Does Sodium Matter For Kids?
Posted on January 23 2022,
Minerals are essential elements found in food, and the human body needs them for proper growth and development. Sodium is present in more than eight forms, and most can be found in the body’s lymph fluid and blood. Sodium is both a mineral and an electrolyte. It helps balance the amount of water inside and outside of the body’s cell, also working to maintain the electrolyte balance of the human body. Several studies have revealed that sodium is required to maintain the functioning of muscles and nerves. (1)
What does sodium do? In addition to balancing water and electrolytes in the body, sodium is important for keeping the human blood pressure within normal ranges because a small decline in sodium can lower the blood pressure. However, too much sodium enhances the risk of hypertension that leads to heart problems. In regards to uses for sodium, it is used to treat several ailments in humans. One form of use is sodium chloride, also known as saline, to treat mouth sores, dye eye syndrome, conjunctiva (‘pink eye’), and sore throat. Additionally, sodium is used to treat or prevent the loss of sodium caused by excessive sweating and dehydration.
It is important to monitor sodium intake in children. This mineral is majorly found in vegetables, eggs, and as a main component of table salt. In some cases, such as excessive sweating, sunstroke and kidney problems, it is important to supplement your diet with sodium. This mineral does not cause any toxicity in the human body because it is regularly excreted through urine. Unlike other minerals and vitamins, sodium is not sensitive to heat, which means that cooking does not destroy the sodium of food items. (1)(2)
How Does Sodium Function in Your Child’s Body?
Sodium is an essential mineral in supporting your child’s health and is required in small amounts. It helps your child’s body balance fluids. It also supports the proper transmission of nerve impulses, essential for brain health. Health experts claim that the human body can naturally balance sodium through the kidneys. Therefore, when sodium levels in the body are high, the kidneys remove any excess through urine. When sodium levels are low, the kidneys essentially increase their uptake of sodium to maintain balance. If the kidneys fail to remove extra sodium from the body, then there is an increase in blood volume and blood pressure rises in the arteries. In children, high blood pressure enhances the risk of heart failure and kidney diseases later on. (3)
How is sodium absorbed in the body? Sodium is absorbed from the intestinal lumen through several methods, mostly by the exchange of protons and by co-transport with amino acids and glucose. Almost 90% of sodium absorption is done by passive transport. A study has revealed that sodium absorbs best when it is consumed with water. Providing your child with more fibrous foods will help them absorb more water. (2)
Why Do Children Need Sodium?
Sodium is an important mineral and electrolyte that performs several functions in your child’s body. Generally, this mineral is present in very small amounts in natural foods. When you add this mineral in the form of salt to your child’s diet, it not only enhances the flavor but also fulfills their requirements for sodium in a nutritious diet. Some health benefits of sodium include: (4)
- Regulates body’s fluid levels
- Supports brain functions
- Prevents sunstroke
- Prevents muscle cramps
- Controls the absorption of glucose
- Improves skin health
Regulates body’s fluid levels: Sodium is one of the most important minerals for regulating fluid levels in the human body. Several studies have depicted that water balance and sodium are closely associated with each other. Sodium channels and gateways pump water into the body’s cells and also regulate extracellular body fluids. (5)
Supports brain functions: Your child’s brain is very sensitive to change in sodium levels. A study has concluded that a lack of adequate sodium intake can make your child confused and lethargic. This mineral is mandatory to support brain functions because it is responsible for proper nerve conduction in children. (4)
Prevents sunstroke: Sunstroke occurs when your child's heat regulation system fails when exposed to very high temperatures. The extreme temperature disturbs the body’s capacity to maintain temperature within normal ranges. This condition becomes severe due to the loss of water and salts from the body. Thus, sodium replaces the loss of important electrolytes and prevents heat exhaustion in children. In addition to water during days of extreme heat, try giving your child drinks containing sugar and salt to prevent heat stroke. You can also mix salt with fruit juices. (4)
Prevents muscle cramps: If your child often complains about muscle cramps, then they might be suffering from electrolyte imbalance. Research has shown that dehydration and low electrolyte levels can cause muscle cramps in children. Along with proper hydration, it is important to also supplement your kid's drinks with sodium to maintain electrolyte levels in the body. (6)
Controls the absorption of glucose: Research has revealed that sodium ensures the proper absorption of glucose in the body’s cells. The active transport of glucose inside cells depends on the number of sodium ions present on the cell membrane. Therefore, sodium is also important for smooth transport of nutrients in your child’s body. (7)
Improves skin health: Sodium is a hydrophilic mineral, which means that it mixes easily with water. When sodium is applied to the skin, it attacks water and moisturizes the skin cells. Scientific studies have revealed that sodium is effective for reducing skin dryness and flakiness in children. Furthermore, it absorbs grime, dirt, and toxins from the skin and deeply cleanses pores. Sodium assists in restoring the protective barrier of your skin which helps it hold moisture. (8)
What Is Sodium Deficiency?
Low sodium levels in the blood is known as hyponatremia. This condition occurs when sodium and water are out of balance. Put more simply, it happens when there is either not enough sodium or too much water in the blood. Several studies have revealed that sodium levels in the body must be between 135 and 145 mEq/L. Hyponatremia happens when the sodium level becomes lower than 135 mEq/L. (9)
Some common reasons for deficiency (hyponatremia) include:
- Excessive use of water pills (diuretics)
- Heart diseases such as congestive heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Liver diseases
- Abnormal use of antidepressants
- Cushing syndrome (a disease caused by an abnormally high level of cortisol)
- Hypothyroidism (low production of thyroid hormone)
- Polydipsia (excessive thirst)
Signs That Your Child Lacks Sodium
Signs of sodium deficiency can vary from person to person. For example, if the body’s sodium level falls slowly then your child may not complain about any signs or symptoms at first. On the other hand, if sodium levels drop quickly, the symptoms can be severe. The common signs and symptoms of sodium deficiency in children include:
- Muscle cramps
- Poor heart health
Muscle cramps: If your children often complain about muscle aches and weakness, then they might be deficient in essential minerals, like sodium, that are required for the proper functioning of their muscles. A study has depicted that dehydration and lack of sodium increase the space between muscle cells. As a result, this condition enhances pressure on the nerves, which leads to physical pain. (10)
Headache: Sodium is an essential electrolyte that conducts nerve impulses in the human body. Research has shown that low sodium levels increase water in the body which results in swelling. This type of swelling is dangerous for the brain cells of your kid because it can cause several neurological issues such as irritability, seizure, coma, confusion, and headaches. (10)
Weakness: Weakness and fatigue are the most common symptoms of sodium deficiency in your child. Scientific studies have shown that sodium-potassium pumps play an important role in fueling the last phase of metabolism in the body’s cells. It generates energy in the form of ATP, which is the primary energy carrier of your child’s body. (11)
Poor heart health: Sodium plays a fundamental role in maintaining heart health. The research has revealed that children who consume sodium less than 3000 mg per day are at great risk for developing heart problems, including stroke and heart attacks at their later age. However, too much sodium is also dangerous for your child’s health. It’s important to monitor your child’s diet for adequate levels of nutrients in order to prevent health complications. (11)
How Much Sodium Does Your Kid Need per Day?
Dosing recommendations for sodium are given in the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) developed by Food and Nutrition Board (FNB). DRI is the optimal amount of nutrients, which a person needs per day. (12)
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for sodium in children and adolescents is provided in milligrams (mg) below: (12)
|Age||Recommended daily amount in milligrams (mg)|
|0-6 months||110 mg|
|7-12 months||370 mg|
|1-3 years||1500 mg|
|4-8 years||1900 mg|
|9-13 years||2000 mg|
|14-18 years||2300 mg|
|19+ years||< 2000 mg|
Should You Give Sodium Supplements to Your Kids?
Typically, sodium is added to your child’s diet in the form of table salt. It is important to use this mineral in moderation because low and high intakes can each lead to health concerns. In cases of severe deficiency, such as hyponatremia (low sodium levels), vomiting, and dehydration, extra sodium is given to maintain the electrolyte balance in the body. It is suggested that you always consult your child’s pediatrician before adding extra sodium to their diet in order to prevent the risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart diseases in their future. (13)
Foods That Are Rich in Sodium
Sodium is found in a small amounts in several foods. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an excess amount of sodium is present in processed foods, including savory snacks, bakery products, fast foods, and sausages. It is important to eat these processed foods in moderation. Here are some foods that contain a good amount of sodium. (14)
|Food Name||Serving size||Milligrams (mg) per serving|
|Cooked pork||3 ounces||1263 mg|
|Pizza sauce||1/2 cup||463 mg|
|Bread stuffing||1/2 cup||506 mg|
|Bagel||1/2 bagel||288 mg|
|Salted mackerel||3 ounces||3337 mg|
|Cooked pork||3 ounces||1263 mg|
|Cooked beans||3/4 cup||644 mg|
|Processed cheese||1 ounce||907 mg|
Risks and Side Effects of Sodium
Large doses of sodium are dangerous for your child’s health, and it builds up in the human body when taken in excess. The health complications associated with high sodium intake include swelling of the stomach lining, a high risk of stomach cancer, and hypertension. It can also enhance the risk of stroke and heart diseases. One study has shown that high sodium levels can result in calcium loss in the body that makes your child’s bones weak.
According to the American Heart Organization, excessive sodium intake can put you at a higher risk for developing enlarged heart muscles, heart failure, headaches, osteoporosis, and kidney diseases. Additional research has found that high sodium levels also affect the normal functioning of your kidneys. When there is a high level of sodium in your body, it holds extra water to dilute it, which leads to bloating and water retention. (13)
Sodium is an essential mineral and electrolyte for your child. It performs several important functions in the body, such as maintaining blood pressure, regulating proper nerve conduction, and supporting fluid and pH balance. This mineral provides numerous health benefits, including sunstroke prevention, controlled absorption of glucose, improved skin health, and muscle cramp reduction. On the other hand, significantly low sodium levels (hyponatremia) can cause several health problems in children, including muscle cramps, headaches, weakness, and poor heart health. It is vital to monitor your child’s sodium intake within normal ranges to prevent the above health issues. It may be necessary to add extra sodium to your child’s diet with your physician’s approval in cases of severe deficiency.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not use this information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.