Today's Health Tip

In Praise of Salt
You are surely worth your salt. Salt is the essential source of the mineral sodium. Sodium chloride, the chemical name for common salt, contains 39 per cent of sodium, an element which never occurs in free form in nature. It is found in an associated form with many minerals especially in plentiful amounts with chlorine.

The body of a healthy person weighing about 65 kg contains 256g of sodium chloride. Of this the major part, just over half, is in the extra-cellular fluid. About 96g is in bone and less than 32g in the cells.

Sodium is the most abundant: chemical in the extra-cellular fluid of the body. It acts with other electrolytes, especially potassium, in the intracellular fluid, to regulate the osmotic pressure and maintain a proper water balance within the body. It is a major factor in maintaining acid- base equilibrium, in transmitting nerve impulses, and in relaxing muscles. It is also required for glucose absorption and for the transport of other nutrients across cell membranes. Sodium can help prevent catarrh. It promotes a clear brain, resulting in a better disposition and less mental fatigue. Because of its influence on calcium, sodium can also help dissolve any stones forming within the body. It is also essential for the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and plays a part in many other glandular secretions.

There is some natural salt in every food we eat. Vegetable foods rich in sodium are celery, cucumbers, watermelon, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, beet-tops, cabbage, lettuce, corn, lady\'s fingers, apple, berries, pears, squash, pumpkin, peaches, lentils, almonds and walnuts. Animal food sources include shell fish, lean beef, kidney, bacon and cheese. The sodium chloride requirements for persons living in the tropics have been estimated at 10g to 15g per day for adults who are engaged in light work and 15g to 20g for those engaged in hard work. The requirements of children are from five to 10g and those for adolescent boys and girls from 10g to 25g.

Both deficiency and excess of salt may produce adverse effects o the human body. Deficiencies of sodium are, however, rare and may be caused by excessive sweating, prolonged use of diuretics, or chronic diarrhoea. Deficiency may lead to nausea, muscular weakness, heat exhaustion, mental apathy and respiratory failure. Over-supply of sodium is a more common problem because of overuse of dietary sodium chloride or common salt. Too much sodium may lead to water retention, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, stomach cancer, hardening of arteries and heart disease.

In case of mild deficiency of sodium chloride, taking a teaspoon of common salt in one half litre of water or any fruit juice quickly restores the health. In severe conditions, however, administration of sodium chloride in the form of normal saline by intravenous drip may be  restored to. The adverse effects of excessive use of sodium chloride can be rectified by avoiding the use of common salt.

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