Even though our bodies need a small amount of salt, too much of it can trigger heartburn and other symptoms.
Why do we need salt?
Salt is the biggest source of sodium in our bodies and this mineral plays several important roles in our body functioning properly:
- Keeps the body hydrated: Salt promotes healthy hydration and electrolyte balance which is crucial to the proper functioning of organs. Salt helps maintain the right amount of fluid in muscles, cells, and tissues as these body parts require water to stay healthy.
- Prevents low blood pressure: A low amount of sodium in the diet can lead to low blood pressure, while too much salt can cause high blood pressure.
- Helps thyroid function properly: The mineral iodine, which is present in iodized salt, helps the thyroid function properly. The thyroid is crucial in metabolism.
- Improves symptoms of cystic fibrosis: Cystic fibrosis patients lose more salt through sweat than an average person. Therefore, they need more salt in their diet to stay hydrated.
How much salt do we need per day?
Excess sodium has been associated with high blood pressure. Since salt is the main source of sodium in our bodies, taking it in large amounts puts you at risk.
For decades, health organizations have urged people to regulate salt intake to control blood pressure.
It is very easy to consume too much salt, actually, most people do eat too much salt. Most processed foods have quite a high salt content. According to the University of Utah, these are the 6 most salty foods:
Signs of eating too much salt
Too much salt consumption can have several warning signs:
- Swelling in strange places: Too much sodium in the body causes swelling. Swelling in strange places such as feet, hands, and face may be a sign you’re consuming too much salt.
- Bloating: Too much sodium can cause your body to retain water making your stomach feel tight or swollen.
- High blood pressure: There are several causes of high blood pressure and taking too much salt is one of them. Too much salt reduces the kidney’s ability to get rid of excess fluid from the body, leading to high blood pressure.
- Frequent urination: This is a classic sign that you’re consuming too much salt.
Does salt cause heartburn?
Although it is still debated, and more research is needed, looks like salt can give you heartburn if you are prone to acid reflux. Many people find that salt is a heartburn trigger for them.
Salty foods can increase the risk of acid reflux, of which heartburn is the most common symptom.
This study found a positive association between salt intake and reflux symptoms.
However, for a healthy individual, it’s rare for salt to trigger heartburn. But, if you have been suffering from heartburn, you should limit salt intake and see if the condition improves.
Does salt make heartburn worse?
Salt might aggravate heartburn if you are prone to acid reflux.
The LES (lower esophageal sphincter) is the muscle between the stomach and the food pipe. It prevents digestive juices from seeping up into the esophagus. However, when this muscle is relaxed, stomach acids can flow back (reflux) into the esophagus and irritate its lining, causing heartburn.
It is quite possible that salt doesn’t decrease the LES pressure enough to trigger heartburn in healthy people. However, those who have a weak LES (and therefore often experience acid reflux) might have symptoms more often.
Can too much salt cause chest pain?
Chest pain after salty food is often – but not always – caused by acid reflux.
These are the most common causes of chest pain after eating salt:
- heartburn and acid reflux
- high blood pressure
- heart issues
High blood pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension usually causes no symptoms (therefore it is also called the “silent killer”), however, if it does, chest pain is a typical symptom.
After eating too much salt, the sodium levels in the blood can get very high. This pulls in extra water to the blood vessels, thus increasing blood pressure.
- shortness of breath
- blurred vision
- irregular heartbeat
These symptoms usually indicate that the blood pressure is very high and you might need immediate medical help!
In the long run, high blood pressure can lead to heart problems.
Long–term consumption of too much salt increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.
This is because high blood pressure makes the heart work hard, which damages the blood vessels. The vessels get weaker and narrower, causing heart problems. The risk of damaging other organs – like the brain or kidneys – also increases.
Sharp chest pain on the left side is the typical symptom of heart problems. The pain might radiate into the left shoulder, arm, neck, or jaw. It’s good to be aware of the other typical heart attack symptoms, as this condition requires immediate medical help!
As you’ve seen above, salt can make your chest hurt in several ways. However, it is hard to boil down the cause of heartburn or heart issues to salt, because we tend to put too much salt into foods that are prone to cause eating-related problems anyways.
- red meat
- fast foods
- fatty foods
- fried foods
can contain too much salt, but these foods are hard to digest and are common trigger foods for acid reflux, heartburn, and heart problems.
Sodium – in the appropriate amount – is an essential nutrient in our bodies. Both too little and too much sodium can cause health issues.
Since almost everybody in developed countries consumes too much salt and many people have acid reflux or GERD, it’s natural to wonder If there is a connection between the two.
While some studies found a correlation between salt consumption and acid reflux, it’s important to know that correlation is not causation.
The effects of salt consumption on heartburn aren’t well known and more studies are being conducted.
However, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at your salt consumption and try to limit your daily intake if it’s too high. If not acid reflux, cardiovascular problems might develop in the long term from too much sodium.
Frequently asked questions
Salt might make you very thirsty, which might be felt like a sore throat.
The other possible reason is silent reflux. This condition is similar to acid reflux, but in this case stomach acids travel all the way up to the throat and cause irritation there.
There are several ways to reduce salt in your diet, but the single best one is probably to cook your own food.
Since most processed foods are very high in salt, cooking your own meal might significantly reduce the amount of salt you eat.
Too much sodium might make you dehydrated, resulting not only in thirst but nausea, diarrhea, or stomach cramps.