In this post the macro element sodium will be our topic and we will find out what sodium does for our body and we will get an answer to the question “Is Salt Really Bad For You? – Sodium – The Electrolyte”.
Is Sodium really bad for You and why can You call it “The Electrolyte”?
Sodium makes up 90% of the extracellular electrolytes, which are substances, who create the osmotic pressure in order to balance concentrations in the body fluids, like lymph. This fluid interacts with the metabolism on the cellular level. The concentration of sodium stands in direct contact to our water balance. The regulating elements, in this case, are our kidneys. They regulate the excretion of water in proportion to the concentration of sodium in the body fluids. If the concentration of sodium is low, the body tries to increase it by washing out water. If the concentration of sodium is high, the body tries to decrease it by holding back water to dilute the body fluids.
For now, we have learned that sodium is essential in our body and is therefore not really bad, but really good for us. Without sodium, our body couldn´t survive because there would not be the osmotic pressure which forces an exchange of the lymph on the cellular level and the cells were cut off from their nutrient supply. That should not create the impression to consume sodium in high amounts which can be harmful, as we will see below, where we talk about the overdose symptoms of a too high quantity of sodium.
Just keep in mind that sodium is not as bad as some people might think of.
What is Sodium?
Sodium is an alkaline metal, just as potassium is. The free metal is highly reactive. So in nature, sodium occurs as a positive ion in compounds. Well known compounds are sodium chloride (salt), sodium bicarbonate (natron, also known as baking soda) and sodium carbonate (soda, also known as washing soda), sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and some more.
Sodium is alkaline, water-soluble and an essential macro element for us, as we have to get our amount through nutrition.
What is the demand of Sodium?
Depending on the age, health and lifestyle the daily demand for an average and healthy adult for sodium is about
1500 milligrams (mg) per day.
Where can you get Sodium from (Top foods)?
Here are the Top foods, which are rich in Sodium:
1. Salt (up to 38.850 mg/100g),
2. Herring (up to 18.000 mg/100g)
3. Olives (up to 2100 mg/100g)
4. Cheese (up to 1400 mg/100ml)
5. Rice, Sauerkraut (up to 1100 mg/100ml)
Tip: Processed food, salted food, canned food and soy sauce are sources of high amounts of sodium, as it gives food more flavor.
What are the functions and benefits of Sodium?
This amazing macro element sodium has several very important functions in our body.
In addition to the regulation of the water balance and the blood pressure, it is indispensable for the proper function of our muscles and our brain, as it is responsible for the conduction of nerve signals. Sodium generates the osmotic pressure in our body fluids and on the cellular level and it balances the electric potential in the specific fluid spaces.
Moreover, the concentration of sodium is directly linked to the supply of calcium in our body, as the excretion of calcium is coupled to the excretion of sodium. Both macro elements work together in order to control the muscles and to build bone mass.
Sodium also participates in the activity of several enzymes.
What deficiency symptoms of Sodium exist?
As we have much food with a high dose of sodium a lack of it is seldom. It is quite similar to the macro element potassium,but the amount of sodium in our diet tend to be much higher than the amount of potassium. And for sodium there too are some incidents, which can cause a deficiency. These are the loss of sodium through dehydration or excessive exercising.
Symptoms caused by a lack of sodium can be as followed:
- low blood pressure
- confusion and other neurological disorders
- muscle twitching or cramps
Tip: A high consume of salt, which contains sodium, leads to an increased excretion of potassium. Be sure to limit your daily salt intake to about 1.5 – 2 g/d.
Fact: The formula to convert sodium chloride to sodium is NaCl in mg = Na x 2,5.
What overdose symptoms of Sodium exist?
Surplus sodium normally is excreted through the kidneys. An overdose of sodium is possible due to a high consume of it and is more likely if your kidneys don´t work properly. The symptoms can be:
- high blood pressure and possible cardiovascular diseases
- water accumulation
- excessive sweating
- disturbed functionality of the kidneys
- calcium deficiency and therefore a higher risk for osteoporosis
The body tries to balance high amounts of sodium in our body by washing it out through the urine, the sweat and water accumulation.
What else may you have to consider about Sodium?
The amount of sodium in our body is about 1,38 g/kg, which is about 100 g for a person with 70 kg.
The bigger the intake of sodium is, the more potassium is excreted and the more sodium is excreted the more calcium is excreted.
Potassium and sodium work as counterparts. A good relation of potassium and sodium is received with 3.5 g potassium and 2 g sodium.
90% of the sodium is working extracellular, whereas over 90% of the potassium is working intracellular.
Sodium was first isolated from sodium hydroxide and discovered by the English biochemist Sir Humphry Davy in 1807 together with potassium.
The word sodium derives from soda, which contains sodium.
In the periodic table, we find Na for sodium, which originated from the latin word “natrium”.
Fun Fact: Sparkling water, also known as soda water does not necessarily contain soda (natron or sodium bicarbonate) but mostly solved carbon dioxide, which creates carbonic acid. In some countries over the world, only a water with a high enough amount of sodium bicarbonate is called soda water.
Fun Fact 2: There is a saying that cooks, who are in love, spoil the food. The explanation behind that is that people, who are in love, tend to have a lower sense of taste.
Today we learned that Sodium is not as bad as we might think of it. In fact, it is quite essential for our body. It shares many functions with the macro element potassium, which are the conduction of nerve signals, maintaining the right bioelectrical potential as a basis to do this and to generate the osmotic pressure of the cells, intracellular and extracellular. Moreover, sodium is necessary in the cardiovascular system to balance the blood pressure, the water equilibrium, the formation of bone mass and the support of proteins.
In the next blog post of this category, we will have a closer look at one of the remaining essential macro elements, namely chlorine.
Now it is your turn. What do you think? Was something new or interesting here for you or do you want to tell us something? Let us know in the comments.