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Can Consuming Too LITTLE Sodium Also Be Dangerous?

Written by Courteney

Posted on September 5, 2016 at 1:33 am


Sodium is an electrolyte that is essential for stabilizing water balance in and around cells. We’ve all heard that consuming too much salt can be detrimental to health by contributing to such ailments as heart disease and obesity, but did you know that taking in too little salt can come with its own extensive and dangerous set of problems? Some of those include:

Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia is a health condition that arises when sodium levels in the blood drop dangerously low (usually under 135 mmol/L). This over-dilutes the sodium in the body which can adversely affect blood cells by making them distort and swell. This can become life threatening if levels go below 120mmol/L without treatment.

Symptoms to Recognize

According to the Mayo Clinic, notable symptoms of hyponatremia include:

  • Mental fuzziness such as confusion
  • Irritability or other mood changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme muscle cramps or weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • In extreme cases coma may ensue

Who Gets Hyponatremia?

  1. Athletes are frequent victims of hyponatremia if they train too hard without replenishing electrolytes. Did you ever watch a marathon on TV and wonder why some athletes were doubling over, nearly crippled before the finish line? That is due to hyponatremia brought on by dehydration. It is important for athletes to use specially designed electrolyte packets or drinks with electrolytes when training vigorously or in the sun.
  2. The elderly are more sensitive to salt, and therefor are recommended to only have 1500 mg daily, however, elderly people are also more vulnerable to hyponatremia if their intake is too low, so they should get regular blood-iodine checks.
  3. People with certain health conditions such as kidney, liver, heart, thyroid or adrenal function problems are more likely to develop hyponatremia.
  4. People taking certain medications such as antidepressants or diuretics (water pills) should pay close attention to their symptoms and have their doctors periodically check on sodium levels.

Other Health Consequences of Not Taking in Enough Sodium

  • Heart Risks of Low Blood-Iodine Levels – We all know too much sodium can lead to hypertension and other heart problems, but a few notable medical studies have also outlined a correlation between highly sodium-restricted diets and premature mortality rates in those with cardiovascular disease as well. So it is important for patients with CVD to stick closely to their doctor’s sodium intake recommendations.
  • Diabetes dangers – there have been studies conducted outlining the possibility that low salt intake may trigger insulin resistance, this contributing to diabetic attacks in some patients.
  • Premature babies – Pregnant women who don’t get enough salt are at greater risk of having a premature baby, or one who with delayed neurodevelopment.
  • Compromised mental functioning in children – children with iodine deficiencies display lower cognitive functioning and tend to score lower in IQ tests.

How Much Sodium Do We Need?

The FDA recommends a daily sodium intake of less than 2300mg for most healthy people except a drop to 1500 mg daily after age 53, for children or following a doctor’s recommendation for health reasons. It is also important to try not to meander north or south of the appropriate recommended value so as not to let sodium levels drop too low either.

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