This article will cover various steps and their details, that can be taken to lower sodium levels in the body.
Sodium is a mineral electrolyte required by the body in trace amounts. Still, it plays a vital role in muscle functions - their contraction and relaxation, conduction of nerve impulses, and maintaining the proper balance of fluids in the body. An appropriate quantity of sodium in the body also helps control blood pressure and blood volume. The human body gets sodium from the consumed food, and it is excreted from the body as sweat and urine. Kidneys are the organs that help in its excretion. Nowadays, most sodium is consumed from eating processed and packaged foods.
As per the U.S Dietary Reference Intakes, the recommended daily allowance or tolerable upper-level sodium intake has not been set. However, guidelines for adequate intakes were formed. For people, 14 years and above, including pregnant women and older people, the AI (adequate intake) has been created as 1500 mg per day. According to the Chronic Disease Risk Reduction (CDRR), the maximum sodium intake of 2300 mg per day is the amount limited for lowering the chances of chronic diseases in pregnant women and individuals of all ages.
The presence of excess amounts of sodium in the blood is known as hypernatremia. The excess sodium in the blood causes intracellular fluid to move out into the bloodstream. This water movement helps dilute the blood, but it can be fatal in severe cases. This fluid accumulation in the brain can lead to seizures, coma, or even death. In the lungs, it may cause dyspnea (breathing difficulty). The manifestations of hypernatremia are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, loss of concentration, increased thirst, etc. It is commonly seen in older adults who are malnourished and mentally or physically disabled; those who are dehydrated due to infection, fever, vomiting, or any other sickness. Severe perspiration, diuretics, and conditions that cause excessive water loss from the body may also result in hypernatremia.
These days, many high sodium foods are being consumed, due to which the number of critical health issues is increasing. Sodium is an essential part of a human diet, but the body needs it only in small quantities; its increase in the body beyond the normal range poses a risk for life-threatening problems. The high sodium levels in the blood cause an increase in the blood volume, leading to an increased workload on the heart and blood vessels. In the long term, the blood vessels may get stiffened due to excess pressure and cause diseases like hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, and even cardiac arrest. High sodium levels can be detrimental to kidneys and bones too. Muscle twitching and hyperreflexia are also seen as all central nervous system cells get affected.
High sodium levels can be reduced by changing the list when buying food products, altering the ingredients or recipes when preparing food items, dining at home, and choosing food while eating out. Salt taste varies from one individual to another, but it is easy to switch to a low salt intake. However, it may take up to eight weeks to accept the taste completely. Limiting the sodium in the diet helps decrease the blood pressure in hypertensive patients and acts as an adjunct to antihypertensive drugs. The following are the steps that can be followed:
While shopping the grocery items:
Buying vegetables and fruits with no added salt and sauce.
Packaged food items with ‘low sodium,’ and ‘no salt’ tags should be chosen.
Reading labels of the products and selecting the product with the least quantity of sodium so that only up to 2300 mg of sodium per day is consumed. Products with a sodium content of 400 mg or more are considered high sodium foods.
When going for semi-prepared or ready-to-eat products, check the package and buy only the meal with 600 mg or less sodium.
The number of servings should be counted, and the sodium content in each serving should be noted. 140 mg of sodium per serving is referred to as low sodium.
Foods with a ‘fresh frozen’ label should be opted for when purchasing frozen items.
Choosing unsalted or low sodium snacks like nuts, seeds, chips, etc. Doing more research and avoiding the products that do not taste salty like cottage cheese.
When preparing food and eating at home:
While cooking, salt substitutes like sodium-free seasonings, spices, herbs, etc., should be added to enhance taste and flavor.
Grains, pulses, and other ingredients should be used in their fundamental forms.
Fresh meat and seafood should be purchased without adding saltwater or saline.
Meals and snacks should include more fruits and vegetables.
Less or no added condiments like sauces, and pickles should be used; instead, vinegar and oil can be used.
Rinsing canned foods containing sodium, such as vegetables, lowers their sodium content.
Avoid or reduce the intake of instant food items and try to cook yourself mostly.
Avoid using softened water for cooking or drinking as it has salts added to it.
While dining at restaurants:
Looking and asking for nutrients information, choosing low-sodium options, and ordering them.
Instruct not to add extra salt.
Fresh fruits and vegetables without salt added on top should be consumed.
The meal should be shared with the accompanying people to decrease the portion size.
Avoid ordering fast food frequently.
Besides sticking to the tips mentioned above, some more things need to be taken care of. Medications containing Alka Seltzer and Bromo seltzer should be avoided. In addition, certain foods contain high quantities of sodium and should be kept at bay. They are listed as:
Bread and rolls.
Burritos and tacos.
Savory snacks like chips, popcorn, etc.
Maintaining normal sodium levels is highly imperative for the body’s proper functioning. Low and high sodium levels are dangerous. However, sodium toxicity may lead to severe complications. Therefore, appropriate measures should be taken to keep a check on them for smooth and healthy working of the body.
Last reviewed at:
06 May 2022 - 4 min read
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