This is a story about a high-sodium diet and the health of your EVERYTHING. Really, from head to toe. Some of the information even surprised me, and it takes a lot to do that!
Salt’s been around forever. In ancient Egypt, salt was part of religious ceremonies and in Africa, the Moors traded salt pound for pound with gold…
But why in the world are we so enamored with this stuff?
It’s because of salt’s main ingredient – sodium. We crave the stuff.
According to the American Heart Association, about 75% of the sodium we consume comes not from the salt shaker, but from processed and restaurant food…
It’s a first-class love affair we have with salt. And yet, sodium IS essential for human health.
- It helps to regulate fluids by letting our bodies know when it’s time to take in or get rid of water.
- Along with that, sodium also maintains nerve transmissions and muscle contractions — functions absolutely vital to our survival.
So, it’s not hard to see how our bodies have taken on a desire for sodium, much like an addiction, just to make sure we never go without enough.
A 2011 Australian study found that the brain responds to sodium similarly to how it responds to substances such as heroin, cocaine, and nicotine, which may explain why so many of us tend to overindulge…
Unfortunately, too much of a good thing can actually prove deadly.
And this is why it’s important to learn about a high-sodium diet and the health of your everything…
- A 2011 Canadian study on 1,200 older, sedentary adults with normal brain function found that over the course of three years, high-sodium diets were linked to increased risk of cognitive decline.
This result was “independent of hypertension and global diet quality,” and suggests that sodium intake alone may affect cognitive function in sedentary older adults above and beyond the effects of overall diet.
The reason why sodium is detrimental to the brain isn’t fully understood, but according to Dr. David L. Katz, a researcher involved in the study, physical exercise may be able to protect the brain from the effects of too much salt.
The role of our kidneys in all of this:
- Sodium plays a key role in balancing the levels of fluid in our bodies by signaling to the kidneys when to retain water and when to get rid of water.
A high-sodium diet can interfere with this delicate process and reduce kidney function.
- The result is less water removed from the body, which leads to fluid retention and inflammation, which in turn leads to higher blood pressure.
This excess strain on the kidneys can lead to kidney disease or worsen the progression of kidney problems in those already diagnosed with the condition.
- High-sodium diets may also increase your risk of developing kidney stones. Kidney stones are primarily caused by calcium in the urine. This mineral has been noted to increase in people with a high sodium intake.
- Excessive calcium excretion in the urine is believed by some experts to increase the risk of bone thinning.
According to WASH (World Action On Salt And Health), over long periods of time, this excessive calcium loss is associated with osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women.
Naturally, we can’t overlook the effects on the heart.
- Due to the fluid retention caused by salt, for some individuals, excessive amounts of salt in their diet can lead to high blood pressure.
And, we know that high blood pressure can lead to many serious conditions, such as stroke and heart failure.
- Although blood pressure increases naturally with age, according to the American Heart Association, reducing your salt intake can help prevent hypertension, which is known as the silent killer.
Then There’s Your Skin: Another reason to talk about a high-sodium diet and the health of your everything.
Excessive salt in the diet can cause a symptom known as edema.
- Edema is defined by swelling, especially in the hands, arms, ankles, legs, and feet, caused by fluid retention.
Excessive salt consumption commonly causes edema. However, it can also be the result of a number of other health concerns, such as menstruation or genetics.
Edema is not life-threatening, but it is a symptom of another underlying health condition, rather than a condition on its own.
- While edema may be a symptom of excessive salt consumption, even something as simple as having an extra-large popcorn the night before can leave your skin looking a bit puffier than usual.
As with so many other conditions, our susceptibility to swelling due to salt consumption increases with age.
- A 1996 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that death from stomach cancer in both men and women was closely linked to salt consumption.
- High salt intake is also associated with stomach ulcers.
The reason for this isn’t completely understood, but one study theorized that the salt may have an adverse effect on the mucous lining of the stomach and cause the stomach tissue to become abnormal and unhealthy.
Whew…now you know. Learn more about these conditions in the following articles: