What Happens If You Eat Too Much Salt

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When you eat too much salt, what happens to your body?

When You Eat Too Much Salt, What Happens To Your Body?

It's probably not surprising that most Americans exceed daily sodium recommendations. "Reduce sodium" and "cut back on salt" have been consistent health messages for several decades in an attempt to help people stay under the recommendation of no more than 2,300 mg—or 1 teaspoon—of salt per day. However, unless blood pressure is a concern, most people don't make limiting salt intake a top diet priority (in which case the recommendation is even lower, at 1,500 mg). But it should be, because blood pressure changes aren't the only side effects of consuming too much salt. What else can eating too much salt do to your body?


1 You have a puffy and bloated appearance.

Water always follows sodium, and the kidneys use this principle to help them control blood volume and fluid in the body. When you eat a lot of salt, your blood sodium levels rise, and your kidneys compensate by retaining fluid to balance and normalize levels.

The effects are usually mild and temporary, but they are still bothersome: things like jeans fitting a little tighter at the waist, a puffy face, or a small overnight weight gain on the scale. What is the solution? Although it may seem counterintuitive, you should drink plenty of water (and avoid high-sodium foods).


2 You are unable to quench your thirst.

Do you find yourself reaching for a water bottle more than usual after a meal out? Restaurant meals are notorious for being high in sodium, but this effect isn't limited to a burger at your neighborhood diner. Any high-salt meal can cause extreme thirst. Thirst is triggered by receptors in the kidneys and brain that detect an increase in blood sodium. Thirst is used by the body as a protective mechanism, so you will be compelled to hydrate and lower your sodium concentration.


3 You experience headaches.

Excessive salt consumption could be the source of your headaches, whether they occur on a regular or irregular basis. Some people's blood pressure rises almost immediately after eating salt, and headaches are a common symptom of high blood pressure. A high-salt diet, on the other hand, can make people with normal blood pressure more prone to headaches. In a 2014 study of 400 people at Johns Hopkins, researchers discovered that those who consumed the most salt had the most headaches. People with both normal and high blood pressure experienced fewer headaches when their salt intake was reduced.


4 You have a higher risk of eczema.

The idea that salt could have a direct effect on skin irritations like eczema seemed far-fetched at first—until I started reading and realized how important skin is to the immune system. While the evidence is limited, it appears that eating too much salt causes the immune system to release T-cells. According to research, this release causes a type of hyper-inflammatory response seen in eczema as well as other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma. Excess salt, like allergens and irritants in the diet, is thought to cause inflammation and aggravate eczema.



5 Your risk of developing stomach cancer may rise.

Stomach cancer is one of the six most common types of cancer and the third most lethal in the world. Higher salt intake is linked to the development of stomach cancer. Researchers are still learning about the link between salt and cancer, and it's unclear whether all foods high in sodium pose the same risk. There is some evidence that this risk is primarily caused by cured meats or seafood and vegetables that have been salted and fermented for preservation.



6 You may be more prone to kidney stones.

Excess salt consumption can make you more prone to kidney stone formation. This is due to an increase in the amount of calcium in urine caused by an excess of salt. Kidney stones form when calcium in urine combines with oxalates or uric acid to form crystals. As these crystals grow in size, they form stones that can travel to the urinary tract and become lodged. The end result is usually excruciating pain until the stone passes.



7 You may increase your chances of developing dementia.

High salt levels appear to raise levels of an inflammatory compound in the brain, which causes oxidative damage and begins to obstruct blood flow. This is based on a 2018 study that found a high salt diet to be associated with dementia in mice. And researchers believe the effects may be similar in humans with dementia.



How to Reduce Your Salt Consumption

To help cut extra sodium from your diet, try to eat as much as possible at home. Restaurant meals are high in sodium, and cooking at home allows you to control how much salt is in your food. (P.S. — Here are 5 delectable ways to cook with less salt at home without sacrificing flavor.) Do you want to start making lower-sodium meals? To get you started, we have a variety of delicious and heart-healthy meal plans.

If you do go out to eat, request your entree without salt (you can add it yourself at the table if you prefer). You can also request sauce or dressing on the side and dip your fork into it instead of pouring it over your food. To reduce sodium intake, choose grilled proteins over fried proteins and vegetables or salad as a side dish.


Last word

It's not difficult to exceed the salt intake recommendations, especially if you frequently consume packaged foods or restaurant-prepared meals. That being said, salt is an essential component of flavor, so a little is fine. Simply eat more whole foods and season them yourself (when possible) to better control how much salt goes into each meal. Herbs and spices can also help to enhance the flavor of foods without the use of excessive salt. Finally, have your blood pressure checked by your doctor at least once a year to ensure it is within a healthy range.


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