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Mineral Nutrient :: Sodium

Sodium

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Content Below: What is Sodium · Benefits · Deficiency Signs · Foods · Supplements · RDA · Toxicity



What is Sodium ?
Sodium is a mineral that the body needs to function properly. It is also one of the electrolyte minerals that conduct electricity when dissolved.

It works closely with the other electrolyte minerals potassium and chloride. While potassium is mostly stored inside cells, 60% of sodium is found in the fluids surrounding cells, with 10% within the cells and 30% in the bones.

Most of our sodium intake comes from sodium chloride, commonly known as salt.  Table salt is 40% sodium by weight, with one teaspoon supplying 2.3 g of sodium.  Our typical diet tends to be so salt-laden that sodium is one mineral we seldom have to worry about getting enough of.


How Sodium Benefits Health
It is critical, together with potassium, for the proper functioning of nerves and muscles, and correct balance of body fluids.  It is also the main ion in extra-cellular fluid (fluid around cells).

:: Sodium Benefits & Functions
1. essential for regulating muscle contractions and nerve transmissions
2. helps maintain proper balance of water and body fluids
3. important for maintaining the proper blood pH
4. plays a crucial role in regulating blood pressure and volume
5. needed for stomach function


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Sodium Deficiency Symptoms and Causes
Sodium deficiency is extremely rare, but it can occur.  Low concentration of sodium in the blood is known as hyponatremia, and can be dangerous.

It can be caused by excessive sodium loss, for example due to prolonged activity and excessive sweating, or chronic diarrhea or vomiting, or use of diuretics, or adrenal gland disorder.  Severe fasting or malnutrition can also cause deficiency.

:: Sodium Deficiency Symptoms
1. dehydration
2. low blood sugar
3. heart palpitations
4. muscle cramps
5. weakness or lethargy
6. confusion or disorientation
7. slurred speech
8. nausea
9. seizures, coma, or death in extreme cases if left untreated

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Sodium Foods
Sodium is found in small quantities in virtually all foods naturally, but more salt is usually added, often in large amounts, during processing or cooking.

Rich sources of sodium in foods · table salt or sea salt (sodium chloride) · sodium salts such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrite, and sodium benzoate, that are added to food products · seasonings such as soy sauce, garlic salt, onion salt, oyster sauce, stock cubes, ketchup, worcestershire sauce · preserved meats such as bacon, ham, sausages · processed or canned or fast foods are generally high in salt, and therefore high in sodium.

Other sources of sodium in foods · naturally in almost all foods, such as milk, meat, shellfish, vegetables.

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Sodium Supplements
Taking vitamins and minerals in their correct balance is vital to the proper functioning of all vitamins.  They work synergistically, which means that the effectiveness of any one nutrient requires, or is enhanced, sometimes dramatically, by the presence of certain other nutrients.

For this reason, if you are looking to take supplements for maintenance of optimal health, the recommended approach is to take a multi-vitamin that has the proper balance of all the necessary nutrients your body needs.

For a list of reputable top ranked vitamin and mineral supplements chosen in an independent supplement review, see Best Multivitamin Supplements. Many of these are manufactured to pharmaceutical or nutraceutical GMP compliance, which is the highest multivitamin standard possible.

Keep in mind, however, that while mineral supplements are useful to plug nutritional gaps that are almost inevitable in modern diets, and to ensure we get optimal doses of nutrients, they are no substitute for a good diet. Instead, use them to complement a healthy diet and lifestyle.


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Sodium RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance)
The Food & Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, in their 1997-2001 collaboration between the US and Canada, set the daily Adequate Intake (AI) of Sodium as follows.

Life Stage | Gender Sodium Dosage | Day
Infants 0-6 mths 0.12* g
Infants 7-12 mths 0.37* g
Children 1-3 yrs 1.0* g
Children 4-8 yrs 1.2* g
Girls 9-13 Yrs 1.5* g
Boys 9-13 Yrs 1.5* g
Females 14-18 Yrs 1.5* g
Males 14-18 Yrs 1.5* g
Females 19-50 Yrs 1.5* g
Males 19-50 Yrs 1.5* g
Females 50-70 Yrs 1.3* g
Males 50-70 Yrs 1.3* g
Adults older than 70 Yrs 1.2* g
Pregnant Women 14-18 Yrs 1.5* g
Pregnant Women 19-50 Yrs 1.5* g
Lactating Mothers 14-18 Yrs 1.5* g
Lactating Mothers 19-50 Yrs 1.5* g

These dosages are the minimum required per day to ward off deficiency. In therapeutic use of this nutrient, dosage is increased as necessary for the ailment, keeping in mind Sodium toxicity levels.

Legend

1 µg = 1 mcg = 1 microgram = 1/1,000,000 of a gram
1 mg = 1 milligram = 1/1,000 of a gram

* Indicates AI figures based on Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) figures


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Sodium Overdose Symptoms, Toxicity Level & Side Effects
An excess is more common than a deficiency. Most people take much more sodium in their diets than is needed.  It has been estimated, for instance, that diets in the U.S. can contain as much as 15 times the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of sodium.

A key to a healther diet is to lower our intake of salt, bearing in mind that most foods naturally contain sodium even before salt is added.  The Food and Nutrition Board's recommended upper limit is 2.3 g of sodium per day for adults, equivalent to one teaspoon of table salt.

High sodium intake is frequently linked to increased blood volume and high blood pressure (hypertension).  This is especially so if the kidneys cannot get rid of excess efficiently, leading to a build-up of sodium, particularly if potassium levels are low, as potassium balances out some of the effects of sodium.

Excess sodium may also cause a dangerous build-up of fluid in those with liver cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, or kidney disease.

Patients in such cases are usually advised by their doctors to reduce their salt intake.  Those with high blood pressure should take no more than 1.5 g per day, while people with cirrhosis, heart failure or kidney disease may need to keep within even stricter limits as prescribed by their doctors.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has set Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for sodium.  These are levels above which there is risk of sodium overdose, especially when taken over a long time.

Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for Sodium per Day
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
0 to 12 months *ND *ND    
1 to 3 years 1.5 g 1.5 g    
4 to 8 years 1.9 g 1.9 g    
9 to 13 years 2.2 g 2.2 g    
14 years & above 2.3 g 2.3 g 2.3 g 2.3 g
*ND : Not determinable.  Intake should be from food/milk only.


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References

1. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary reference intakes for water, potassium, sodium, chloride, and sulfate. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2004.

2. U.S. National Libary of Medicine [NLM] & National Institutes of Health [NIH]: MedlinePlus. NLM-NIH home page. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus>. Use the built-in search function to find specific data. Accessed 2009 March – June.

3. International Food Information Council. IFIC Review: Sodium in food and health. <http://www.ific.org/publications/reviews/sodiumir.cfm> Accessed 2009 Jul 20.

4. Balch JF, Balch PA. Prescription for nutritional healing: A practical A-Z reference to drug-free remedies using vitamins, minerals, herbs & food supplements. Garden City Park, New York: Avery Publishing; 1990.

5. Ulene A. Dr. Art Ulene's complete guide to vitamins, minerals and herbs. New York, NY: Avery Publishing; 2000.

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