Hyponatremia is a condition in which you have a lower-than-normal blood sodium level. Unlike it seems, there isn't a diet for sodium deficiency or options for a low sodium treatment at home.
And, maybe even more surprisingly, in the majority of cases, hyponatremia is not caused by not eating enough salty foods nor is it treated by eating more salt.
Read more: 10 Myths About Salt Debunked
Hyponatremia and Excess Water
"Hyponatremia represents a water overload and an inability to get rid of the amount of water in your body," explains Daniel E. Weiner, MD, FASN, an associate professor at Tufts University School of Medicine and a member of the American Society of Nephrology's Quality Committee. "Usually, it has pretty much nothing to do with salt." The excess water dilutes the sodium, resulting in a lower concentration of sodium in the blood.
The vast majority of people in the United States get enough salt via their diets and, if they are healthy, "they should be able to get rid of a normal amount of water that they are taking in," Weiner says.
However, there are exceptions, particularly occurring among older people who may not be eating a lot, he says. People eating a so-called "tea and toast diet" that is extremely lacking in sodium may simply need to increase their salt intake to address their lower-than-normal sodium levels in their blood.
Another exception is if someone has hyponatremia due to a condition called syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SIADH). The antidiuretic hormone helps the kidneys control the amount of water excreted through the urine. In SIADH, the body makes too much antidiuretic hormone, causing it to retain too much water. "In a situation like that, you could maybe tell people to add more salt to their diet. But that's really about it," says Weiner.
Finding the Root Cause
Some of the symptoms of hyponatremia include a headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In most cases, if you have hyponatremia, your health care provider will focus on determining the underlying cause. Low blood sodium levels can be caused by certain medications (like diuretics and antidepressants), underlying health problems (like adrenal or kidney diseases), drinking too much water and sustained vomiting or diarrhea. Addressing the underlying cause will hopefully lead to normal sodium levels.
Severe hyponatremia is a potentially life-threatening emergency that requires prompt treatment and monitoring, usually in a hospital setting. Seek care at the emergency room if you develop any of the severe hyponatremia symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, confusion, seizures or loss of consciousness.