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SODIUM

Sodium is a mineral element with the atomic number 11. Sodium chloride, the chemical name for common salt, contains 39 per cent of sodium, an element which never occurs in free form in nature. It is found in an associated form with many minerals especially in plentiful amounts with chlorine. The body of a healthy person weighing about 65 kg contains 256 g of sodium chloride which is equivalent to around 40 teaspoonfuls. Of this just over half is in the extra-cellular fluid. About 96 g is in bone and less than 32 g in the cells. Because salt is lost through perspiration, tears and urine it must be constantly replenished through the diet. Fortunately, most natural foods contain salt.

Sodium is the most abundant chemical in the extra-cellular fluid of the body. It acts with other electrolytes, especially potassium, in the intracellular fluid, to regulate the osmotic pressure and maintain a proper water balance within the body. It is a major factor in maintaining acid-base equilibrium, in transmitting nerve impulses and in relaxing muscles. It is also required for glucose absorption and for the transport of other nutrients across cell membranes. Sodium can help prevent catarrh. It promotes a clear brain, resulting in a better disposition and less mental fatigue.

 

Because of its influence on calcium, sodium can also help dissolve any stones forming within the body. It is also essential for the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and plays a part in many other glandular secretions.

 

Sodium is most often found outside the cell, in the plasma (the non-cell part) of the bloodstream. It is a significant part of water regulation in the body, since water goes where the sodium goes. If there is too much sodium in the body, perhaps due to high salt intake in the diet (salt is sodium plus chloride), it is excreted by the kidney, and water follows.

 

Sodium is an important electrolyte that helps with electrical signals in the body, allowing muscles to fire and the brain to work. It is half of the electrical pump at the cell level that keeps sodium in the plasma and potassium inside the cell.

 

Both deficiency and excess of salt may produce adverse effects to the human body. Deficiencies of sodium are, however, rare and may be caused by excessive sweating, prolonged use of diuretics, or chronic diarrhoea. Deficiency may lead to nausea, muscular weakness, heat exhaustion, mental apathy and respiratory failure. Over-supply of sodium is a more common problem because of overuse of dietary sodium chloride or common salt. Too much sodium may lead to water retention, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, stomach cancer, hardening of arteries and heart disease.

 

In case of mild deficiency of sodium chloride, taking a teaspoon of common salt in one half litre of water or any fruit juice quickly restores the health. In severe conditions, administration of sodium chloride in the form of saline by intravenous drip may be resorted to. The adverse effects of excessive use of sodium chloride can be rectified by avoiding the use of common salt and using Himalayan salt crystals or unrefined sea salt instead.

 

Hypernatraemia

 

Also known as hypernatremia, hypernatraemia is associated with dehydration, and instead of having too much sodium, there is too little water. This water loss can occur from illnesses with vomiting or diarrhoea, excessive sweating from exercise or fever, or from drinking fluid that has too high concentrations of salt. Drink plenty of bottled or filtered water and pineapple juice. Avoid: processed foods, foods on the lists below and salt.

 

Hyponatraemia 

 

Also known as hyponatremia, hyponatraemia is caused by water intoxication (drinking so much water that it dilutes the sodium in the blood and overwhelms the kidney's compensation mechanism) or by a syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone secretion which can be associated with illnesses like brain diseases, cancer, pneumonia, thyroid problems and some medications.

Too much or too little sodium can cause cells to malfunction. Lethargy, confusion, weakness, swelling, seizures and coma are some symptoms that can occur with both hypernatremia or hyponatremia. The treatment of these conditions is dependent on the underlying cause, but it is important to correct the sodium imbalance relatively slowly. Rapid correction can cause abnormal flow of water into or out of cells. This is especially important to prevent brain cell damage (central pontinemyolysis).

Cramps in the limbs can sometimes be due to lack of salt due to sweating from intense exercise. A quarter of a teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt crystals or unrefined sea salt in a large tumbler of water or a fruit juice can bring instant relief. Individuals with high blood pressure should not take this remedy.

Salt has powerful antimicrobial properties and a tablespoon added to a hot bath is a good remedy against external and vaginal infections. Salt can also remove bloodstains when clothes or bedding are soaked overnight in a bucket of cold water with a handful of salt. Along with lemon juice it is a healthier toxin-free and cheaper alternative to using chemical bleaching agents.

 

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Highest sources of sodium in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Table salt 38758 mg

  • Bicarbonate of soda 27360 mg

  • Stock cubes 24000 mg

  • Soya sauce 5586 mg

  • Chilli powder 4000 mg

  • Miso 3728 mg

  • Anchovies 3668 mg

  • Yeast extract 2962 mg

  • Capers 2769 mg

  • Processed meats (salami etc) 2260 mg

  • Processed cheese 1798 mg

  • Caviar 1500 mg

  • Crab 1072 mg

  • Spirulina 1048 mg

  • Whey 1079 mg

  • Margarine 943 mg

  • Olives 735 mg

  • Salted peanuts 667 mg

Natural sources of sodium in alphabetical order

NOTE: Avoid grapefruit if taking ‘Statins’ to lower cholesterol or medications for blood pressure and some other medications as it can alter the effectiveness of these drugs.

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