There's no way around it: salt is, well, delicious. Sprinkled on top of popcorn, sticking to steaming-hot, crispy french fries, adding a dynamic flavor to salmon, steak, or other meats, there are many uses for this essential spice. But with anything yummy and thus, potentially addicting, consuming too much salt can lead to problematic health issues. Some of these are incredibly serious, like heart disease, premature death, and stomach cancer. However, one significant short-term side effect worth noting if you're eating too much salt, mainly as we head into summer, is hydration.
Think about how you feel after you eat a serving of chips or another super-salty meal or snack. Your mouth and throat feel dry, your skin feels itchy, and you may even experience a crash in energy. This is because salt makes us dehydrated, even though most of our sweat is, well, salt. So when we eat salty foods while also being under the sunshine, our thirst becomes even more intense. When this happens, we may go overboard with water, resulting in way too many trips to the bathroom. (Related: 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked by How Toxic They Are)
However, if we don't fulfill our body's craving for water, it can have a dangerous impact on our system, resulting in a condition called hypernatremia. This is when we have abnormal salt levels that are well above what's considered healthy and safe. As a way to recover and dilute the sodium, our body may release water out of our cells into our bloodstream. If this goes on for far too long, it can cause seizures, a coma, or in the worst-case scenario, death.
So how can we keep ourselves protected? By matching our sodium intake with adequate water consumption. Rather than having a sweet beverage with your salty craving, make sure you down plenty of water to make up for the dehydration. If you're feeling particularly dehydrated, you can also add electrolytes as recommended by your doctor.
Bottom line? A little bit of salt makes a meal balanced and satisfying. But too much of a good thing can pour salt on your wounds, and it's better to resist the temptation to indulge.