Sodium, together with other nutrients, plays an important role in preserving our health. The human body even has a special sensor located on the tongue to detect salt or other sodium-rich foods. But this was not always the case. During primitive times, the early humans had a potassium-rich diet with an insignificant sodium intake. Humans felt no desire to seek foods rich in sodium since they are still unaware of their body’s needs. Nature, however, had its way. As time went on, the human body evolved and devised a way that can help humans seek salty foods important for their well-being.
But how exactly does sodium help us? Sodium, in fact, is vital in maintaining the health of every cell in the human body. Sodium, together with potassium, are two minerals that permeates fluids in between cells. Their dynamic balance helps cell membranes accept more nutrients and conversely shed waste. Sodium and potassium also help nerves and muscle contraction function properly. In addition, the body needs sodium to maintain fluid, electrolyte, and PH balance. With all these contributions to numerous body functions, sodium becomes a fundamental need of the human system.
Low Blood Sodium and its Effects
Medically known as hyponatremia, low sodium means an imbalance in salt and water levels in the body. It has become a common electrolyte disorder among Americans. Hyponatremia can either be euvolemic, hypervolemic or hypovolemic. When a person’s water content increases but the sodium level remains the same, he or she is suffering from euvolemic hyponatremia. Hypervolemic hyponatremia is when there is an increase in both levels, but water gain is greater than sodium. Meanwhile, hypovolemic hyponatremia happens when both water and sodium levels are diminishing, but the sodium loss is greater.
The kidney plays a major role in our body’s reaction to the level of sodium in our blood. The kidney decides the amount of sodium and urine to excrete, depending on sodium’s presence in the bloodstream. When the kidneys sense low sodium, they restrict the urine produced to keep the sodium level stable. However, as kidneys hold on to more liquid, the blood volume rises. When this happens, high blood pressure can't be too far behind. Low sodium in blood also leads to blood level disease and heart and kidney failure.
Aside from raising blood pressure, very low blood sodium levels can cause a chemical imbalance in your blood. The effects can be minimal or fatal – from a simple headache to coma, even death. A good sodium diet will help you avoid these chronic conditions.
Causes of Low Blood Sodium Levels
Water intoxication or too much water in the body causes a decrease in sodium levels. Its effects are dangerous, even deadly. When the body experiences a sudden rise in water levels, sodium is diluted, leading to euvolemic hyponatremia. Organ failure, swelling of the brain and even death are just some of the recorded effects of this imbalance. One woman who entered a water-drinking competition in 2007 was an unfortunate casualty. Unaware of the effects of water intoxication, she died after her sodium levels dropped to a fatal point.
Sodium loss is also the effect of common causes, including diarrhea, excessive sweating, and vomiting. Athletes can experience sodium loss after practice, that’s why they always replenish lost fluids and electrolytes with energy drinks. Other diseases such as congestive heart failure and liver cirrhosis as wells as cancer treatment can also lead to this condition.
It is important to seek medical attention once a person is experiencing a change in level of consciousness, convulsion, chest pain or pressure, muscle weakness and rapid heart rate. These are serious symptoms of low blood sodium which much be addressed immediately.