Eating too much salt is one of the easiest ways to increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day — well above the recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams for healthy adults.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 90 percent of Americans consume more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
Table of Contents
- Signs You’re Eating Too Much Salt
Signs You’re Eating Too Much Salt
High levels of salt can increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. And if you already have high blood pressure, eating too much sodium can make it worse.
Here are some signs that you might be eating too much salt.
1. Being highly thirsty all the time
The kidneys help regulate the amount of sodium in the body by maintaining a balance between fluids and electrolytes (1). When you eat too much salt, especially if it comes from processed foods, it causes more fluid retention in the body.
This makes it harder for your kidneys to keep up with their job. So, they end up becoming overwhelmed and unable to regulate fluid levels properly.
A new study published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes revealed that people who eat an excessive amount of salt tend to drink more water.
The researchers found that people who consumed between 1,200 and 2,500 milligrams of sodium per day were likely to drink about 1.4 cups of water per day more than those who ate less than 1200 milligrams.
Many people who consume too much salt also experience dry mouth. This occurs because when you eat too much sodium, it causes water retention in the body, which interferes with proper hydration.
This ends up causing less water to be absorbed by your cells. As a result, your mouth feels dry and uncomfortable throughout the day.
2. Frequent Headaches
A headache is one of the most common reasons people visit their doctor. Headaches can be triggered by several factors, including stress and hormone changes.
But there’s another reason you might get frequent headaches. You’re maybe eating too much salt!
When you eat too much salt, your body retains fluids to dilute it. If the excess fluid doesn’t leave your body through urination or sweating, it could end up in your brain, which causes swelling inside your skull. This leads to a headache.
When we consume too much salt, our bodies also retain water to balance out the electrolytes in our bloodstream. This leads to dehydration (2) and increases blood pressure, both of which can cause headaches.
Aside from dehydration, low blood sugar can be another reason that causes headaches. This is because your brain isn’t getting enough nutrients or oxygen.
When you eat too much sodium, it raises your blood pressure and increases insulin production (3). This can lead to hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, which causes headaches.
3. Craving salty foods even more!
Many people crave salt when they eat too many processed foods. You may find that you have an insatiable desire for chips, pretzels, or other salty snacks if you eat too much sodium.
In most cases, the craving will disappear once you have some salty foods. But if you continue to crave salt long after eating something salty, it’s time to take a closer look at your diet.
When you consume too much salt, the body tries to balance it out by increasing the amount of water in your bloodstream. This extra water can cause you to feel thirsty, which is why you may also crave salty foods or drinks.
Additionally, consuming too much salt can overstimulate the taste buds and make you crave more salty foods. Over time, this can lead to a preference for salty foods and a decreased ability to taste other flavors.
4. Appearing more swollen and puffy than usual
When you consume too much salt, the kidneys may struggle to eliminate the excess sodium from your body, and water will accumulate in the tissues.
This extra water in the tissues can cause them to become bloated and swollen, leading to the appearance of puffiness or swelling.
This can cause swelling in your hands, feet, ankles, and face. And it can also make you look older than you are. And because of the extra water weight, your skin will sag and wrinkle more easily.
Excess salt intake can also lead to an increase in blood pressure, which can cause fluid to leak from the blood vessels and accumulate in the surrounding tissues, causing swelling.
It’s important to note that not everyone experiences this symptom when they eat too much salt. Many people may only experience it when they eat excessive amounts of sodium over a long period of time.
The good news is that this kind of swelling is most likely temporary! The excess water will eventually be flushed out of your system as you urinate it out or sweat it off during exercise.
5. Feeling bloated
We’ve all been there. You’re at work or maybe just laying down to rest and suddenly feel like you’re about to burst.
When you eat foods high in salt, such as processed meats or canned soups, your body retains water to help flush out all that extra sodium.
That’s why you might feel bloated after eating salty foods, especially if they have other ingredients that make bloating worse.
Excessive salt intake can also contribute to the development of gastrointestinal issues (4) like constipation, which can lead to further bloating and discomfort.
Additionally, high salt intake can cause changes in the gut microbiome and decrease the production of digestive enzymes. This often leads to digestive problems such as gas and bloating.
If you have persistent abdominal bloating or if you have other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, you should see your doctor right away.
These symptoms may indicate an underlying condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (5).
6. May cause high blood pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension (6), is one of the most common chronic health conditions in the U.S. It affects nearly 1 in 3 adults and is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.
High blood pressure can be caused by a variety of factors, but one of the most significant is eating too much salt. This is because excess sodium draws water into the body’s cells, causing them to swell.
The body responds by releasing hormones that make the blood vessels contract. This increases blood pressure and causes the heart to work harder.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease, so if you’re concerned about your salt intake, talk to your doctor.
They’ll be able to help you reduce your sodium intake gradually so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything delicious!
In fact, if you lower your daily intake by just two grams per day or less than one teaspoon, it could lower your blood pressure by up to five millimeters of mercury.
That’s a drop in blood pressure that could reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by about 10 percent!
The good news is that if you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, there are ways to manage it, including eating less salt.
7. Frequent urination
Excess salt in the body can cause you to urinate more frequently. The kidneys often have to work harder than normal to remove excess salt from the blood, which can lead to frequent urination.
It is important to note that the amounts of salt that you consume in your diet have an impact on the amount of fluid that you drink and urinate.
The retained water in your body causes you to urinate more frequently and produce more urine than normal.
The increased frequency of urination can also be caused by excess consumption of caffeinated drinks or alcohol, which both dehydrate the body.
If you are eating a diet high in sodium but not drinking enough fluids, then this can cause frequent urination as well.
However, if you are eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water, then excessive amounts of sodium should not cause frequent urination by itself.
It’s important to note that not all salt is bad for you. Sodium is an essential nutrient that helps regulate water levels in the body.
But sodium can also be found at high levels in processed foods and restaurant meals. That’s why it’s important to watch your intake of these items.
8. May causes a decrease in brain function
Studies have shown that eating too much salt causes a decrease in brain function by causing swelling in the brain’s blood vessels. This often results in decreased blood flow to certain areas of the brain.
The lack of oxygenation leads to fatigue, confusion, and headaches, all symptoms of low blood pressure or hypovolemia (7).
One study involved 20 healthy adults who were given either a high or low-sodium diet for three days.
They were then asked to perform two tests, one where they had to memorize words and one where they had to remember where things had been hidden in a virtual room.
They found that those who ate too much salt found it harder to remember things and had an impaired ability to retain information for long periods.
The authors of the study concluded that the present results show that short-term high sodium intake can impair working memory performance.
9. Kidney problems
Chronic Kidney Disease is a term used to describe the gradual loss of kidney function over time.
It affects millions of people worldwide and can be caused by many factors including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels.
Eating too much salt can also cause kidney disease, and even lead to kidney failure (8).
The kidneys help remove excess fluid from your body by filtering out waste products like urea and uric acid (9) that are produced when your body breaks down protein in food.
When you consume too much sodium, your kidneys must work harder to get rid of this extra fluid by increasing urine output.
When kidneys fail, they are unable to maintain these functions properly which may lead to serious complications. Some of these include fluid retention, heart failure, high blood pressure, and kidney stones (10) among others.
To reduce the effects of eating too much salt, try drinking more water to wash away the excess salt from your body.
You can also eat more potassium-rich foods such as bananas, oranges, and tomato juice. These foods help prevent the kidneys from retaining sodium and therefore reduce blood pressure.
Also, avoid salty processed foods such as chips, pretzels, and crackers. They are high in sodium but low in nutrients and calories.
If you experience the symptoms of high salt intake, it is important to visit your doctor or go see a nutritionist to know the right amount of sodium you should take daily.
Eating too much salt can cause numerous health issues and problems, such as high cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. However, some people need higher concentrations of sodium due to their jobs or certain conditions they have.