The Health Problems of Too Much Salt in Your Diet
Contrary to recent news articles suggesting that the low-salt diets are not helpful, studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that one high salt meal of 1500 mg of sodium (this is at the upper end of the recommendations suggested by the US dietary guidelines for a full day), reduces the ability of the blood vessels to dilate. Even though blood pressure is not affected, this reduction in dilation ability in healthy people was noted within thirty minutes of the meal.
High sodium loads in the body of people with impaired heart functioning can start a heart failure incident, which may lead to death. Not only is excessive salt hard on your blood vessels, it also affects your bones, kidneys, and your stomach.
The system within your body that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance is also involved in bone health. It appears as though a high sodium intake increases the elimination of calcium through the urinary process. This in turn causes calcium to be leached from the bones with the attending bone loss and increased risk for bone fractures. It’s well known that reducing dietary salt intake has a positive effect on the calcium balance of the human body. For this reason, a low-sodium diet may help slow the progression of age-related bone loss. Not only is the skeletal system adversely affected by high sodium, so are your kidneys.
In many people, additional salt contributes to hypertension, which is a major cause of kidney dysfunction and even failure. Evidence collected from the studies of animals and humans leads directly to the contention that salt may, in some people, directly impair the functions of the kidney. Another side effect of increased calcium in the urine (see the previous paragraph) and high sodium intake is a potentially higher risk of kidney stones. The story doesn’t end there. Some studies have linked higher salt to cancers and ulcers of the stomach.
The stomach isn’t the only soft tissue organ that may be adversely affected by a high sodium diet; others are the colon and the rectum. According to the research, the evidence is not extremely clear, but it is thought that the salty foods adversely affect the stomach lining and make it more likely that bacterium Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori can affect the tissues of lining. This bacterium is one of the major causes of ulcers and stomach cancer, something that most of us may want to avoid. Other findings theorize that the salty stomach environment could be altering the structure of the H. pylori and that in turn increases its ability to continue to live and do more damage to the stomach.
There is even more bad news to this story. It has been proposed by some of the scientists, but not yet proven, that too much salt may be a contributor to higher inflammation in the body and could even be a factor in worsening asthma. They also believe high sodium could damage the blood vessels that carry nutrients to the brain, which in the future could lead to vascular dementia. Finally, some of the experts believe that there is a non-distinct link between sodium and weight gain.
This weight gain comes about because an increase in salt consumption has a tendency to also increase thirst. Attending to the needs of satisfying your thirst with water is much different than grabbing a high calorie drink, which only increases the chances of becoming overweight.
The United States dietary guidelines recommend no more sodium than 1500 mg a day if you are African American, over 50 years old, or have diabetes, hypertension or chronic kidney disease. That includes most of us adults, doesn’t it? Several of the ways to lower your sodium intake over the day is to avoid or limit packaged or processed foods and much of the restaurant food. When you eat out, ask for the salt to be left off your food. There’s always a saltshaker on the table that you can use to add that little bit of salt if you absolutely have too.
Stay strong, and remain passionately committed to your heart’s chosen path.