Signs you are taking too much salt

Excess salt can lead to a bloated stomach and abdominal pain

Excess salt can lead to a bloated stomach and abdominal pain

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What you need to know:

  • Much of the sodium you consume comes from the food itself, especially processed foods.
  • You may become more thirsty after eating processed foods such as pizza, a burger, popcorns, crisps, or fries.
  • Drink adequate water after such meals to help the body regain its biochemical balance.

The American Health Organization, the EU Scientific Committee on Food, and similar agencies recommend a maximum of 2300 milligrams of sodium per day. You need to consume more than a tablespoonful of table salt to exceed this limit. Not many people add that much salt to their food directly from the shaker.

However, much of the sodium you consume comes from the food itself, especially processed foods. Taking this into account, an overwhelming majority of people exceed the recommended amount by over 1000mg.

You can notice some of the effects of excess salt on your body immediately, while others will take a while to manifest.

Extreme and persistent thirst

This is one of the few almost-instantaneous effects of consuming excess salt. You have probably noticed that you become too thirsty after eating most processed fast foods. Whether it’s pizza, a burger, popcorns, crisps, or fries. That’s because these foods have a high amount of salt and sodium, usually added during industrial processing. The high level of salt in your blood creates an imbalance that prompts the body to extract water from body cells and into the bloodstream.

Don’t ignore the thirst. Drink adequate water after such meals to help the body regain its biochemical balance.

Urinating more frequently

The water you drink isn’t used to just re-establish body fluid balance. Your body will also need to get rid of the excess salt and water serving as the solvent. If you are active, some of the salt may also be filtered from the body through sweat but most of the salt is removed through urination.

Eating salty food, therefore, creates a cycle of thirst, drinking water, and constant urination. The body may be able to handle this once in a while. However, if this cycle describes most of your days, you are overworking your kidneys and lowering their efficiency. Reduce the salt you consume before you cause irreversible damage.

Swollen or puffy body parts

High levels of sodium increase water retention in body tissues. As a result, sensitive parts such as fingers and the face start to swell noticeably. Other issues may also become puffy but are harder to notice. If you have been on a high-sodium diet, reduce your consumption of salty foods and observe if the puffiness will reduce.

If it does not, the swollen tissues may be oedema, which is caused by various illnesses, inflammation, or injuries. Consult a physician for an accurate diagnosis.

Bloated stomach and other abdominal conditions

High sodium diets have been observed to cause bloating more frequently than low-sodium diets. Other than the discomfort, bloating may lead to other stomach problems such as indigestion, diarrhoea, nausea, stomach upset, and abdominal pain. These problems may also occur separately without bloating.

To control bloating, shift to a low-sodium diet. Incorporate avocados in your diet – they are virtually sodium-free. Other foods that may help with bloating include yoghurt, berries, cucumbers, celery, and ginger.

General body weakness, fatigue, and muscle cramps

Excessive sodium levels can make you feel fatigued and weaker than normal. The loss of water from your cells, and high water retention prevent your body tissues from working optimally. If you have been experiencing general body weakness and fatigue, you may need a serum test to check sodium levels in your bloodstream.

This effect is most notable for those working out. The dehydration of muscle cells limits your workout time and the exercises you can do. Sodium and calcium are also responsible for the contraction of muscles. Therefore, an accumulation of sodium in muscles leads to frequent and severe muscle cramps.

A spike in blood pressure

Blood pressure has been observed to spike when sodium levels in the blood are high. This is caused by the increased volume of water in the bloodstream, and the kidneys’ activity as they strive to get rid of the excess salt. As an isolated incident, your body should be able to stabilise in a short period of time. However, if this becomes your habit, it may lead to other problems including heart diseases, artery problems, and stroke.

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