Can salt cause heartburn?

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Heartburn is a burning or pressure sensation in the upper chest and mid-chest. This condition is characterized by a sour taste of acid in the back of the throat. Acid reflux occurs mainly after having meals and it worsens when you lay down.

Salt, which is composed of sodium chloride, is essential to our bodies and thus crucial in our diet. However, when consumed in large amounts, it’s detrimental to our health. Large amounts of salt can lead to acid reflux and heartburn.

Why do we need salt?

Salt in a sppon

Salt is the biggest source of sodium in our bodies and this mineral plays several important roles in our body functioning properly.

Reasons why you need salt:

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.

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?

Pretzeks with salt
Many foods contain a high amount of salt

As mentioned above, some amount of salt is essential, however, too much salt can cause serious health problems.

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.

The official recommendation of the WHO is 2 grams of potassium per day (5 grams of salt). The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2.3 grams per day, and 1.5 grams is the ideal amount.

Exceeding 2.3 grams of sodium per day can adversely affect your blood pressure and heart health.

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.


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.

Can salty food cause heartburn?

Each case of heartburn is different and you need to experiment with your diet to establish the cause, which sometimes is the salt. Acid reflux is a major health concern and can cause severe damage when not controlled.

Consuming table salt and salty foods increase acid reflux which is a risk factor for heartburn. 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.

Is it really the salt that causes heartburn?

What makes it hard to boil down the cause of heartburn to salt is that we tend to put too much salt into foods that are prone to cause heartburn anyways.

Foods like pizza, red meat, fast foods, fatty foods can contain too much salt, but these foods are hard to digest and are common trigger foods for acid reflux and heartburn.

Final thoughts

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 the 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 salt.