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How Much Water Does Salt Retain in Your Body?

housecalls-nutrition.jpgby Jonathan Rich, D.O.

Q. How much water does 1 teaspoon of salt make the body retain?
—Susan, Florida

A. If you eat 1 teaspoon of table salt you take in about 2,300 milligrams of sodium. How much water that makes the body retain depends on the person.

Sodium is important. It regulates your body's volume (or water level) by osmosis. When salt enters a vessel or goes through a membrane, water follows.

Your kidneys help get rid of extra salt or water in your urine. The heart is important in this process as well. It provides circulation to the kidneys so they can function properly.


How Cutting Salt Can Lower Blood Pressure in Salt-Sensitive People

Unfortunately, some people have trouble handling sodium. For these so-called salt-sensitive people, sodium can aggravate high blood pressure. When excess salt, and then water, crowd a vessel, they increase the pressure on the vessel walls. Reducing salt intake can significantly bring down blood pressure for these people.

Of those who have high blood pressure, about half are salt-sensitive. Elderly people, African-Americans and diabetics may be more prone to it. The only way to know for sure if you are is to limit salt (with your health-care provider's direction) and see if the blood pressure decreases.

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Sodium and Swelling

Sodium also causes swelling for some. A problem with the heart or kidneys can inhibit your body's ability to expel sodium. It can build up in the tissues, bringing water with it, and cause edema (swelling).

newsletter-graphicOther things can cause bloating, such as hormones. And swelling in your legs could indicate that your heart isn't pumping blood efficiently away from them (because of a weak heart muscle or malfunctioning pacemaker function, for example).

The bottom line for people who are salt-sensitive: Make sure you're under a health-care provider's watch, who will likely tell you to moderate your salt intake.

JONATHAN RICH, D.O., is a board-certified internist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md.


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Last updated and/or approved: June 2012.
Original article appeared in an issue of the former print magazine. Bio current as of that issue. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.

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