From maintaining fluid balance in your body to helping your muscles contract and relax, sodium plays an essential role in keeping you not only healthy but alive. However, most Americans consume far more sodium than necessary, which ultimately leads to a higher risk of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and congestive heart failure. Eating too much sodium also can have negative effects on your stomach, some potentially serious.
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A common and immediate effect of too much sodium is stomach bloating. As MayoClinic.com explains, sodium attracts and holds water at the molecular level, causing your body to retain more fluids after you've overconsumed salt. Although salt-induced bloating eventually will subside on its own, it can temporarily cause your abdomen and other areas of your body to appear puffy or distended.
Excessive intake of salt can contribute to stomach ulcers. In a multicountry study published in the journal "Gut," salt intake was significantly associated with gastric ulcers in all eight countries studied. As study author A. Sonnenberg hypothesized, the correlation might be due to the harmful effect of salt on the mucous lining of the stomach, leading to the process of metaplasia, in which healthy tissue becomes abnormal.
Consistently consuming too much salt might increase your risk of stomach cancer. According to a paper published in the June 1996 issue of the "International Journal of Epidemiology," among both men and women from 24 countries, death from stomach cancer was strongly linked to total salt consumption. Additional research published in the April 2011 issue of the "World Journal of Gastroenterology" showed that stomach cancer was strongly associated with both sodium intake and preference for salty foods.
Because of the potentially harmful effects of too much salt, both on your stomach and your risk of other chronic conditions, moderating your salt intake might be necessary. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, you should limit your intake of high-sodium foods such as canned tomato juice, pickles, hot dogs, corned beef hash, salted pretzels, macaroni and cheese, canned soups and potato chips. MayoClinic.com recommends limiting your sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day, or 1,500 mg if you have kidney disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, or are 51 or over.
- MayoClinic.com: Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University; Sodium (Chloride); November 2008
- "International Journal of Epidemiology"; Dietary Salt, Nitrate and Stomach Cancer Mortality in 24 Countries; J.V. Joossens, et al.; June 1996
- "World Journal of Gastroenterology"; A Case-Control Study on the Relationship Between Salt Intake and Salty Taste and Risk of Gastric Cancer; W.G. Yang, et al.; April 2011
- "Gut"; Dietary Salt and Gastric Ulcer; A. Sonnenberg; October 1986