So you've overdone it with salty pretzels and feel the bloat coming on. No need to panic. Although you can gain about two pounds in water weight from an extra gram of table salt, the effect is temporary. The real danger lies in chronic high sodium intake, which raises blood pressure and may contribute to heart disease. While quick fixes may help with water retention in the short term, it's also important to limit daily sodium consumption as part of your healthy diet.
Water just may be the answer to your high-sodium dilemma. Drinking fluid flushes out excess sodium and helps relieve any bloating, according to Dr. Jack D. Osman of Towson University. Your body works to maintain a very specific sodium-fluid balance that’s about as salty as sea water. If you eat extra salt, your body retains extra water to keep sodium levels from going too high. Drinking water dilutes sodium levels so your body no longer needs to hold on to extra fluid. Women should drink about 2.2 liters, or 9 cups, of water or other fluids every day, according to MayoClinic.com.
Get moving to shed the salt. Exercising causes you to perspire, excreting water and sodium. The amount of sweat you produce depends on exercise intensity, environment and number of sweat glands, but you may shed between 500 milliliters and 2 liters of fluid per hour during intense aerobic activities such as marathon running. For each liter of sweat, you expel between 460 and 1,840 milligrams of salt. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to rehydrate. And don't go crazy with a tough workout if you aren't already in good shape -- overexercise can lead to injury.
Potassium helps oust extra sodium by maintaining fluid balance; the mineral causes you to flush out excess water and sodium along with it. Skip potassium supplements, which may cause dangerous side effects, and instead turn to potassium-rich fare. Rich potassium sources include canned tomato paste at 664 milligrams per quarter cup, canned white beans at 1,189 per cup and baked potatoes at 1,081 milligrams of potassium per medium potato, including the skin. Opt for low-sodium versions -- tomato paste and canned beans are often packed with salt. You need about 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day, which most Americans fail to get.
So how much sodium is too much, anyway? The average adult needs a maximum of 2,300 mg per day, the equivalent of a teaspoon of salt. If you have high blood pressure, you should get no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily. If you have liver or kidney disease, you need even less. Most Americans get more than the recommended maximum, and there is no established lower limit. However, sodium is not all evil -- your body uses it to regulate fluids and maintain muscle and nerve function.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Roundtable on Hydration and Physical Activity: Consensus Statements
- MayoClinic.com: Water: How Much Should you Drink Every Day?
- Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center: Chow Line - Be Sure to Get Enough Potassium
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 16
- MedlinePlus: Sodium in Diet
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nutrient Data for 11546, Tomato Products, Canned, Paste, Without Salt Added
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.