Do you need more sodium?

We always hear about people overindulging on salt or having too much sodium in their diet (especially here in the U.S). But what if you’re vegan who eats products that are extremely low in sodium? Or what if you’re an athlete that works out or trains vigorously and lose a ton of sweat on a daily basis? Or what if you suffer from Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) syndrome, a disorder that occurs mostly in women after pregnancy, trauma, major surgery or having a virus? All those scenarios serve as a basis for salt tablets to be used.

The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly on Sodium

Too much sodium (or salt) in your diet is bad for your health. This is a fact you’re probably already heard or familiar with. While the daily recommendation for so sodium intake is about 1500 mg, the average American consumes 3400 mg of sodium per day or twice the amount that is recommended.

Here are some health risk factors that have been linked to a diet that consists of excess sodium intake:

  • High Blood Pressure (or Hypertension)
  • Stroke
  • Heart Failure
  • Kidney Stones
  • Osteoporosis
  • Kidney Disease
  • Stomach Cancer
  • Enlarged Heart Muscle
  • Chronic Headaches
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In addition, excess sodium affects your appearance by retaining water in which causes puffiness to certain body parts (e.g. legs, wrists, etc.), bloating of the stomach, and weight gain. In other words, excess water weight is usually attributed to excess sodium intake.

Nonetheless, while sodium has been heavily criticized in the mainstream media, it is a necessary mineral for your body to function properly. Here are the functions of sodium for your body:

  • Facilitate muscle contraction and nerve cell transmission
  • Helps maintain normal water balance
  • Controls blood volume and blood pressure

The primary way to get dietary sodium is by ingesting salt through food & beverage consumption.

When You Should Use Salt Tablets

So now that you know sodium is a required mineral for the body, do you get enough sodium? Sodium is predominately lost in sweat and urine and is replaced in the diet. The human body has the ability to maintain sodium and water balance during a change of conditions in order to ensure our survival. While most sports simply need a sports drink such as Gatorade to replenish their system, ultra endurance sports or events such as Ironman marathon and triathlons challenges your body’s survival mechanism. These sports or events can easily drain your body’s sodium levels, especially in hot, humid conditions; therefore, causing an imbalance of fluid levels (i.e., electrolyte imbalance).

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This could lead to hyponatremia, a condition where low concentration of sodium is in the blood. Here the symptoms of this disorder:

  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Disorientation
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion

If you ever suffered from those symptoms during a race, then you probably developed hyponatremia. In addition to drinking sports drinks, you probably should take a salt tablet to prevent this occurring again.

Most people (including athletes) don’t need a salt tablet to boost their sodium level. Instead, most people just need a steady dose of salty foods plus reducing water intake according to a research study. If you suffer from hyponatremia or low sodium levels, consult with your physician to see if you should take a salt tablet.