If you feel bloated after eating a batch of salty pretzels or stir-fry bathed in soy sauce, you're not imagining things. High sodium intake is directly related to water retention, particularly in people who are sensitive to sodium's effects. While the bloating may be annoying, fluid retention can also lead to more serious conditions such as high blood pressure, and can be especially problematic for people with existing medical conditions. If, like most Americans, you consume too much sodium, it's wise to consider cutting back.
When you eat foods high in sodium, you disturb your normal balance of sodium and potassium, which affects your kidney's ability to filter excess water from your bloodstream. As a result, your body holds on to water that it would have otherwise expelled through urine. An extra 400 milligrams of sodium, contained in 1 gram of salt, can lead to an extra 2 pounds of water weight, according to The Wellness Corner at Towson University. The weight will vanish once your balance is restored.
Blood Pressure Risk
Because extra water increases blood volume, sodium-induced water retention can lead to high blood pressure. This can place extra stress on your arteries, which may respond by growing thicker. This may narrow the passageway, further contributing to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a contributor to heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of mortality in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People with certain medical conditions are especially vulnerable to the effects of water retention from a high-sodium diet. If you have kidney disease or cirrhosis of the liver, this fluid buildup can be serious or even fatal. Even if you don't have kidney disease now, the website Blood Pressure UK reports that a chronically high-sodium diet may damage the kidneys enough to cause disease, hindering the organ's ability to remove toxins from your body. If left untreated, your body could eventually become poisoned with toxic waste.
Healthy Sodium Intake
To prevent water retention and the health problems that come with it, the CDC recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. People at risk of heart disease, anyone over 50 years old, African-Americans and diabetics are urged to consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day as they may be more susceptible to complications from larger amounts. The most effective way to achieve this is to forgo commercially prepared meals, snacks and sauces, instead cooking at home with whole, fresh ingredients. For example, 1 cup of canned refried beans contains about 1,069 milligrams of sodium, while the same amount of boiled, unsalted pinto beans contains just 2 milligrams, which spares you the sodium overload.