The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that healthy adults eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day — although their statistics reveal that most Americans eat a whopping 3,300 milligrams every day. Although your diet itself will clearly indicate whether you’re taking in too much salt, a number of other physical symptoms can help you decide if you need to tame your salt habit. Always consult your doctor if you experience any symptoms, however, for a definitive diagnosis.
As salt moves through your digestive system, the sodium molecules absorb into the bloodstream. So if you’re eating too much salt, you’ll also have high concentrations of sodium in your bloodstream. Since sodium attracts water, your bloodstream now acts similar to a magnet — it draws water out of the cells. The increased water volume leaves you feeling puffy and bloated. Typically, you’ll feel the bloat most significantly in your face, hands, feet, ankles or belly.
As water is pulled out of your cells and into the bloodstream, your cells start worrying that they’ll become dehydrated. In response, they send messages to the brain that your body needs more water — and your brain responds by making you feel thirsty. A portion of the brain also monitors the blood’s sodium level; when it identifies high sodium concentrations, it also triggers the body to feel thirsty and crave water.
High Blood Pressure
Fluid retention can also lead to high blood pressure, another symptom of high sodium intake. When water is pulled into the bloodstream, it increases the overall volume of circulating blood. Since your heart is not used to such a large blood volume, it has to work harder to move the blood through your blood vessels. As your heart struggles to receive and deliver the increased blood supply, your blood vessels also struggle to handle the increased volume. Eventually, high blood pressure often develops in response to the increased workload. Unfortunately, high blood pressure usually remains asymptomatic until it becomes very severe. Early signs might include dizziness, headaches and increased incidence of nosebleeds.
If you’re constantly craving salty foods, those cravings might indicate that you’re filling up on salty foods a bit too often. After repeated exposures to salt, your taste buds grow accustomed to the strong flavor, and non-salty foods taste quite bland and unappetizing.
Although these symptoms can all indicate excess salt consumption, it’s important to note that they might also indicate other serious health concerns. For example, fluid retention can occur with hormonal disorders or failure of the heart, liver, lungs or kidneys. Increased thirst often occurs with diabetes and low blood volume, while salt cravings are also a symptom of adrenal disorders, parathyroid disorders and pregnancy. High blood pressure can be caused by a wide variety of factors, from endocrine disorders and organ failure to damaged blood vessels and sleep apnea. To ensure your health and safety, consult your doctor if any unusual symptoms occur. Your doctor will rely on physical assessments and medical tests to determine whether your symptoms relate to excessive salt consumption or other concerns.