Excesses, when it comes to food, are never a good option. If we recently reviewed the signals that our body sends to warn us that we are consuming too much sugar, now we have put salt in the spotlight, a staple food in our kitchens, which we have used for centuries to season and enhance the flavor of our meals. But we must be careful with the amount we eat, as a high consumption of salt can cause significant health problems. For this reason, we have asked Dr. Domingo Carrera, a specialist in Nutrition at the Medical-Surgical Center for Digestive Diseases, to tell us in detail what are those calls for attention that we have to be attentive to.
Dr. Domingo Carrera, specialist in Nutrition at the Medical-Surgical Center for Digestive Diseases summarizes the symptoms that our body throws at us when it is taking an excess of salt:
-The first thing we notice with an excessive consumption of salt is that we are continually very thirsty.
-Afterwards, we also notice the dry mucous membranes (lips, mouth, genitals) and the skin in general.
-We have the urge to urinate continuously, but then we urinate little volume and of an intense yellow or orange color.
-Edemas or fluid retention appear that accumulates in ankles, lower belly, eyelids, hands and feet.
-We can feel nauseous and even vomit frequently.
-Diarrhea may appear, but sometimes also constipation.
-We can feel heartburn and heavy digestion with gas and gastroesophageal reflux.
-We may have a headache and difficulty concentrating. It could lead to mental confusion with irritability and anxiety.
-You can lose your appetite and feel less taste in food and, in addition, feel very attracted to salty foods.
-We can also frequently suffer muscle cramps and feel more tired than normal.
-Finally, we can have breathing difficulties and suffer kidney colic due to stone formation.
Importance of sodium
Sodium is a necessary mineral for our body, where is the limit, then? “Sodium is necessary to regulate water in the body and intervenes in the conduction of the nervous impulse and muscle contraction. But, like almost everything, it must be in appropriate quantities, neither excess nor lack”, the doctor tells us. He adds that the maximum amount of salt (sodium chloride) that we should ingest is 5 grams per day (a full teaspoon of coffee), which is equivalent to 2 grams of sodium per day. Most (80%) of the salt we consume is already hidden in food (salt added to food by the food industry). And only 20% is what we put in when cooking and what we can control.
Salt is essential for life, but it can have a detrimental effect on health if consumed in excess. Too much consumption can raise blood pressure too high, and too high blood pressure can contribute to heart attacks or strokes, and heart failure.
This is what Dr. Raúl Sanchón Rodríguez, specialist in Endocrinology and Nutrition at the Henares University Hospital (Madrid), assures Europa Press, who also mentions that the abuse of salt consumption has been related to diseases such as osteoporosis (and therefore, bone fractures in the elderly and particularly in postmenopausal women), with kidney stones, with worsening asthma, and even with some types of cancer.
Despite everything, the expert emphasizes that salt is essential for the human body, although he warns that not much is needed for it to function properly. Among its functions is to help control the amount of water in our body, and to collaborate in the transmission of nerve impulses and muscle relaxation.
THE RETENTION OF LIQUIDS
Likewise, Dr. Sanchón points out that another problem that arises with excess salt in the body is that, generally, it is eliminated by the kidney, although there are people who ‘retain salt’ and, with this, have edema, swelling due to accumulation of fluids, especially in the legs, that appear intermittently and that do not have a heart, kidney or liver disease to justify it.
“This seems to be more frequent in women, especially if they are overweight or obese, and sometimes they are associated with large fluctuations in weight during the day or over periods of days or weeks. The exact causes of this increased sodium and fluid retention are not known. in these apparently healthy people, but to try to improve this situation it is important to treat obesity, if it exists, to do
regular physical exercise, and a low-salt diet, “he says.
“It should be noted that diuretic drugs should not be used, as they do not substantially improve the condition and can produce significant side effects,” says the specialist in Endocrinology and Nutrition.
At this point, he explains that when there is an excess of sodium, the kidney cannot eliminate it and this causes the water content within the blood vessels to increase and, therefore, the blood pressure to rise, which, in the long term , can lead to heart attack or heart failure problems, as the heart needs to make a greater effort to move the blood.
Likewise, the endocrinologist remembers that there are interactions between foods and drugs. Regarding salt, for example, an excess in its consumption can lead to a decrease in the pharmacological effect of lithium salts (which are used to treat some diseases in psychiatry) by increasing their elimination through the kidney, he adds, to the At the same time, he insists that patients with high blood pressure should also eat a low-salt diet.
Dr. Sanchón also points out that there are ‘dietary salts’, which substitute sodium for potassium, and that they should be avoided by patients with kidney diseases or hypertensive patients who are taking certain drugs that can cause an increase in potassium levels in the blood, that may be dangerous (such as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors or IEACA: captopril, enalapril, ramipril, for example).