IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose. Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in diet.
Salt in the shaker to put on my food.
Salt in my mouth. Tastes pretty good.
Salt in margaritas. Makes them taste fine.
Salt over my shoulder so good luck will be mine.
Salt in my playdough to make some blocks.
Salt in the sea from the rain and the rocks.
Salt on the path to kill the weeds.
Salt in the water is what poached eggs need.
Salt for gargling to get fresh breath.
Salt for cleaning.
I need a rest.
WHAT IS SODIUM CHLORIDE Na+Cl-(SALT)?
Sodium (Na+) is a metallic element with the atomic number 11.
It is soluble in water and is found throughout the earth’s oceans. Sodium is a positively charged ion which dissolves readily in water. It is, therefore, usually attached to Chloride (Cl-) a negatively charged ion, which stabilizes the sodium ion so it won’t dissolve in water. When ocean water evaporates it leaves behind sodium chloride or salt as we like to call it.
WHAT DOES SODIUM CHLORIDE (SALT) DO FOR US?
1. Sodium chloride is essential to all animal life and some plant life. It is used by the body to oppose the mineral potassium in order to build electrostatic charge on cell membranes. This electrostatic charge allows our nerves to transmit impulses as it dissipates creating a wave. (The post on potassium has a more involved description of this process.)
The term electrolyte applies to a substance that separates into ions or charged particles of which sodium is one. Ions make it possible for electrical charges to be conducted throughout our bodies. A cation is a positive ion. Sodium cations along with chloride anions which are negatively charged ions are very important along with potassium cations in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance in and outside of our cells and throughout our bodies. Blood plasma is mostly made up of sodium cations and cell fluid is made up mostly of potassium cations. Sodium and potassium have similar chemical properties but their functions are different.
However, both sodium chloride and potassium are important in nerve and brain function and influence the pressure (osmotic balance) of the fluids surrounding the cells of our bodies (the interstitial fluids). This is done with the action of something called the Na+/K+ ATPase pump (the sodium/potassium adenosine triphosphatase pump). This is an ion pump and it maintains 3 sodium ions outside of a cell for every 2 potassium ions inside a cell keeping the balance of potassium and sodium ions at its correct levels creating what is called the membrane potential. Watch tube.com/watch?v=awz6lIss3hQ&feature=related for an excellent explanation.
The cell membrane potential is critical for muscle contractions, proper functioning of our hearts and for nerve impulse transmissions.
2. Sodium chloride is a necessary agent in maintaining water balance in the human body. This regulation of water is called osmoregulation.
Too much water can lead to problems such as high blood pressure. Too little water can lead to problems such as dehydration. The ratio of salt to water in our bodies signifies our regulatory systems to moderate that ratio until it is balanced.
The minimum daily intake of sodium is set at 500 milligrams per day for humans. The accepted daily intake for sodium ranges between 1200 to 1500 milligrams per day. The recommended daily intake of chloride is between 2300 mg and 3600 mg per day.
Anymore than this will create a liquid imbalance in our bodies because the salt will cause water retention. This water retention will cause too much liquid to build up in our circulatory system and this will lead to increased pressure. It is worth noting at this point that the average North American consumes about 3400 milligrams of salt a day. One level teaspoon of salt contains 2,400 mg of sodium and 6,200 mg of chloride. Most if not all foods contain salt.
The regulation of the salt to water ratio is managed primarily (but not only) by osmoreceptors in the hypothalamus. When these osmoreceptors sense that there is too little water for the amount of salt in our bodies, then they will act on our thirst mechanisms so that we will consume liquid to restore the balance.
On the other hand if we have too much water in our bodies then the osmoreceptors will cause a hormone produced in the posterior pituitary gland to be secreted that causes us to urinate thus restoring the ratio of water to sodium concentrations.
A Special Note on Chloride
a. Chloride is also used in the metabolizing of food: turning food into energy.
b. It helps to keep the body’s acid and base levels balanced.
c. Chloride ions are necessary for the neurotransmitters glycine and GABA to inhibit central nervous system activity.
d. The chloride-bicarbonate exchanger uses the chloride ion to increase the blood’s capacity for carbon dioxide so it can be moved out of the body through the lungs.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH SODIUM CHLORIDE (SALT)?
Hyponatremia is a condition where there is too little sodium in the blood to balance the amount of water. The body will rid itself of water causing dehydration. Hyponatremia causes headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, muscle cramping, fainting and if untreated can lead to seizures, coma, brain damage and finally death.
This condition is usually caused by ingesting too much liquid as is sometimes the case with marathon runners or by excreting too much sodium through such causes as diahhrea, diuretics or vomiting but can also be caused by not getting enough salt in the diet over long periods of time.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TOO MUCH SODIUM CHLORIDE (SALT)?
An advanced level of too little water for the amount of salt in our blood is called hyernatremia. Hypernatremia is an extreme condition which occurs when very large amounts of salt are ingested. This leads to the extraction of water from the cells to maintain normal sodium concentrations leading to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
Even if we take in more salt than we need on a daily basis then our thirst mechanism causes us to drink more water. This causes pressure inside of our cardiovascular system. This pressure will lead to hypertension or too much tension in our blood vessels causing our hearts to pump too hard. Too much salt in the diet elevates the excretion of calcium through the kidneys putting undo stress on the kidneys. This elevation of calcium excretion effectively lowers the level of calcium available for transport to our bones thus increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Chronic hypertension will ultimately damage the heart and the arteries and other blood vessels. Excessive salt intake causes an abnormal thickening of the muscle in the left chamber of the heart. It will also overwork the kidneys causing kidney disease.
WHERE DO WE GET SODIUM CHLORIDE (SALT)?