt is enough. You don’t need much. After this, you rinse your mouth for like 30 seconds to remove every bit of salt and germs.

Baking soda also helps, it removes bacteria from your mouth. Baking soda and lemon juice can also be used to whiten your teeth naturally and promote oral health.

Sea salt can also be used as a natural toothpaste. It also expels bacteria from your mouth.

Prevents sunstroke

Heatstroke occurs when there is a failure in the heat-regulating system of the body. Continuous exposure to very high temperatures can trigger a type of heat exhaustion.

Exposure to high heat will make your body lose its ability to maintain a normal temperature. Low levels of sodium and water in the body can worsen sunstroke.

Sodium plays an important role in preventing this condition. It does this by replacing lost sodium in the body. This is why drinking fluids containing salt and sugar is an effective strategy against sunstroke.

In serious cases of heat exhaustion, salt is mixed with raw mango juice to give relief. Even athletes need balanced levels of sodium and fluids to for endurance. People who live extremely active lifestyles also benefits from healthy sodium levels and balanced fluids.

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Stops the growth of pathogens

Pathogens are disease-causing micro-organisms. Some of them also spoil foods and that is why table salt is a common preservative. It is added to foods and dried to prevent spoilage. Example fish

Sodium is also used in toothpaste, soaps, and shampoos because they stop the growth of pathogens. It has powerful anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties.

Baby care products also contain sodium. This mineral is mild on the skin although it has some side effects on the skin if used excessively. One of this is edema.

If used excessively on babies, it can reduce the functions of their skin’s oily barrier and cause dryness.

Boosts brain functions

Sodium helps your brain functions. And your brain is also very sensitive to sodium changes in the body. A little drop of sodium level can affect your brain and in severe deficiency, it causes confusion and even lethargy.

Sodium helps cognitive functions and it helps in keeping your mind sharp. It carries out many functions in the brain thus helping to improve brain functions.

Relieves itchiness

Insect bites and other factors can make your skin itchy. You can relieve his by applying a paste of baking soda on the affected skin part. You can mix it with water or ACV.

Baking soda can also be used in cases of skin rashes, especially itchy rashes. Baking soda neutralizes the toxins in your skin thereby relieving the itchiness.

Relieves muscle cramps

Loss of electrolytes and dehydration are the most common causes of muscle cramps and it is more common during hot weathers. Proper hydration and drinking sodium-rich juices and fluids can help relieve this.

Neutralizes stomach acid and reduces acidosis

Sodium is an effective home remedy for heartburn and indigestion. Sodium bicarbonate is used in OTC products used in relieving heartburn and indigestion.

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Don’t use antacids for children less than 6 years old. This is because stomach acid might not be the cause of indigestion in little children. Sodium also has a huge effect on acidosis, a condition characterized by too much acid in the body.

Some factors like kidney disease (makes the kidneys unable to excrete excess acids) and diarrhea can lead to the reduction of sodium bicarbonate in your body. A deficiency of sodium bicarbonate which helps in balancing the acid-base ratio of the body can cause acidosis.

Even diabetes which leads to the accumulation of ketones in the body and excessive exercise which causes lactic acids to accumulate in the body are causes of acidosis.

Sodium bicarbonate helps in reducing excessive acids from the body.

Promotes healthy skin

Sodium is an important nutrient used in many anti-aging creams. This is due to its powerful anti-free radical effect. It protects your cells and skin from the damaging effect of free radicals.

Free radicals accelerate the aging process. Sodium heals your skin, restores a healthy and youthful appearance, and promotes glowing and healthy skin.

One of the ways sodium helps your skin is by retaining moisture. It binds moisture to your skin thereby preventing skin dryness. This makes your skin smooth and glowing.

Sodium PCA (pyroglutamic acid) is used in making skincare products because of its super hydrating properties. Sodium PCA is even stronger than glycerin.

Another way sodium helps your skin is by exfoliating. It removes dead skin cells and other debris from the surface of your skin. Mix baking soda and water and apply the paste on your skin.

This natural exfoliator is far safer than commercial ones. Sodium also treats uneven skin tone. Sodium also treats uneven skin tone. Mix baking soda with rose water and apply it on your face or body part you wish to tone.

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Rinse it off after one minute with lukewarm water. This will treat uneven skin tone and brighten your complexion. You will get good result if your do this twice a week.

Always apply a moisturizer on your skin after undergoing this treatment.

Aids sound sleep

The anti-catabolic effect of sodium helps to reduce the effect of the stress hormone on the body. This is why people with sodium deficiency or people on a low sodium diet have difficulty falling or staying asleep.

People with hypertension should avoid salt by all means. There are other effective natural ways of fighting insomnia.

Expels carbon dioxide

Sodium gets rid of excess carbon dioxide in the body thereby preventing Hypercapnia. Excess carbon dioxide in the body causes health problems.

Aids Weight loss

The water retention property of sodium can help weight loss. This helps in suppressing the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol promotes the retention of water and fats.

Cortisol has a very strong effect on weight gain than sodium alone. It can also influence other hormones to reduce the metabolism of fat.

Regulates the absorption of glucose

Sodium helps your cells pick up glucose. This ensures a smooth transportation of nutrients in your cell membranes.

Boosts appetite

The salty taste of sodium makes it possible to eat a lot of foods. This is why bland foods are not easily eaten. However, you have to be careful when cooking with sodium so you don’t take in excess of it.

It can increase your risk of hypertension and other chronic diseases.

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Maintains acid-base balance

A misbalance in the acid-base ratio in the body can cause serious health complications. Sodium prevents this by controlling the functions of the kidneys and the frequencies of urine production and its content.

It maintains the balance between ions. This important mineral associate with bicarbonates and chlorides and this helps maintain the balance between these ions.

Sodium also balances the osmotic pressure also and helps control the levels of fluids in human cells.

Regulates blood pressure

Sodium regulates your heart’s contraction and it helps in making sure the heart contracts healthily. Although an excessive amount of sodium in the body can affect your heart’s contraction and reduce blood pressure.

This is the cause of serious health problems like stroke and heart disease. Hypertension is the risk factor for these diseases.

Signs and Symptoms of Sodium Deficiency and Toxicity

Sodium deficiency can be fatal, especially if it is severe. One of the most affected systems of the body in sodium deficiency is the nervous system. It can even make your nervous system shut down completely.

Other common symptoms of sodium deficiency are:

  • Headaches
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Vomiting
  • Improper muscle functions
  • Weakness
  • Swelling of the brain
  • Diarrhea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Muscular irritability
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion
  • Increased risks of diseases that cause mental apathy, exertion, and exhaustion.

You can get excessive amount of sodium from high consumption of table salt and foods they contain. An excessive amount of sodium in the body can lead to:

  • High blood pressure (very common these days even in young people)
  • Excessive water retention
  • Swelling of the nerves and neural tissues
  • Dehydration
  • Cerebral edema
  • Coma can occur in chronic cases
  • Increased risks of lung infection

Natural Sources of Sodium

Some of the best sources of sodium are:

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  • Common salt (table salt)
  • Fruits
  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Homemade foods containing salt
  • Wakame and seaweed kelp
  • Egg yolks
  • Coconuts
  • Cabbage
  • Cereals
  • Bananas
  • Nuts
  • Pulses
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Carrots
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Turnips
  • Dried peas
  • Processed cheese
  • Smoked fish
  • Salty meats
  • Pickles
  • Snacks
  • Sauce

Note that it is not possible to get excess sodium from plant foods but from table salts and processed and homemade foods containing salt. All commercially processed foods contain sodium salt and they are the leading cause of health problems.

It is also important to know that sodium is present in small quantities in nearly every natural food.

References;

  1. Sodium; NCBI, NCBI, NCBI, NCBI,
  2. Sodium and hypertension; NCBI, NCBI, NCBI, NCBI, NCBI, NIH, NCBI, NCBI,
  3. Effects of sodium deficiency; NCBI, NCBI, NCBI, NCBI,
  4. Sources of Sodium; NCBI
Sodium
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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Ebiojo David
I am a Biochemist and Naturopath, I love writing and educating people on health and wellness matters.
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