5 Warning Signs Your Body Is Getting Too Much Sodium
In my previous article, we talked about sugar (say ‘Veeru’). In this one we will be discussing the partner in crime (say ‘Jai’), another ubiquitous component in our food, a major portion of which makes way into our body without our knowledge and wreaks havoc.
Ok, let me break the suspense, our ‘Jai’ is none other than salt. Salt (NaCl) is basically a mineral composed primarily of sodium (Na) & chloride (Cl) in which sodium forms about 40% of the weight.
Salt is mainly responsible for regulating the water content (fluid balance) of the body while the sodium ion is used for electrical signalling in the nervous system and hence is an important requirement for the human body but only in the optimum quantity.
This is where the problem begins as due to the efficacy of salt as both a flavouring and preserving agent it is present in a lot of food items that we devour on a regular basis and unintentionally end up consuming more than our fair share of it.
Recent data on salt intake levels in India show consumption of around 11 gm per day, double than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended intake of 5 gm per day and this statistic is to be taken, literally and figuratively, without a pinch of salt.
Around 75% to 80% of this high intake is coming from added salt due to the preference of Indians for spicy foods such as pickles, papads & namkeen snacks.
To make matters worse, there is hidden salt in many processed foods that we routinely consume, these foods may not necessarily taste 'salty' but could be adding to your overall intake secretly putting our health at risk.
Some of these usual suspects, loaded with salt, that you should be mindful of are as below:
- White, brown & pizza breads
- Biscuits, chips & savories
- Sauces & spreads
- Pickles & condiments
- Processed cheese
- Frozen foods
Most studies suggest a “U” shaped association between salt intake & health, which in simple terms means that both excessively low and excessively high intake of salt can result in serious health conditions.
Excess levels of salt/sodium which is a more common scenario may put you at risk for the following ailments:
- High blood pressure
- Enlarged heart muscle
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Kidney stones
- Stomach cancer
Now, that we have seen the major sources of salt in our diet and the health risks coming along with over indulgence of it, let us complete the picture by placing the missing link between the two, which is listing down the probable symptoms that the human body throws up to indicate the sodium overload & can come very handy in taking timely actions.
Below are 5 most common signs that in their own way communicate that you are consuming too much salt:
1. You Notice Swelling & Bloating
Too much of sodium can lead to edema which is basically swelling of body tissues. Excessive presence of salt in the blood causes a fluid imbalance which draws water out of your cells into your bloodstream thus resulting in swelling & fluid retention.
This swelling is generally observed on the fingers and around the ankles. In addition to your swollen fingers, your stomach may balloon out too due to overdose of salt & cause bloating which is characterized by build-up of gas and discomfort in your tummy.
2. You Feel Thirsty All the time
Have you ever noticed repeatedly reaching out to your water-cooler after having a bowl of french fries or a wholesome chinese meal or a bucket of salty popcorn?
This is your body’s way of telling you that, “master, you have inputted more than ‘what I can handle’ quantity of salt in me which is why to maintain the fluid balance I am requesting for water again and again!”
3. You Need To Urinate A Lot
The function of the kidneys is to filter the body’s blood and flush out waste and excess water via the process of urination.
As mentioned previously, excessive consumption of sodium pulls out water from your cells into the blood. This triggers the kidneys in turn to convert the additional quantum of water into urine resulting in more frequent visits to the restroom.
4. You Get Frequent Mild Headaches
Consuming too much salt is likely to give you dehydration-induced headaches. This dehydration is understandably caused by the fluid imbalance reaction sparked by disproportionate amount of sodium.
Another phenomenon that could hit you more often if you are eating way too much salt is light-headedness which is that sudden imbalance you experience when you try to stand up too fast.
5. You Find Your Food Bland & Boring
Exposing your tastebuds to too much of salt can be tricky. The foods that you found flavourful earlier might seem bland and tasteless as now the salt appreciation index of the tastebuds has gone down and hence you need more salt than before.
This results in a vicious cycle of sorts thus making you crave more for salty foods and you keep hunting for your salt shakers every now and then.
Hope that with this article you now have the answer to the famous Bollywood question ‘ek chutki namak ki kimat tum kya jaano…’ and you would also be watchful of the signs listed above to access your salt consumption levels.
Some alternatives of salt that you could explore in your daily cooking & diet are garlic, peppercorns, basil, cumin, lemon juice & other taste enhancing herbs & spices which would compensate for the flavour of salt in a much healthy way.
So, wish you all the best to your journey on the path of ‘na’ (no) to excess of ‘Na’ (Sodium)!
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