A certain amount of sodium is required for good health. Unfortunately, many processed and fast foods contain unusually high amounts of sodium, which can have a detrimental effect on numerous organs, particularly the kidneys. How much sodium is recommended, and what levels are desirable for optimum kidney function? Read on to find out the answers to these and other questions.

Recommended Amounts

The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises adults without high blood pressure or kidney disease to consume around 2,300 mg of salt per day. That amount decreases to approximately 1,500 mg daily for those who do have hypertension or kidney problems. Keeping within these amounts is required in order to maintain sodium levels in the blood at between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per liter, the amount recommended by the National Kidney Foundation.

Hypernatremia: High Sodium Levels

Higher than normal sodium levels can lead to what is known as hypernatremia, a condition associated with dehydration. It often occurs whenever people do not consume enough fluids, and there is not enough water to dilute the amount of sodium contained in the blood. Those with a condition such as diabetes mellitus may also urinate more frequently than others, making them highly susceptible to hypernatremia.

While occasional hypernatremia can be remedied by increasing fluid intake, repeated, long-term instances can produce devastating health effects. Too much salt in the bloodstream reduces kidney function, placing them under additional strain that can lead to permanent damage. High sodium levels have also been associated with increased protein levels in the urine, something that is a known risk factor for declined kidney function.

Hyponatremia: Low Sodium Levels

When sodium levels drop below the recommended amounts, it can result in a condition known as hyponatremia. As with too much sodium, hyponatremia can cause extra water to enter your cells, resulting in swelling that can lead to low blood pressure, headaches, and a lack of energy. In severe cases, it may even result in death if swelling occurs in the brain.

Low blood pressure can cause renal problems by reducing the amount of blood flow to the kidneys. Patients with kidney disease should maintain their systolic blood pressure at between 130 and 159, while the ideal diastolic blood pressure ranges from 70 to 89.  Numbers lower than that could result in fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath, in addition to decreased kidney function.

Watch for Hidden Sources of Salt

To carefully monitor your sodium intake, you must be aware of hidden sources. For example, many foods contain sodium chloride, which is actually another name for salt. Other ingredients that may contain sodium include:

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Rock salt
  • Fleur de sel
  • Disodium inosinate (IMP)
  • Disodium guanylate (GMP)
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Trisodium phosphate

Many people have no idea whether their blood sodium levels are within normal range. For these individuals, we recommend a baseline blood test followed by a strict monitoring of the diet to ensure levels remain constant. For more information or to schedule testing, please contact us.