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High sodium diet: 11 ways it can take a toll on your health!

Everyone knows how excessive salt intake can be problematic for their health, especially for the heart. Here are 11 side effects of a high-sodium diet.
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A high-sodium diet can be detrimental for your health! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Aayushi Gupta Published: 7 Jun 2024, 08:59 am IST
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Have you ever wondered why your body needs sodium? Well, salt, or sodium chloride, is composed of about 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. It enhances food flavour and acts as a binder and stabiliser. Your body needs a small amount of sodium daily to conduct nerve impulses, contract and relax muscles, and maintain the proper balance of water and minerals. However, exceeding the daily recommended intake of salt can be harmful. From increasing the risk of heart disease such as hypertension to bloating or weight gain, there are many side effects of a high sodium diet you should know.

Side effects of a high sodium diet

A high-sodium diet can lead to these 11 adverse effects on your health:

1. Hypertension (High blood pressure)

One of the most common side effects of a high-sodium diet is hypertension or high blood pressure (BP). “Sodium causes the body to retain water, which increases the volume of blood in the bloodstream, adding pressure to the arterial walls,” explains Dietitian Gauri Anand. This added pressure can lead to high BP, a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. A study published by Nutrients reveals that excessive sodium consumption increases the risk of hypertension, while reducing salt intake can also reduce the risk of low BP so make you eat just the right amount.

2. Edema (Swelling)

Excessive sodium intake can lead to edema, which is the swelling of tissues due to fluid or water retention. This occurs because sodium holds onto water, increasing fluid in the blood vessels and leaking into surrounding tissues. Edema is most noticeable in the lower extremities, such as the legs, ankles, and feet, but it can also occur in the hands and face. “Chronic edema can be uncomfortable and may indicate underlying health issues exacerbated by high sodium consumption,” says Anand.

swollen hands
Several people experience swelling due to an excessive intake of salt! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

3. Increases thirst

Sodium affects the fluid balance of the body, and consuming too much can lead to increased thirst, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association. The body signals the need for more water to dilute the excess sodium in the bloodstream, maintaining a stable concentration of electrolytes. This mechanism helps the body manage sodium levels, but it can also lead to frequent and sometimes excessive fluid intake.

4. Bloating and weight gain

High sodium intake is often associated with bloating and weight gain. Sodium causes the body to retain water, which adds to overall body weight. This weight is not fat but fluid, making the body feel heavy and bloated. A study published by the American Journal Of Gastroenterology found that regardless of the diet you are following, high sodium intake increases the risk of bloating in many people. Bloating can cause physical discomfort, such as making clothing feel tighter.

5. Kidney problems

The kidneys are responsible for filtering blood and maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance. When sodium intake is high, the kidneys have to work harder to excrete the excess through urine. Over time, this can lead to kidney strain and reduced kidney function. High sodium levels can also contribute to the formation of kidney stones, which are painful and can cause significant health complications, according to a review of 47 studies published by the Journal of Clinical Hypertension.

6. Frequent urination

Excessive sodium intake leads to an increased need to urinate. This happens because the body tries to rid itself of the extra sodium through urine, requiring more frequent trips to the bathroom. “Frequent urination can be inconvenient, particularly at night, leading to disturbed sleep. It can also cause dehydration if fluid intake is not sufficient to replace the lost fluids through urine,” according to Anand.

woman in washroom
Frequent urination is an issue with a high intake of salt. Image courtesy: FreePik

7. Dehydration

Not always but a high sodium diet can lead to dehydration. As the body tries to expel excess sodium, it also loses significant amounts of water through urine. If fluid intake does not keep up with this loss, dehydration can occur. “Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion,” says the expert.

Also read: 7 health benefits of drinking salt water everyday

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8. Headache risk

Headache is another side effect of excessive salt consumption. “The increased blood pressure caused by high sodium levels can contribute to headache development, reveals a study published by BMJ Open. Additionally, dehydration, which can result from increased urination, is also a well-known trigger for headaches and migraines. You may reduce sodium intake in order to alleviate these symptoms and improve overall well-being.

9. Disturbs sleep cycle

A high-sodium diet can disturb the sleep cycle in several ways. First, the increased need to urinate can disturb sleep. Second, the discomfort caused by bloating and swelling can make it difficult to fall asleep and find a comfortable sleeping position. Third, high blood pressure, associated with high sodium intake, can also cause anxiety and stress, further impacting sleep quality. Poor sleep can, in turn, affect overall health.

10. Increases risk of osteoporosis

A high sodium diet can increase the risk of osteoporosis, a condition characterised by weak and brittle bones, says Anand. Sodium affects the body’s calcium balance, causing increased calcium excretion through urine. Since calcium is vital for bone health, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, higher calcium excretion is associated with lower bone density and weakened bones over time. Women, in particular, are at higher risk of osteoporosis, especially after menopause, and high sodium intake can exacerbate this risk.

knee pain
Weaker bones are common with a high intake of salt! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

11. Stomach issues

High sodium intake can lead to various stomach issues, including gastric cancer (stomach cancer), gastritis, and stomach ulcers, according to a study published by Nutrients. Sodium can irritate the lining of the stomach, leading to inflammation and discomfort. In some cases, it can exacerbate existing gastrointestinal conditions such as acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). “High sodium levels can also disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, impacting overall digestive health and leading to symptoms like indigestion, nausea, and abdominal pain,” explains Anand.

How much salt should you eat in a day?

The recommended daily sodium intake for adults is less than 2000 milligrams, roughly equal to one teaspoon of salt, according to the World Health Organisation. An ideal limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams per day for most adults, especially for those with hypertension or heart disease, is suggested by the American Heart Association. Since you now know the adverse effects of a high-sodium diet, you should reduce your daily sodium intake to reduce the risk of high BP and related cardiovascular issues.

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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