What happens to your body when you consume too much salt

Normalising salt levels can be aided by drinking water and exercising among other things. Picture: Pexels.

Normalising salt levels can be aided by drinking water and exercising among other things. Picture: Pexels.

Published Aug 16, 2023


According to Medical News Today, salt is an element that flavours and preserves food.

Forty percent sodium and 60% chloride, roughly. The vast majority of unprocessed foods are low in salt, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, whole grains and dairy products.

We do consume salt, which aids in nerve impulses, balances the minerals and the water we consume helps muscles relax and contract.

For optimal muscle and nerve function, sodium is a mineral that is necessary. It also aids your body in maintaining a healthy balance of minerals and water, working in tandem with chloride.

Although salt serves important purposes, consuming too much of it can have negative short- and long-term impacts.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation claims that the majority of people consume excessive amounts of salt.

In actuality, the average South African consumes 6 to 11 grams of salt every day, which is more than twice the 5 grams per day advised by the World Health Organization.

The kidneys typically struggle to handle too much salt in the blood. The body holds onto water to hydrate itself when sodium builds up.

As a result, there is more fluid around cells and blood flowing through the bloodstream. A larger volume of blood puts more strain on the heart and the blood arteries.

The additional strain and pressure over time may stiffen blood vessels, increasing the risk of hypertension, heart attacks, and stroke. Heart failure may potentially result from it.

According to study from the Harvard School of Public Health, there is some evidence that suggest that eating too much salt might harm the heart, aorta, kidneys and bones, in addition to raising the blood pressure.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa states that consuming too much salt all at once, whether in a single meal or over the course of a day, can result in a number of immediate side effects, including the following:

Water retention

You could first notice that you feel puffier or more bloated than normal. This occurs as a result of your kidneys' desire to keep a particular sodium-to-water ratio in your body. In order to do this, they retain more water to make up for the increased sodium you ate.

Your hands and feet may enlarge as a result of this increased water retention, which can also make you weigh more than usual.

High blood pressure

The body retains water to counteract the excess of salt, which increases blood volume and puts pressure on the circulatory system.

Reducing sodium consumption will help lessen your risk of developing heart disease, which may eventually result in heart attacks and strokes because high blood pressure is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

It's vital to obtain your yearly check-up with a primary care physician and receive the preventative tests that are appropriate for your age and gender because high blood pressure can be a ‘’silent’’ problem without many symptoms.

Weight gain

Processed and prepared meals like soups, canned vegetables, rice and pasta mixes, frozen dinners, quick cereal, instant pudding, and gravy mix contain significant amounts of sodium.

Numerous additional undesirable elements, such as extra sugars and carbohydrates, can also be included in these foods.

You'll probably start eating more fibre and fewer of these extra sugars and carbohydrates if you start eating fresher foods like fruits and vegetables. With an enhanced sensation of fullness and fewer calories consumed, this change may encourage weight loss.

Enhanced dehydration risk

If you consume a lot of salt without drinking more fluids, your body will be pushed to extract water from other cells. You have a higher chance of being dehydrated as a result.

Your body may not work as well if you are not properly hydrated since water is an essential component of several vital bodily processes, including joint lubrication, organ and tissue protection, and nutrient absorption.

A variety of problems can result from eating too much salt. It could result in immediate bloating, extreme thirst, and a brief increase in blood pressure.

If left untreated, hypernatremia, which can be fatal, may develop in extreme cases.

Long-term high-sodium diets may raise blood pressure and raise the risk of heart disease, stomach cancer, and early mortality.

To find out if these impacts hold true for everyone, more analysis is required. High salt intake may have a more negative impact on certain persons than others.

Try consuming extra water, potassium-rich foods and cutting back on salt at other meals to make up for a high-salt dinner.