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TOPIC: How does sodium work?

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January 5, 2012 11:38 AM
Sodium is just salt, right? Well, what's the effect it has on the body and how much are you supposed to get a day? Basically, what all does it do in your body?
January 5, 2012 11:41 AM
January 5, 2012 11:47 AM

January 5, 2012 11:59 AM
It helps keep the body cool (through sweat), regulates blood pressure (the reason to cut back if you have high blood pressure), helps maintain a balance of fluid in the body and passes nutrients along to various part of the body.
January 5, 2012 12:01 PM
So, it's not a bad thing?

I always heard people talk bad about salt...
January 5, 2012 1:09 PM
No, not a bad thing in moderation. Your body actually needs it to live. If you don't have enough salt in your system, you can't sweat enough to cool your body down so you can overheat. If you don't get enough sodium naturally, you can also feel weak & exhausted.

Everyone is different in how much salt they need. I have a friend who liberally salts everything he eats (no joke...think like 1/2-1 tsp of salt per item on his plate). The last time he went to his doctor, the doctor actually told him to eat MORE salt. He's an extreme case, but you can't listen to anyone when they say in absolute terms that something is bad nutrient-wise. Everyone is different.

I have actually put a sodium counter on my food diary because I've found that on the days where my sodium intake is really high, I'm extra bloated and actually weigh more than on the days where my sodium intake is within normal ranges. If I know I have a really intense workout coming up, I sometimes choose foods with a little extra sodium so my body can cool itself properly when it's time. In fact, most recovery drinks have sodium in them.
January 5, 2012 1:18 PM
your body does need it and it's in everything. i have to watch mine due to high blood pressure. its a sneaky little thing and can be difficult to watch! i know when i go over i feel "swollen" in my hands and feet. especially if its a LOT (eating out meals).
January 5, 2012 1:21 PM
No... sodium is not evil. You actually need *some* salt... but really, sodium is in everything, so it's pretty hard to become sodium deficient. You can do it by losing too much salt through sweat, but the average person gets plenty in their diet.

Sodium plays come pretty critical roles in cell biology. Neurons can't signal without sodium. Sodium also influences blood pressure, as mentioned. The kidneys use sodium to help re-absorb water. The more water you've got in your blood vessels, the higher your blood pressure. The body compensates in half a dozen ways for high blood pressure, so in the average healthy person, sodium just doesn't matter that much... but if you're body is kinda sucking in the blood pressure control department (because one or more regulatory mechanisms are 'broken'), then high blood sodium is a bad thing because it will pull water out of the kidney filtrate and into your blood... and raise your blood pressure.
January 5, 2012 1:30 PM
We need some salt/sodium. There's not consensus in the medical community about whether salt causes high bp. That's probably the connection you've heard about. There's a correlation there, but there's no evidence that salt is the culprit in causing these cardio issues. They find that those with high bp tend to also consume more sodium, but we know that fast foods, processed foods, prepared foods, etc. tend to be high in salt content, so it's not surprising. What we don't know is if salt just correlates with those other things and that's why there's also a correlation with salt and bp or whether the salt itself has an impact on the bp. There is however some research that suggests that reducing sodium specifically can lead to a reduction in bp, so physicians will often recommend it for people with hypertension. There's not evidence that it reduces likelihood of cardiac events though.

Here's a helpful article written by a physician that summarizes what conclusions about the relationship between sodium and heart health measures are actually supported by evidence.
January 5, 2012 4:19 PM

Sodium is just salt, right? Well, what's the effect it has on the body and how much are you supposed to get a day? Basically, what all does it do in your body?

Too much sodium can cause problems such as high blood pressure, which can lead to strokes etc. However, too LITTLE sodium is dangerous and can kill a person. It can cause a condition called Hyponatremia, which is a metabolic condition. Not enough sodium in the body will cause the cells to expand - sort of like drowning really. This includes swelling in the brain .

Minimum of 500mg of sodium per day - maximum of 2300mg.


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