Sodium, potassium and chloride all function as electrolytes in your body and play important functions such as maintaining cellular fluid balance, conducting proper nerve impulses and maintaining normal blood pressure. Your body removes excess electrolytes via your kidneys in urine or your skin by perspiration. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University recommends that you do not consume more than 5.8 g of sodium a day, and consume at least 4.7 g of potassium a day. No recommended daily intake for chloride has been established.
Sodium and potassium work together to conduct nerve impulses by a process called action potential, in which an exchange of ion concentrations is made between the interior and exterior of the cells. Potassium concentration is 30 times higher inside your cells, while sodium concentration is 10 times higher outside your cells. This creates different electrical charges on both sides of the cells. According to former nutrition professor Gordon Wardlaw of Ohio State University, a change in sodium and potassium concentration causes nerve impulses to conduct. A stimulation, such as light or touch, changes the cell's permeability to sodium, allowing sodium to rush into the cell. This reverses the charge of the cell membrane, and an electrical current is generated. Once the nerve impulse passes, your cell restores to its original charge.
Renal Function and Osmoregulation
Sodium and chloride are the prime regulators of how much water your body can contain, which affects your blood pressure and sodium and potassium concentrations in your blood. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, changes in blood volume changes your blood pressure. When your pressure sensors within your cardiovascular systems senses the change, they send signals to your brain to release special proteins and hormones that affect the amount of sodium and chloride retained by your kidneys. This helps prevent your blood pressure from being too high or too low.
Because table salt is made up of sodium and chloride, you can obtain both minerals from almost any processed or pickled foods, such as hot dogs, canned goods and cured meats. Many foods have salt added during the cooking process to enhance flavor. You can also get a rich source of potassium from many fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products, such as bananas, potato skins, prune juice, bran cereals, spinach and oranges.
Although deficiencies in sodium, potassium and chloride are rare in the United States, too little of these minerals causes improper muscle cramps, fatigue, nausea, edema in the brain because of fluid retention, and an irregular heartbeat, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
Too much sodium and chloride intake can cause hypertension, excess calcium loss, and edema in your tissues, especially in your extremities, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Too much potassium causes hyperkalemia, tingling in your hands and feet, muscular weakness, and irregular heartbeat, which can cause death.
- "Perspectives in Nutrition"; Gordon Wardlaw; 2002
- Linus Pauling Institute: Sodium (Chloride)