What Is Sodium?

What is sodium? Learn more about sodium and its essential function in the human body.

Sodium comes in many forms. It is know by the following names, sodium phosphate, sodium acetate, sodium bicarbonate and sodium chloride. The dietary requirement of sodium is typically exceeded in most American diets, and a main dietary source is common table salt.

Other dietary sources for sodium are processed foods such as meat and cheese, most prepackaged dinners and smoke, pickled or cured meats of all kinds. Sodium is present in abundance in bread products, cheese products, potato chip and other snack foods like pretzels. Sodium as a dietary source is present in almost all foods as a natural ingredient, and is added to many others as an additional flavoring. Olives are also an excellent source of sodium.

In the human body, sodium works in conjunction with potassium to balance the body's water. It also is integral to the conduction of nerve impulses and the contraction of muscles. Without adeqaute levels of sodium, normal heart rhythm cannot be maintained.

Even though it is so important to proper functioning of the human organism, sodium deficiency does occur, but is very rare. Severe sodium deficiency occurs in individuals who have general ill health with conditions that contribute to a loss of sodium from the body. Symptoms which produce deficiency may include excessive perspiration, vomiting or prolonged diarrhea. Sodium deficiency may also cause cramping of the muscles and dizziness. It can also make a person faint and suffer palpitations of the heart.

Recommended intakes of sodium vary, and can usually be easily obtained in dietary sources, but the common agreement among professionals seems to be between 1 to 3 grams daily which many adults easily exceed. Of course, before starting any form of supplementation you should consult your health care practitioner.

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