Sodium is an extremely important electrolyte and an essential ion present in the extracellular fluid (ECF). One of the health benefits of sodium is the pivotal role it plays in enzyme operations and muscle contraction. It is very important for osmoregulation and fluid maintenance within the human body. Some other health benefits of sodium include improved heart performance, nervous system and glucose absorption.
Sodium is the primary ion and electrolyte within the body, and it is needed for blood regulation. Serious impairment of bodily function is caused due to the absence of sodium. It is a versatile element and occurs in more than eighty different forms. As an electrolyte, it regulates the bodily fluids and transmits electrical impulses in the body. Unlike other vitamins and minerals, heat has no effect on sodium. Therefore, it can be used in different ways and preparations without losing its effects. Also, it is an important constituent of nerves and helps regulate muscle contractions.
Although sodium is an essential nutrient in any balanced diet, it can also cause stomach cancer and hypertension. People suffering from kidney problems or edema should restrict their intake of sodium to protect against those health risks.
In short, sodium is a vital component in the human diet for the regulation of cellular activity and nervous system function. Supplemental doses of sodium are necessary when you sweat profusely, have sunstroke, or suffer from adrenal insufficiency. Sodium is regularly excreted in the urine, and poses no inherent toxicity or risk.
Deficiency Symptoms of Sodium
The recommended intake of sodium is 2400mg/day. If you do not supply your body with enough sodium, the deficiency symptoms can range from irritating to fatal. One of the most seriously impacted areas of the body is the nervous system, which will begin to shut down. In general, sodium deficiency leads to diarrhea, vomiting, headache, weakness, low blood pressure, lethargy, weight loss, confusion, dizziness and muscular irritability.
While the deficiency of sodium is dangerous, an excess of sodium can also cause high blood pressure, swelling of the neural tissues and nerves, and cerebral edema. If the situation is not alleviated, it can even lead to a coma.
Reduction in the amount of sodium also reduces the fat accumulated in the peripheral parts of the body. Furthermore, excess sodium elevates the chances of lung infection. Depletion of the level of sodium is an invitation to a host of diseases that can cause exhaustion, exertion and mental apathy.
Important Sources of Sodium
Some of the best sources of sodium are apples, common salt, homemade soups, cabbage, egg yolks, pulses, and bananas. Even carrots, baking powder and baking soda, turnips, leafy vegetables and dried peas are good sources. Processed cheese, smoked fish, salty meats, snacks, pickles and sauce contains ample amount of sodium, but they also come with other health concerns.
Health Benefits of Sodium
Sodium is generally present in very small quantities in nearly every natural food. When it is added in form of common salt, it not only increases the flavor, but also completes the necessary requirement of balanced diet. The health benefits of sodium include:
Water Balance: Sodium is one of the minerals that helps to regulate fluid levels in the human body. Sodium and water balance are closely linked. Sodium gateways and channels are what pump water into the cell and regulate the amount of extracellular fluid in the body.
Sunstroke: It is caused due to the failure of the heat regulating system in the human body. This form of heat exhaustion is caused due to continuous exposure to very high temperatures. This exposure causes the body to lose its capacity to maintain normal temperature. This condition is further aggravated due to the loss of salt and water from the body. Thus, sodium plays a vital role in preventing sun stroke or heat exhaustion by replacing the loss of essential electrolytes. Besides water, drinking fluids containing salt and sugar is favorable against sunstroke. Salt can also be mixed with the juice of raw mangoes to provide even more relief. Sodium levels and fluid balance are very important for endurance athletes as well as those who live extremely active lifestyles.
Brain Function: The brain is very sensitive to change in sodium levels of the body; deficiency of sodium often manifests as confusion and lethargy. Sodium aids in keeping the mind sharp, and it is an important element for the development of the brain, since sodium works to improve brain function.
Muscle Cramps: These are caused mostly during the hot summer months due to electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. Along with properly hydrating the body, it is also important to supplement one’s body with sodium-rich juices and fluids to restore the amount of electrolytes.
Anti-aging: Sodium is an important hydrating product contained in many anti-aging creams. It defends against the free radicals that accelerate the aging process. Furthermore, it helps to restore youthful and healthy skin.
Eliminates Excess Carbon Dioxide: Sodium plays an important role in the removal of any excess carbon dioxide that has accumulated in the body.
Regulates Glucose Absorption: Sodium helps to facilitate the absorption of glucose by cells, resulting in the smooth transportation of nutrients in the body’s cell membranes.
Maintains Acid/Base Balance: By altering the proportions of acid-base alkali phosphates in the body, sodium controls the reaction of the kidneys and the frequency and content of urination.
Regulation of Fluids: One of the most notable health benefits of sodium is its ability to balance the osmotic pressure in the human body due to the regulation of fluid in the body’s cells.
Balance of Ions: Sodium shares an association with chlorides and bicarbonates in maintaining a sound balance between two types of ions, both positively charged ions and negatively charged ones.
Maintains Heart Health: Sodium can help to maintain normal contractions of the heart. It plays a vital role in maintaining the blood pressure of the human body, but an excessive increase in sodium content can dramatically boost the blood pressure and result in serious health complications.