Does a Sodium Deficiency Cause Bloating?

Marathon runners are at risk for developing sodium deficiency, or hyponatremia.
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Sodium is an essential mineral for your body's health and well being, in spite of the bad rap it gets. Hyponatremia is a medical term for extremely low levels of sodium in the blood. Your body requires sodium to move water throughout in order to rehydrate cells. Hyponatremia is concern in endurance sports, where you lose high amounts of sodium and your body is unable to rehydrate although you may be drinking sufficient amounts of fluids.Hyponatremia can cause bloating.


What is a Sodium Deficiency?

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Salt is an essential mineral your body needs to operate effectively. Sodium is an electrolyte mineral that conducts electricity and regulates the amount of water around cells. The medical term for severe sodium deficiency is hyponatremia. This condition is not generally caused by a lack of the mineral in food sources, but it can result from excessive water intake, excessive exercise, water pills, certain medications, cirrhosis of the liver, a low-sodium and high-water diet, and the recreational drug Ecstasy, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Other medical conditions causing hyponatremia may include polydipsia, hypothyroidism and Addison's disease.

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Signs and Symptoms

According to the Mayo Clinic website, "When the sodium level in your blood becomes too low, extra water enters your cells and causes them to swell." Symptoms of sodium deficiency include dehydration, heart palpitations, fatigue, diarrhea, restlessness, irritability, seizures and cramps, as well as bloating, confusion, unconsciousness and coma.


Bloating occurs in hyponatremia due to your body's response to low sodium. Treatment for hyponatremia focuses on addressing the underlying cause of the low sodium levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. This may involve ceasing excessive diuretic use, decreasing length and intensity of exercise, or focusing on treatment of underlying disease. Acute hyponatremia treatments involve intravenous fluids, medications to manage headache, nausea and seizures, as well as hormone therapy where applicable.



The USA Track and Field recommends 100 percent replacement of fluids lost during a marathon event and provides a guide to calculate optimal hydration; this is a departure from previous theories that runners should drink as much as possible during an event. The Mayo Clinic suggests no more than 34 oz., or 1 liter, of water per hour of exercise. Consume sports beverages to replace lost electrolytes. Discuss any conditions that may contribute to hyponatremia with your doctor prior to engaging in intense or lengthy bouts of exercise.



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