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 256 g. of sodium chloride. Of this the major part just over half, is in the extra-cellular fluid. About 96 g. is in bone and less than 32 g. 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 10 to 15 g. per day for
adults who are engaged in light work and 15 to 20 g. for those engaged in hard work. The
requirements of children are from five to 10 g. and those for adolescent boys and girls from 10 to 25 g.
Both deficiency and excess of salt may produce adverse effects to 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 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.