Salt has been used for centuries as a seasoning to flavor food and preservative to lengthen a food item’s shelf life.
Nearly all unprocessed foods – such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and dairy – are typically low in sodium.
Salt has since been used to enhance cooking and develop new items for the global food industry. Salt is about 60% chloride and about 40% sodium.
When salt is consumed, it helps relax and contract muscles, lends a hand with nerve impulses, and balances the intake of minerals and water.
Salt is now used in almost all forms of food and beverages, processed and unprocessed, leading to various health concerns that may point to the fact that people are eating too much salt.
The human body only needs a small amount of sodium, preferably amounting to about 1,500 milligrams of it every day. However, the average American takes in about 3,400 mg of sodium.
With the wide variety of food now available to us, how do we know if we are already eating too much salt? Here are 9 signs to watch out for:
 Bloating and swelling. One of the most common short-term effects of high salt intake is bloating – when your stomach feels swollen or tight. Eating too much salt affects the kidneys’ function of regulating blood volume and fluids in the body.
Salty food causes blood sodium levels to rise and the kidneys compensate by retaining fluids to balance and normalize levels.
High sodium intake can also lead to puffiness and swelling in the face, hands, feet, and ankles. If the puffiness is unusual, it is best to check the amount of salt you are eating.
 Dehydration. When receptors in the kidneys and the brain sense an increase in blood sodium, this triggers a sensation of thirst. Eating too much salt can make you feel thirsty since your body pulls water from your cells.
This can be remedied by drinking more water to neutralize that salt, lower sodium concentration, and freshen up cells.
 Upset stomach. Dehydration can affect the stomach and cause cramps, nausea, or diarrhea. Again, review what kind of food you have been eating recently and check if you might be eating too much salt. Drinking plenty of water can help rehydrate cells and make you feel better.
 More trips to the bathroom. Since it is necessary to drink more water to alleviate thirst and relieve an upset stomach, then eating too much salt can also lead to frequent trips to the bathroom.
 Weakness. When there’s too much salt in your blood, you might feel weaker than usual since water gushes out of the body’s cells to thin out the salt.
 Lack of sleep. Eating salty food, particularly before going to bed, can also lead to disturbances in your sleep. You may be restless, wake up often, and not feel completely rested in the morning.
 Weight gain. Water retention can also lead to increased weight. If you have gained weight relatively quickly in a week or even a few days, it might be because you are eating too much salt.
 High blood pressure. Too much sodium can be one of many reasons for high blood pressure. This change can happen through the kidneys, since eating too much salt makes it harder for kidneys to get rid of fluids that the body does not need. This can then result in high blood pressure.
 Headaches. Headaches are a common symptom of high blood pressure, and a high-salt diet can make people with normal blood pressure more susceptible to headaches.
It is easy enough to keep salt levels in check after recognizing the signs of high sodium intake. Focus on eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid heavily sauced foods. It is also better to cook your own meals to control exactly how much salt goes into your food.
If you have to eat out, ask that dishes be prepared with less or no salt, or that dressings and sauces be placed on the side. Read labels to check the sodium content of food items.
One should be reminded that food does not have to taste salty to be high in sodium. Food that can be sneaky sources of sodium include sandwiches, pizza, bagels, and canned soup.
Reducing salt intake has been a consistent health message for the past several decades, but it isn’t exactly a diet priority for most unless it affects blood pressure.
But continuing a high-salt diet can be dangerous, since the long-term effects of eating too much salt include enlarged heart muscle, heart failure, kidney disease, kidney stones, osteoporosis, dementia, stomach cancer, and stroke.
So make better food choices and avoid eating too much salt!
Disclaimer: This article is provided solely for informational purposes and should not be considered a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or opinion. It is strongly recommended to consult with qualified professionals for any mental health concerns or issues.