Hyponatremia is a term unfamiliar to most people. It is caused from a deficiency of sodium in the blood steam. This condition is more common than you would think. We hear constantly that we must lower our sodium, but often, the reverse is true. There are many situations, diseases, and drugs which cause insufficient sodium levels.
Why Is Sodium Balance Important?
Sufficient sodium is extremely important. Without sodium in your bloodstream, you cannot live. Its main purpose is to regulate the fluid around your cells. Without sodium, your cells would swell and you would eventually die. The main problem is that there is so much on the news about lowering your sodium levels, that most people do not realize that the opposite might be a problem.
Who Is At Risk?
Construction, Roofing, and Agriculture workers: People who work hard in the heat may take time to drink water but may not realize the severe sodium loss. In El Centro, where it is normally 115 degrees in the summer, there are many construction workers who end up in the emergency rooms every year.
Experienced Hikers, Joggers, and Runners: When you perform extreme exercise, exercise in the heat, or work in the heat, your body loses water but also sodium as you sweat. As you drink the water, you are diluting the sodium in your blood steam. If you only replace the water and not the sodium, you will eventually become sodium insufficient. You can get very sick or in the extreme, insufficient sodium can be fatal.
Tourists and Inexperienced Hikers: Most of the national parks now post signs to warn hikers of the danger. It is more often a problem with tourists and occasional hikers than more experienced exercise enthusiasts.
Certain Medical Conditions: Hypoatremia is a frequent problem in elderly patients. Diseases such as liver failure, renal failure, congestive heart failure, and pneumonia can all cause the condition. That is why when an elderly person collapses, one of the tests taken is a sodium level test. Other diseases that can cause Hyponatremia are hypothyroidism, adrenal insufficiency, severe malnutrition, eating disorders, HIV patients, patients following surgery, diarrhea from any cause, pregnancy, and many others.
Certain Medications: MAO (antidepressants); NSAIDs such as aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Tylenol that upset kidney function; and diuretic prescription drugs; There are many other kinds of drugs that can upset your sodium balance as well. You need to ask your doctor when you take a prescription if it will impact your sodium blood level. If he does not know, ask your pharmacist or research it yourself on line.
Foods: Coffee and beer in excess because they both act as diuretics.
Symptoms: The confusion by hikers is because the symptoms of Hypoatremia mimic dehydration. Symptoms including nausea, muscle cramps, disorientation, slurred speech, confusion, and in severe stages, seizures, coma, and death. If you certain you are drinking enough water, then Hypoatremia may be the cause of your symptoms.
Prevention: Hikers and runners should add a small amount of table salt to their water or take some salty food in their back pack. Raw foods such as celery are naturally high in sodium. Make sure you educate yourself about your medical condition and the effects of the prescription drugs you may be taking. These are all factors that could put you at risk.