Love Salt? Shake The Habit!
Chips, cheese, fried snacks, processed food…the amount of salt we eat everyday is increasing uncontrollably. And unfortunately, we do not think about how it can affect our health, especially our kidneys. Yes, excess intake of salt can lead to kidney and urinary problems.
Salt contains sodium, which is one of the major electrolytes of the body (the other two being Potassium and Chloride). Sodium helps control the fluid amount in the body’s tissues and cells, regulates blood pressure and volume, plays an important role in muscle movement and transmit nerve impulses. However, your body needs only a very small amount of sodium to maintain these functions. And therefore, if you consume more sodium than what’s required, your body doesn’t take it nicely. Right from kidney stones to increased levels of protein in the urine, the complications caused by excess salt are many.
Causes Kidney Diseases
Your kidneys remove all the unwanted/ excess fluid in the body by filtering your blood through a process called osmosis. This process requires a fine balance of sodium and potassium so that the kidneys can pull water from the blood stream through a wall and filter it. A diet that’s high in salt will alter the sodium balance, causing the kidneys to remove less water, which in turn results in higher blood pressure. This puts immense pressure on the kidneys and lead to early stage kidney diseases.
Worsens Kidney Diseases
Excess sodium can accumulate in the blood if a portion of the kidney’s filter is not working. As sodium has the capacity to hold fluid, the volume of blood increases, making the heart work harder to pump blood through the blood vessels. This leads to increased blood pressure (hypertension), which in turn can leads to permanent kidney damage.
Increases protein in the urine
High salt intake leads to higher amount of protein in the urine, which is a major risk factor for decline in kidney function. This, over a period of time, may lead to serious kidney damage.
Excess salt intake can lead to kidney/ renal stones, as it increases urinary calcium, the main constituent of kidney stones. Worldwide studies show that controlling salt or sodium intake reduces the risk of formation and recurrence of kidney stones. A painful condition, kidney stones can cause several complications, including infection and kidney damage.
Too much salt in the diet can also lead to a condition called overactive bladder – a bladder-storage disorder that causes sudden and uncontrolled urge to urinate.
Excess salt also increases the risk of bladder stones, especially if you don’t drink enough water.
So what do you need to do to keep your kidneys/ urinary system healthy?
- Firstly, cut down on the amount salted food you include in your daily diet.
- Avoid high-salt food like chips, salted snacks, processed food, pickles, processed meat including sausages, sauces/ ketchup, baking soda, ready-to-make soups, noodles etc.
- Don’t add extra salt to the food you eat, remove that saltshaker from your table.
- Drink at least 2 – 2.5 litres of water everyday to flush out the excess salt through urine and prevent stones
Important: If you have any kidney problem, seek advice from your Nephrologist and Renal Dietician as to how much salt and water you are allowed to have.