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IPFS News Link • Health and Physical Fitness

A Low Sodium Diet May Be Stressing You Out

•, by Jennifer Sweenie

While we are well aware of the purported dangers associated with a high-sodium diet, many of us are not aware that too little sodium comes with its own set of issues. When it comes to stress, salt plays an important role in helping flush cortisol from the body.

A study published in Clinical Endocrinology in 2020 showed that an increase in salt consumption leads to a rise in cortisol levels in your urine and lower cortisol levels in your bloodstream. What does this potentially mean? Restricting your sodium intake may lead to higher levels of circulating cortisol.

Salt is often vilified, and many physicians instruct their patients to adopt a low-sodium diet for health reasons. However, not consuming enough of it may interfere with the removal of cortisol from our bloodstream. Sodium helps flush the stress hormone from the body, and avoiding it may ultimately lead to chronically elevated blood cortisol levels. If left untreated, high cortisol levels can lead to a variety of bothersome symptoms and potentially serious complications. Most people are experiencing some symptoms of elevated or dysregulated cortisol from life stressors, and abstaining from salt may be exacerbating the situation.

What Is Cortisol?

Cortisol is an essential steroid hormone the adrenal gland produces in response to stress. It is often referred to as the stress hormone because the body releases it in higher amounts during the fight-or-flight response to a stressor. Cortisol helps release stored glucose from our cells so we have the energy to run away from a perceived threat.

The stress hormone has many vital functions, including regulating blood sugar levels, managing metabolism, controlling inflammation, and assisting with your sleep and wake cycle. It is an important hormone, however, high cortisol levels over a prolonged period of time can negatively affect health—including weight gain, high blood pressure, and weakened immune function.