Sodium is most vital electrolyte in our body along with magnesium, chloride and potassium. It acts as neurotransmitters and transports signals from brain to different parts of the body. Sodium affects the water retention capacity in human body. Sodium deficiency can cause several health conditions that may be fatal in long term deficiency. 

What is Sodium Deficiency?

Sodium deficiency is the health condition caused by long-term inadequacy of sodium in human body. It may be caused by inadequate intake of sodium rich diet or presence of pre-existing health issues like GI disorders, renal failure, CVD, cirrhosis and use of diuretics (1).

Functions of Sodium

Sodium play very important role in maintaining fluid balance and blood pressure. It also acts as important electrolyte and responsible for transmitting signals from brain to different part of the body.

Causes of Sodium Deficiency

The condition of hyponatremia can be developed due to various factors. Some of the major cause have been illustrated below:

  • Inadequate Diet: The most common cause of sodium deficiency across the globe is our eating habits. We often consume foods which are poor in nutrients such as sodium.
  • Unavailability of Nutritious Food: Soil composition varies from place to place. Sodium deficient soil can’t produce sodium rich grains, fruit and vegetables.
  • GI Disorders: Malabsorption of sodium due to several underlying health condition affects the overall sodium balance in body. The gastrointestinal disorders affect the ability of internal organs to absorb essential nutrients. 
  • Renal Failure: Kidneys are responsible for removing unwanted substances from our body. Improper renal may result in removal of essential minerals from our body. Deficiency of sodium may affect cell structure and composition (1).
  • Alcoholism: It affects the discharge capacity of the body. Excessive discharge may lead to salt deficiency in your body. In case of chronic alcoholism individual will always be deficient in salt due to excessive discharge. 

Symptoms of Sodium Deficiency 

The common symptoms of sodium deficiency include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting,
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Water Retention in Body
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Muscle Cramps and spasm
  • General Weakness 

The symptoms of severe sodium deficiency:

  • Cell Swelling
  • Brain Swelling
  • Seizures

Health Risks due to Hypomagnesemia

  • Cardiovascular diseases: Hyponatremia affects the muscle tissues and it also weakens it. Weakened heart tissues may result in premature heart diseases and even failure in extreme cases.  
  • Muscle Weakening: Low sodium level affects the cell which forms our muscle tissues. It causes swelling of whole body and minimises the strength with time. It causes frequent muscle cramps and spasm than normal and affects the overall strength of the body.
  • Brain Dysfunction: Sodium deficiency causes several brain dysfunctions. It occurs due to swelling of brain tissue and affects different parts of the body corresponding to the affected brain areas.
  • Osmotic Demyelination: Osmotic demyelination is severe case of brain dysfunction and is caused by prolonged disruption of oxygen supply to the brain. It results in coma that can last for very long duration.
  • Seizures: Seizures are sudden electrical impulse in the brain, it affects movement, feelings, and the level of consciousness. It is caused by the presence of low amount of electrolyte in our system.

Some other health risk associated with sodium deficiencies are hormonal imbalance, sleeping disorders, anxiety, depression, and prenatal complications.

Tests for Sodium Deficiency

Sodium is very abundant in our body. However, most of the content are found in cells and bone and very small quantity of sodium is present in the blood. Electrolyte blood test is used to do sodium profiling in our body.

  • Sodium Blood Test: There is no nay specific test for sodium in our system. Blood test which used to determine the electrolyte balance in our body can be used as initial test. Further it can be analysed by urine test and imaging. 
  • Imaging: Severe sodium deficiency can lead to several changes in brain which can only be identified with the available imaging techniques like CT scan and MRI. For better resolution people should prefer contrast imaging.

If you have health conditions which may cause deficiency, doctors me advise for electrolyte, urine and imaging in extreme cases. 

Remedies of Sodium Deficiency 

  • Sodium Supplements: If you are diagnosed with severe sodium deficiency, you should consider medical supplements under supervision of doctors. As higher sodium may lead to deadly health condition.
  • Sodium Rich Diet: Sodium rich food items will help in minimising the sodium deficiency. Some of the sodium rich food items are salt, canned and processed food, sunflower seed, clams, seafood.
  • Fortified Food Items: Several agricultural lands across the globe are poor in micronutrients which will serve nutrient deficient food produces. Fortified seeds will help in providing nutrient rich agriculture produce.
  • Vasopressin: It is also known as antidiuretic hormone which regulates the amount of water in the body and controls the excretion of excess water through controlling the renal function

Prevention of Sodium Deficiency

It is often said that “Prevention is better than Cure” and indeed this is very much true with reference to micronutrient deficiencies. Sodium deficiency can be prevented through consumption of sodium rich diet.

Food items rich in sodium:

  • Seafood
  • Shrimp
  • Salt
  • Canned and processed food
  • Sunflower seed
  • Clams 
  • Black beans
  • Salted Meat 
  • Smoked Fish
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Pickles
  • Sauces

Adequate Intake (>19 yrs.):

Simple way to prevent sodium deficiencies is to maintain recommended daily intakes. The recommended daily intake of sodium for an adult is 2300 mg.

Sodium is very important minerals which is necessary for maintaining muscle and brain health. Hyponatremia have several ill effects like coma and brain dysfunction which makes it the most important electrolyte in our system.

Although sodium deficiency has several ill effects, it can be reverted with the right consultation and medical supplements as prescribed by doctors. The best possible way to avoid these complications by consuming adequate amount of sodium as per RDA through various sodium rich diet.