Sodium is essential electrolyte in the body. It is a mineral that helps the body regulate fluid balance. Under certain conditions, excess sodium can cause the body to retain too much fluid. This could be harmful for people with conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease or cirrhosis. These conditions are often managed by reducing sodium in the diet. For many patients, restricting the total amount of sodium to 2 grams a day is enough to reduce harmful fluid retention.
Common items that contain salt:
- Table salt: This is a large source of sodium in the everyday diet. It is used in the kitchen in food preparation and added at the table. It is also added to many commercially canned and frozen foods.
- Sodium in a natural foods: Sodium occurs naturally in many foods, and some foods contain more sodium than others.
On food labels, the sodium content of foods is usually listed in milligrams (mg) per serving. One gram = 1000 mg.
- Sodium in proceesed foods: Salt is often added to commercially processed foods. Some of those more commonly used are baking soda, brine, monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking powder, disodium phosphate, or sodium benzoate. Read food labels on all items before purchasing or using.
- Common medications:Antacids, laxatives, and cough remedies often contain sodium compounds.
- Fast food restaurants:Avoid them because the foods they serve tend to be very high in sodium. When dining in other restaurants, ask that no salt be used in the preparation of your meal.
- Salt substitutes: Never use these unless the physician has approved it. They may replace the sodium with another mineral that could also be harmful to certain patients. Herbs and spices may be used in place of salt to add flavor and variety to meals.
- Water softeners: They exchange the calcium in hard water with sodium from a salt brine. Avoid drinking home or commercially softened water. When purchasing bottled water, check the label to be sure it contains no sodium. Do not use softened water to prepare foods or beverages.