A healthy amount of salt is essential to health. Without sodium chloride in our bodies, we would struggle to maintain a healthy fluid and electrolyte balance. The mineral is also important for nerve impulses and muscle contraction. However, some people do not realise the possible negative effects of eating a diet that is too full of this mineral, or fail to recognise the signs that they are consuming too much salt.
The daily recommended amount for salt is a maximum of 6 grams, which isn't hard to exceed when the levels added to breakfast cereals, bread, packaged meals and fasts foods are taken into account.
Products sold as health foods can also contain higher than expected levels of salt and tinned soup – which you would think would be a healthier option than some meals - can contain 1-2 grams. Sports drinks can also contain high levels of salt, as can diet drinks.
This article details some of the health problems associated with eating too much salt; if you suspect that your salt intake might be related to your health condition, you should seek medical guidance.
High Blood Pressure
People with high blood pressure are vulnerable to heart attacks, strokes and kidney problems. If your blood pressure is high, then your doctor is likely to look at lifestyle and diet. If they feel that a patient is consuming an excessive amount of salt, they will offer advice on how to reduce the daily intake.
The bloated feeling that comes with water retention could also be another sign that a person is eating too much salt. Other signs of fluid retention include swollen feet and ankles, and there might also be some puffiness under the eyes and around the face. These symptoms often go once the salt levels have been reduced.
Several studies have associated the bone disease osteoporosis with excessive salt intake. However this theory is still controversial, with some studies concluding that there is not enough evidence to directly link a high salt diet with bone thinning. However, other research shows that high salt intake may increase the amount of calcium lost when urinating. This robs calcium from the bones, possibly leaving a person more vulnerable to fractures.
Losing too much calcium through the urine can increase the risk of kidney stones. If a patient is diagnosed with kidney stones then it is likely that a doctor will ask questions about their diet, and perhaps suggest a reduction in salt intake.
A study set out to determine if there was a link between obesity, salt, and the amount of fluids and sugar sweetened beverages consumed. The study concluded that the higher the salt intake, the higher the consumption of fluids and sugar sweetened beverages. It was also suggested that if salt intake was cut, this would reduce the incidence of childhood obesity.
An excessive thirst could also be another sign that your salt intake needs to be reduced. Too much salt in the diet is dehydrating. However, excessive thirst and the need for extra water could also be a sign of diabetes, so if a person presents with these symptoms, then they need to seek medical advice.
If a person has hypernatremia, it means their kidneys can no longer cope with the high levels of salt in their body. This condition can sometimes be caused by people who take part in excessive exercise and try and replace lost fluids by drinking sports drinks that contain too much of salt.
If you have symptoms of dizziness, headaches, and muscle cramps or palpitations, this could be a sign that you have an electrolyte imbalance. This can be life threatening as it can begin to affect the heart rate. If anyone is experiencing the above symptoms, they need to get medical advice as soon as possible.
Most people will know the discomfort of acid reflux but won't necessarily put it down to too much salt. Anyone suffering from acid reflux should consider that this may be due to eating too many salty foods. Too much salt can also contribute to other digestive problems such as ulcers.