The Truth Behind Sodium

Is it really that bad for you?

We’ve heard it a million times over; salt is bad for you, it raises your blood pressure, it bloats you, and so on. Is it really that bad for you? We’re going to take a look at some of the effects of low sodium diets as a means for discussion, but first:

Some Food For Thought

Leading as far back as the days of the Roman Empire, salt was actually used as currency. Roman Legions would often collect and receive salt as payment. An old Roman proverb was even created for people who did well, stating that they were “worth their weight in salt”. In Christianity, salt is actually mentioned commonly in the Bible. Jesus often referred to his followers as ‘salt of the Earth’, to compliment their character. Salt seems like pretty important stuff, right?

So How Did It Get Such A Negative Reputation?

The medical community often overreacts, or misinterprets one study, which may or may not have been designed adequately. Consider this, for every study bashing sodium, there seems to be a study claiming the benefits of it. The myths regarding the dangers of sodium only serve to perpetuate a cycle. People will tend to limit sodium, and occasionally indulge in a salty meal, only to find that they have have started to retain fluid for a couple of days. This is caused by the body’s response to being deprived of sodium for such a long time. Your body will hold on to nutrients that it is not receiving in adequate amounts, which also explains why the old “fat-free” foods never seemed to help anyone lose bodyfat. The reason for the bloating effect observed after a high sodium meal is that without consuming sodium regularly, your body will actually retain more water and sodium. Your kidneys maintain fluid balance by regulating the electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Those who eat generous amounts of sodium daily will find that their kidneys excrete more fluid and sodium in their urine, and have a much leaner (or ‘drier’, from lack of fluid retention) physique.

Don’t Take My Word For It!

While many are convinced that salt causes fluid retention and bloating, this particular study has demonstrated that sodium deprivation actually increases blood pressure and fluid retention! Not enough? Take a look at this one also, which was performed by the Boston University School of Medicine. It is observed that with sodium restriction, your body releases more aldosterone. Aldosterone is a hormone that promotes fluid retention in the body, in order to regulate blood volume. Fortunately, the studies show that all that is required to reverse those effects is to eat more sodium.

Moderation Is Key

As with most things in life, moderate sodium intake is key. Gauge your sodium intake by how much you exercise and sweat, and try increasing your sodium intake slowly. Sedentary individuals have a decreased need for sodium, but the RDA of 2,300mg may not be sufficient. Athletes that sweat profusely will require electrolyte replenishment after strenuous workouts, including sodium. If you’re an athlete, you will reap the benefits of increased sodium intake through higher blood volume, and more oxygen in your blood…which encourage better athletic performance.

Thank you for your time and I hope you enjoyed it. We are going to revisit sodium a bit more extensively in the future, today’s blog is just an introduction. Check out more of my blogs by clicking here, and let me know what you think!

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