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Sodium: what is its role in the body? : Current Woman Le MAG

What is the role of sodium in the body?

Sodium is a mineral essential for life, which must be distinguished from salt.

If 67% of French people do not differentiate between salt and sodium, as revealed by a survey OpinionWay, sodium is actually a chemical element found in the composition of salt.

Sodium is found mainly in the blood and in the interstitial fluid (the fluid that takes place between the cells of the body and the small blood vessels).

Sodium plays an important physiological role in humans, on several levels, because it participates:

  • to control the volume of the extra-cellular medium (which designates the body's fluid balance)
  • maintaining the electrochemical gradient of cells
  • to the transmission of nerve impulses
  • to muscle contraction
  • intestinal absorption of certain nutrients

For all these reasons, sodium is therefore essential for the proper functioning of the body.

What is the normal sodium level?

We measure the sodium concentration (called natremia) in order to know if there is hyponatremia (which corresponds to an insufficient sodium concentration in the blood plasma) or hypernatremia (which corresponds to a too high sodium level in the blood).

In the case of hyponatremia or hypernatremia, the fluid volumes are no longer in equilibrium and the risk is to have too much water or not enough water.

Foods high in sodium

Sodium is found in large quantities in many foods, including processed foods or industrial preparations.

High sodium is found in particular in:

  • edible white salt, called table salt
  • the bread
  • rusks
  • cheeses
  • cold meats (ham, sausage, chorizo, salami, etc.)
  • mixed dishes
  • the sauces
  • condiments (mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce…)
  • the pizzas
  • savory pies, quiches
  • savory pastries
  • dehydrated vegetable broths
  • dehydrated meat broths
  • cooking cubes
  • pastries
  • lumpfish eggs
  • smoked salmon
  • anchovies
  • duck breast
  • aperitif cookies
  • sandwiches…

Sodium deficiency: what are the health risks?

A sodium deficiency, hyponatremia is not harmless. Abnormally low levels of sodium in the blood can be serious, and there are severe cases of hyponatremia, which require treatment.

Diuretics (foods or medications that increase the body's elimination of urine) are often the cause of hyponatremia.

To compensate for this deficiency, we will measure the sodium level present in the body, to check the balance of extra-cellular volumes and thus regulate this balance according to needs. Regulation will be done in particular by drinking more water or by reducing the quantities of water absorbed.

The risks of insufficient sodium intake (hyponatremia) are:

In France, cases of severe hyponatremia are rare, but the elderly may be affected by sodium deficiency.

Excess sodium in the body can lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

How to reduce your salt intake?

To avoid the risk of cardiovascular disorders, it is therefore recommended to limit your daily salt intake. Eating a balanced and varied diet and avoiding ultra-processed foods, which are particularly rich in sodium, already reduces the risks …

On a daily basis, favor raw, unprocessed products that you cook and season yourself, in order to control the amount of sodium you consume during your meals. Aromatic herbs and spices are excellent alternatives to salt to spice up a dish in a healthy way: you do not miss basil, rosemary, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, chilli, and even onion , garlic or shallot!

Thanks to Alexandra Retion, Dietitian – Nutritionist, www.alexandraretion.fr

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