Some people advocate the use of salt water cleanses or purges as a way to clean the body of toxins, contaminants and other unwanted material. Your body naturally processes waste materials through a variety of methods, and while drinking saltwater can cause you to vomit almost immediately, it can also lead to much more serious effects. Always consult a physician if you're considering drinking salt water or beginning a salt water cleanse.
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Salt and the Body
Our bodies need salt to operate properly, though only in small amounts. Your cells depend on salt, or more specifically, the element sodium which is present in salt, to maintain the body's chemical balances and reactions, according to the National Ocean Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Your kidneys process excess salt by producing urea, which you excrete as urine. When you ingest salt water, your kidneys get rid of the excess salt by taking it out of your blood and producing more urine.
Drinking salt water can have negative immediate effects. According to a study published in the "Western Journal of Medicine," drinking salt water can result significant negative effects rather quickly. Sudden severe diarrhea is possible, as well as more frequent urination and headaches. The more salt water you drink, the harder it is on your kidneys to process the excess salt, and you can also cause kidney damage and even failure by consuming too much salt water.
In the most serious circumstances, drinking salt water can lead to death. The National Ocean Service reports that because your kidney can only make urine that is less salty than salt water, you have to urinate more than you drink. For every quart of salt water you ingest, your body produces a quart and a half of urine, according to Elmhurst university. Because of this, even though you're drinking water, your body expels more water than you ingest. People who drink salt water for too long eventually die of dehydration.
Sea Salt or Non-Iodized Salt
Some proponents of the salt-water cleanse or similar diet strategies claim that sea salt or other forms of non-iodized salt are better for you than table salt. However, salt is essentially made up of the same two basic minerals: sodium and chlorine. While sea salt manufacturers make their product by dehydrating sea water, table salt is usually made from salt deposits found in the earth. Sea salt typically contains more trace minerals than table salt, according to the American Heart Association, while processed salt has those minerals removed, thus accounting for the difference in taste and appearance.