Your body needs sodium, regardless of what you’ve probably heard your whole life. Many “experts” have demonized this mineral because excess dietary sodium can lead to health issues, but the fact remains that without enough sodium your body’s systems will not operate as they should. Symptoms of low sodium, also called hyponatremia, include muscle spasms or cramps, frequent headaches, confusion, nausea, restlessness, loss of appetite, and irritability.  The body looks for sodium in the form of sodium chloride, or salt.
More Sodium Facts
Sodium is an alkali metal and always partnered with some other mineral, usually chloride. It’s in the Earth’s crust and carries the chemical symbol Na and atomic number 11. Unfortunately, the rise of processed foods has led to an excess of dietary sodium in the diets of many people who fail to eat enough natural foods. Many of these foods are loaded with salt. In fact, the majority of sodium found in the American diet comes from additives used to preserve, color or texturize processed foods.  The result? Americans consume way more sodium than they need, which leads to high blood pressure and other serious health conditions. 
Foods High in Sodium
The following foods have high levels of sodium. If you’re trying to watch your sodium intake, these are a few of the common offenders you’ll want to avoid: 
|Food||Amount||Range of Sodium Content (mg)|
|Breads, all types||1 ounce||95 – 210|
|Frozen pizza, plain cheese||4 ounces||450 – 1,200|
|Salad dressing, regular fat, all types||2 tablespoons||110 – 505|
|Salsa||2 tablespoons||150 – 240|
|Reconstituted tomato soup||8 ounces||700 – 1,260|
|Soy sauce||1 tablespoon||879|
|Instant ramen||1 serving||700 – 1000|
|Turkey breast, deli or pre-packaged luncheon meat||3 ounces||450 – 1,050|
|Tomato juice||8 ounces (~1 cup)||340 – 1,040|
|Cheeseburger, fast food restaurant||1 sandwich||710 – 1,690|
|Potato chips||1 ounce (28.4 grams)||120 – 180|
|Tortilla chips||1 ounce (28.4 grams)||105 – 160|
|Pretzels||1 ounce (28.4 grams)||290 – 560|
How to Take Control of Your Sodium Intake
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the maximum sodium intake for a healthy adult is about 2,300 mg per day. Adults with high blood pressure should limit their intake to about 1,500 mg per day.  Children and elderly need even less, and ought speak with their physicians to determine how much they actually need to stay healthy.
Once you’ve determined how much sodium you should be consuming on a daily basis, it’s important to tailor your diet to accommodate. And, as you might imagine, one of the most effective ways to stay within your recommended sodium threshold is to cut out processed and pre-prepared foods and to focus on adding more natural foods into your diet. When you cook at home, don’t add table salt to your meals. Instead, flavor your food with organic, aromatic herbs and spices, such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano.
As mentioned before, overconsumption of sodium may lead to serious health conditions like high blood pressure. Excess sodium within the body can cause fluid retention and lead to heart failure, stroke, and a heightened risk of premature death.  Some research has even linked excess sodium to stomach cancer.  You can see why it’s important to keep your sodium intake at a healthy level.
Health Benefits of Different Salts
There are three forms in which natural dietary sodium occurs:
- Rock salt
- Crystal salt
- Sea salt
Table salt, on the other hand, is a completely different, processed type of salt. The additives in many table salts can even trigger addictive feelings in the brain!  The process for making table salt actually includes baking out many of the nutrients naturally found in the salt and replacing them with chemical alternatives like sodium silicoaluminate (a type of aluminum), sodium bicarbonate, anti-caking agents, and even potentially toxic amounts of potassium iodide. Enough preservatives like these – including fluoride, a neurotoxin – can lead to conditions like inflammation, hypertension, muscle cramps, nervous system disorders, and even damage to the liver, kidneys, and thyroid!
The sodium found in natural forms of salt, however, accompanies important minerals like iodine and other trace elements that support electrolyte balance,  as well as thyroid, brain, and muscle health. Natural sodium, however, like that found in sea salt or Himalayan Crystal salt, provides benefits that are not made available in salt products like processed sodium chloride. It’s also worth noting that some organic mineral supplements, such as IntraMIN® can also be great sources of sodium if you aren’t getting enough through diet alone.
Maintaining the appropriate level of sodium in your body is critical to your health. How do you do it? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
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