4 Ways to Help Flush Out Excess Sodium from Your Body
Most people have a love-hate relationship with salt (aka sodium). It tastes great, and sodium is needed to help our bodies function properly. However, too much sodium over time can lead to serious health concerns such as an increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. If you have or are at risk for one of these conditions, your health care team will likely advise you to limit your sodium intake. But for those times when you've overindulged in salty foods, here are a few ways to flush out excess sodium from your body.
Why Your Body Needs Sodium
Sodium, or salt, is commonly used to add flavor to foods, but it has several other uses that can contribute to your overall health. Sodium is needed for our nerves to work properly and our muscles to properly contract and relax. It's also an essential nutrient for regulating fluid and electrolyte balance in the body.
How Much Sodium Should You Eat?
Sodium is naturally present in certain foods, such as milk, celery and beets. Most of the salt you eat is from store-bought foods and foods prepared at restaurants. Salt is added to foods for flavor and, in some cases, for preservative reasons. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Americans should consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day as part of a healthy diet regimen, but the majority of adults eat more than 3,400 mg of sodium each day. Consuming too much sodium can bring about some serious health concerns, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and more.
How to Feel Better After You Eat Too Many Salty Foods
While eating too much sodium, in the long run, puts your health at risk, you may feel a little bloated after eating salty foods. The four tips below are meant to help you with relieving the bloating symptoms, but if you have or think you have hypernatremia, a condition where your electrolyte levels are imbalanced due to dehydration, taking certain medications or consuming a high sodium diet, leaving your sodium levels abnormally high in the blood, please talk to your primary healthcare provider. Similarly, hyponatremia, or low blood sodium, can occur with too much fluid intake and could be dangerous.
1. Drink More Water
Hydration is extremely important. Consuming sufficient water can help your body remove excess sodium from your body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, daily fluid intake recommendations vary by age, sex, pregnancy and breastfeeding status. In other words, there is no exact recommendation for how much plain water adults and youth should drink daily. Strategies to get plenty of water daily include consuming foods with high water content, drinking beverages like unsweetened tea or seltzer and drinking plain water.
2. Increase Your Potassium Intake
Potassium plays a vital role in maintaining fluid balance. Consuming foods that contain potassium, such as potatoes and avocados, can help control blood pressure by reducing the effects of sodium and helping to remove it from the body. The American Heart Association recommends that most women get 2,600 milligrams of potassium a day and men 3,400 milligrams a day, but most adults do not eat enough daily.
There can be too much of a good thing, though. As you age, your body has a harder time removing potassium from your blood. It's also a mineral to keep an eye on for people with kidney disease. Try to get your potassium from food sources rather than supplements, and talk to a doctor if you have questions.
3. Get Moving
Increasing your physical activity is a great way to help your body get rid of any excess sodium. Exercising causes your body to shed a combination of water and salt. Because of this natural process, it's important to maintain good hydration when working out regularly, including drinking water during your workout when needed.
However, you can drink too much water during exercise. Hyponatremia is rare, but it is something that marathoners and athletes should be aware of. Hyponatremia means your blood sodium is too low—this can occur if you drink too much water. If you're exercising for a long time, especially in hot conditions where you may sweat more, be sure to consume some salt and drink water to quench your thirst, but don't overdo it.
4. Put Down the Saltshaker
When preparing or eating foods, try to resist the urge to add additional salt. You can reduce your sodium intake by limiting your consumption of processed and packaged foods and choosing lower-sodium versions of your favorite foods whenever possible.
Cooking more at home also gives you more control over how much salt to add to your foods. You can also use herbs and spices to add extra flavor without increasing sodium. Browse our collection of healthy low-sodium recipes for meal inspirations.
Related: 9 Easy Ways to Cut Back on Sodium
The Bottom Line
Sodium is essential for many body functions, but too much of it can be problematic and cause serious health concerns. If you're feeling bloated, puffy or like you've eaten too much salt, try increasing your water intake, adding more potassium to your daily diet, increasing physical activity and reducing added salt.