Chloride, an essential mineral, is responsible for a host of vital body functions, including balancing the levels of fluid inside and outside of your cells. Table salt, or sodium chloride, is the body's primary chloride source. Eating large amounts of salt can influence your chloride levels; assorted diseases can also cause abnormally high or low chloride concentrations in your blood, sweat and urine. Your doctor may order a urine test to check your chloride to rule out or diagnose certain medical conditions.
Chloride, a negatively charged ion, is an electrolyte, or mineral that carries an electric charge. It helps to regulate levels of other electrolytes -- including potassium and sodium -- and to maintain blood pressure, blood volume and the pH of body fluids. It also assists in muscular activity and transmission of nerve impulses, and helps to form the digestive fluid hydrochloric acid. According to MedlinePlus, low urinary chloride levels can be caused by Cushing syndrome, stomach suctioning or dehydration from prolonged vomiting and diarrhea. In addition to eating large amounts of salt, having kidney inflammation or adrenal insufficiency can cause high chloride levels. Mayo Medical Laboratories reports that urinary excretion of chloride parallels ingested chloride; in other words, if you ingest a large amount of sodium chloride, your urine will reflect this fact.
Sodium, Salt and Excessive Amounts
Sodium, a mineral found in table salt in the amount of 2,325 milligrams per teaspoon, helps to regulate body fluids and blood pressure. According to Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, eating large amounts of salt causes your body to increase its extracellular fluid in an attempt to maintain normal sodium concentration. When your kidneys excrete the excess sodium chloride, your levels of both sodium and chloride return to normal. However, if you experience a loss of fluids through vomiting or diarrhea, or have insufficient water intake, a medical condition called hypernatremia can occur. Symptoms include dizziness, fainting, low blood pressure and diminished urine production; in severe cases, symptoms can progress to elevated blood pressure, coma and death. It is rare, however, for hypernatremia to be caused simply by ingesting too much salt; Linus Pauling Institute reports that the condition is usually associated with kidney failure.
Urinary Chloride Concentration Test
Your doctor may order a 24-hour chloride urine test to diagnose kidney or adrenal gland problems, identify the cause for a high blood pH reading or confirm a condition called metabolic alkalosis, which occurs when urine sodium is high but urinary chloride excretion is low. In this test, the first urination of the morning is performed normally; the rest is collected in a container over the next 24 hours. Store the container in the refrigerator; the next morning, add the first urination of the day by voiding into the container. Your doctor may ask you to avoid medications at this time, including anti-inflammatory pain relievers, diuretics and corticosteroids; these can distort the test findings. According to Medical Health Tests, the normal concentration of urinary chloride is 95 to 105 milliequivalents per liter of urine.
Research and Expert Recommendations
According to Mayoclinic.com, most Americans consume 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, almost a third more than the 2,300-milligram daily limit set by the U.S. Institute of Medicine. Most nutritionists advise eating whole, unprocessed foods -- with an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables -- and avoiding salt-laden processed foods and fast foods.
Conventional medical wisdom maintains that diets low in salt and high in potassium are associated with a decreased risk of high blood pressure and heart and kidney disease. However, an analysis published in 2011 in "American Journal of Hypertension" concludes that a low-salt diet may actually increase risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Nonetheless, most nutritionists continue to recommend limiting dietary salt.
- MedlinePlus: Chloride: Urine
- MedlinePlus: Chloride in Diet
- Mayoclinic.com: Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now
- Medical Health Tests: Chloride: Urine
- Mayo Medical Laboratories: Clinical: Chlorine: Random, Urine
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Sodium (Chloride)
- American Journal of Hypertension: Effects of Low-Sodium Diet vs. High-Sodium Diet on Blood Pressure, Renin, Aldosterone, Catecholamines, Cholesterol, and Triglyceride (Cochrane Review)