What is sodium?
A silvery-white mineral, sodium is one of the most abundant elements in nature. It is usually seen in combination with one or more elements and is chemically very active. About half of the sodium found in the body is in the soft tissues.

Why do we need it?
Sodium plays an essential role in the regulation of blood pressure and blood volume. It also assists with proper muscle contraction and the transmission of nerve impulses. Moderate sodium intake increases resistance to heat cramps and heat stroke, especially during periods of excessive fluid loss through sweating.In addition, manganese plays an important role in the synthesis of cholesterol and fatty acids, and is essential for the utilization of choline, thiamin, biotin, and vitamins C and E. It helps activate enzymes that regulate blood sugar, energy metabolism and function of the thyroid gland.

How much sodium should you take?

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for sodium is between 1,100-3,300 milligrams/day.

What are some good sources of sodium?
Sodium occurs naturally in nearly every food, from milk and beets to celery. It is most readily available in flavorings such as table salt, garlic salt, onion salt and soy sauce. One teaspoon of table salt contains approximately 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Sodium is also added to various food products. Added forms include monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrite, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and sodium benzoate. Processed meats such as bacon, sausage and ham, and canned soups and vegetables all contain added sodium. Fast foods are generally very high in sodium.

What can happen if you don’t get enough sodium?
Sodium deficiency can be attributed to starvation, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme sweating, or any condition with excessive fluid loss. Symptoms of sodium deficiency include intestinal gas, weight loss, short attention span, vomiting, heart palpitations and muscle weakness. Deficiency can cause a buildup of acids in the body, which can lead to arthritis, rheumatism and neuralgia.

What can happen if you take too much?
Excessive sodium intake can cause a loss of potassium in the urine, leading to potassium deficiency. Symptoms of excess sodium include edema, dizziness, and swelling of the legs and face. Excessive salt intake has also been linked to hypertension, and diets high in sodium may increase the likelihood of liver, heart and kidney disease.

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