Your body relies on the right balance of salt and fluids to perform at its best. If you do not have enough sodium in your blood, you have a condition known as hyponatremia. This condition can be life-threatening because without sodium, you can lose consciousness due to brain swelling that can lead to death. One of the solutions your physician may use in cases of hyponatremia is a salt tablet. However, you should never take a sodium tablet without your physician’s recommendation.
Several factors can contribute to hyponatremia, including infrequent urination, decreased kidney function, certain medications, severe vomiting, kidney failure or heart failure. Hyponatremia can also result when you drink too much water. This makes hyponatremia an often-surprising side effect marathon runners experience. Because the runners are losing sodium via sweat and replacing this with water, it can lead to low amounts of sodium in your blood.
If you do not correctly balance the amount of salt in your salt tablet with the right amount of water, you may experience adverse effects. These include nausea, vomiting and muscle cramps, which occur because your body has more sodium than it has fluids, which can be just as harmful as low sodium levels. If you take a sodium tablet and experience these adverse effects, seek immediate medical treatment.
If you are a marathon or endurance athlete, it is possible to use salt tablets as a way to replace sodium lost via your sweat. However, this is not the most recommended method, according to Rice University. Instead, the university recommends taking in your salt from sports drinks or salty foods. This is because salty foods can stimulate your thirst, which is your body’s natural response in seeking a balance between salt and fluids. However, a sodium tablet may quickly cause your sodium levels to rise without giving your brain time to respond with a thirst trigger.
Physicians may use sodium tablets in a hospital setting to treat hyponatremia, which is the most common electrolyte abnormality treated in a hospital setting, according to Michigan Neurosurgical Institute. Sodium tablets are better used when a physician administers them because you will be observed for fluid levels and for your balance of other electrolytes your body needs, including potassium and magnesium. Your physician will likely check your blood levels at least every six hours when you are taking sodium tablets to ensure your body does not over-correct hyponatremia.