Undoubtedly, salt is one of the essential contributors to sodium in your body. Sodium is pivotal for the proper functioning of the nerves and muscles. It also balances the fluids in the body along with maintaining healthy blood pressure. (1)
Despite the major role played by sodium in the body, there’s a never-ending debate in the fitness world to ascertain whether the salt hydrates or dehydrates you.
On one hand, salt is the primary ingredient of ORS drinks (used against dehydration). But at the same time, drinking salty water from the river you swim in is completely forbidden!
So, what is this hypocrisy about? Can salt cause dehydration?
Let’s uncover some scientific facts to understand it better.
Salt & Dehydration – Can You Drink Salt Water?
To answer your question in just one word, yes, salt does dehydrate you!
Provided the intake of the salt is in excess. However, in a smaller amount, it is extremely useful for the body.
The amount of salt in a river or a sea is way more extensive than your body needs to survive or your body can digest. Hence, staying away from drinking the water directly from such sources is always a good idea.
Why does salt water dehydrate you?
When kidneys detect an overabundance of salt in your bloodstream, they work overtime and diligently to filter the same. This excessive salt is eliminated via the urine.
Whenever you consume a large amount of salt with insufficient water to adequately filter it out of your system, you ultimately end up losing more water than you ingested. Consequentially, leaving a hazardous quantity of salt in your system.
Dehydration will ultimately set in as your kidneys continue to form excess urine to dilute the salt intake.
So, how much salt will dehydrate you?
More than a teaspoon!
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend no more than 2,300 mg a day. But each day, Americans consume about 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium.
To stay under the abovesaid limit, one habit you need to adopt is to stay away from processed and fried food.
What if by mistake, you end up consuming too much salt someday?
Have food items that will aid in rehydration and avoid further salt intake.
What Happens When You Consume Too Much Salt?
Now, we have understood that while salt is essential for hydration, too much of it can be problematic. But how?
Well, too much salt can cause the following troubles:
Kidneys are trained to maintain a precise sodium-to-water ratio in your body. When you have more salt in your system than required, the kidneys will retain extra water to compensate for the excessive salt in the body.
Swelling, particularly in the hands and feet, can also be seen due to increased water retention. You may weigh more than usual as well if bloated!
A good reason to remind yourself to avoid excess salt intake.
- The rise in blood pressure
When your blood vessels and arteries get filled with salt, it will result in increased blood volume. This would further increase blood pressure.
- Excessive thirst
As mentioned before, too much salt can cause you to urinate more and thus dehydrate. This can also cause dry mouth which instigates the feeling of being thirsty.
In case you ever feel like you are getting thirsty way more often, please visit a doctor. It can be due to a complicated symptom like polydipsia that needs immediate attention.
- Risk of heart disease
Overconsumption of salt increases blood pressure and stiffens blood vessels and arteries. It can lead to a stroke and a heart attack, if not taken care of.
A recent study that took place for a span of 20 years showed higher mortality rates in people who consumed more than 15g of salt per day.
- Risk of stomach cancer
According to experts, salt-rich diets can cause ulcers or inflammation of the stomach lining. It also increases the probability to develop stomach cancer.
Is Salt Good For Hydration?
First things first – Let’s just understand for once and all, salt is not just okay for your body, it is actually healthy and hydrating when taken within a certain limit.
‘Limit’ here is the keyword.
Salt contains electrolytes. Missing out on electrolytes can be a real & fatal hydration mistake.
Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals found in your blood and other bodily fluids. It plays various roles in the body. For instance, they affect your body’s total water content as well blood’s acidity commonly referred to as pH. Furthermore, it is also essential for the proper functioning of the nerves and muscles.
Electrolyte imbalance can cause lightheadedness, dry mouth, and excessive thirst, among other dehydration symptoms.
Electrolyte imbalance is commonly encountered by athletes. Here’s why?
- Athletes sweat excessively, which not only contains water but a good quantity of the essential electrolytes.
That’s the reason experts recommend carrying a bottle of water, and even better, a pack of ORS solution or electrolyte water when going to the gym or running.
So, how much salt should you add to the water for reaping hydration benefits?
A healthy person with a not-so-active lifestyle consuming a balanced meal can fulfill their sodium requirements through the diet itself.
If you belong to this category, you don’t need to add salt to the water.
However, if you are an athlete who sweats often or an elderly who consumes diuretic medications, you can add up to 20 milligrams of salt per liter of water. It is recommended to add sea salt instead of regular table salt as it is considered to be supposedly a healthier choice.
Bottom line: Salt is necessary for proper hydration.
So, does salt dehydrate you or hydrate?
The answer is both!
Salt can be dehydrating when taken more than 2300 mg a day. It can be hydrating in a normal lifestyle if consumed within the suggested limit.
Have more questions? Comment below!