Sodium is a mineral that is part of our diet along with chlorine, making up the sodium chloride, more popularly known as salt, which we consume daily both in food and in certain beverages. Most processed foods are high in sodium, but the healthiest and most natural sources are found in meats, seafood, vegetables, and dairy products. The absorption of sodium chloride takes place in the small intestine, where 90% of the daily intake is absorbed.
The functions of sodium at the nutritional level are essential for our body, as it helps us with the transmission of nerve impulses and the absorption and transport of nutrients. An adequate level of sodium maintains blood volume and blood pressure. In contrast, a low level in the blood generates an imbalance called hyponatremia, which can lead to some complications for our health, such as vomiting or fainting, and can even have more severe consequences if they occur—extreme cases.
At FastlyHealwe explain everything about low sodium or hyponatremia: the symptoms, causes, and treatment of this condition.
Table of Contents
What are the causes of low sodium levels?
The recommended daily amount of sodium is 3.8 grams in adults and 3 grams in the diet of children 4 to 8 years. From the age of 50, it is better to reduce the daily amount, and it is even recommended for people over 70 years of age not to reach 3 grams of sodium per day to avoid conditions such as high blood pressure.
We find sodium in the body fluids that line the cells, which helps us to the proper functioning of the body’s muscles, nerves, and other tissues. When sodium levels are lower than usual in these fluids, the body compensates by moving more water into the cells. This is what causes the cells to swell with too much water, and some symptoms appear, mainly when they affect the sensitive cells of the brain.
The low sodium levels, also called hyponatremia, can have the following causes:
- Water intoxication.
- Heart failure.
- Kidney diseases.
- Liver cirrhosis results from various chronic diseases that affect the liver and its tissues.
- Problems related to hormones, steroids, or defects in metabolism, such as a syndrome that affects the secretion of antidiuretic hormones.
- Extreme sweating Some episodes of low sodium are frequent in athletes who do excessive exercise, such as marathons, because there is a tremendous loss of sodium through sweating. For this reason, in case of intense training, it is advisable to resort to isotonic drinks that restore the body with mineral salts, including sodium.
It should also be taken into account that the cause of low sodium may lie in other diseases such as cancer. For this reason, a medical evaluation is advisable to determine the origin of the problem.
Symptoms of low sodium or hyponatremia
The most common symptoms of hyponatremia or low sodium include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle cramps.
- Palpitations that is, fast and irregular heartbeat.
- Disorientation and fainting spells.
- Shortness of breath, chest pain, and discomfort.
- Increased urinary frequency and weight loss.
In extreme cases, such as severe dehydration in marathon athletes, a lack of sodium can lead to seizures, brain damage, and coma. If any of the above symptoms are manifested in a very pronounced and severe way, it is necessary to call a doctor immediately.
What is the treatment for low sodium or hyponatremia?
The treatment of low sodium levels requires a previous diagnosis by a specialist and will always depend on the cause that causes the lack of the mineral.
Still, the most common treatments consist of:
- Administration of medications to relieve symptoms or reduce the volume of fluids through the urine.
- Water restriction.
- IV fluids that contain high levels of sodium.
This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.
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I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.