The Relationship Between Sodium and Weight Loss

Summary: Sodium can cause weight gain due to water retention or excess calorie intake when trying to quench thirst. Achieving the right balance of sodium and water in your body is a vital part of keeping your weight in a healthy range.

Sodium’s ability to help or harm the body can be rather vexing, and one of the areas where it is particularly frustrating to deal with is weight loss. If the balance of sodium to water in your body is thrown off, you can experience a range of problems including weight gain. Understanding why sodium can affect your weight will help you get a handle on what it does to you.

Sodium Is Necessary, but Balance Is Key

Your body does need some sodium; it’s one of the substances that helps water move into, out of, and around cells. Your body can self-regulate sodium to an extent by retaining or releasing water to achieve a certain balance between the two.

However, if your body has too much sodium in it, it will grab enough water to cause weight gain through water retention. This is why drinking a healthy amount of water daily can reduce the bloating associated with water retention, make the number on the scale drop and make your clothes seem looser — you’re providing more water daily, so your body doesn’t need to hold onto extra water on its own.

However, drinking too much water and cutting back drastically on sodium in food is not a smart move. This can lead to a condition called hyponatremia, an abnormally low level of sodium in the body. Not only can hyponatremia lead to nausea, confusion, seizures, and other side effects, it can be deadly.

Drop That Soda

One other way sodium affects weight is much more mundane: If you eat something really salty, you can get thirsty — and you often end up grabbing a drink with calories to quench your thirst instead of grabbing something like water or plain tea. If you do that enough, of course, you can gain weight just because you’re taking in too many calories.

If you feel like you’re having trouble regulating thirst or think you are becoming chronically dehydrated, it’s essential that you see your doctor. Chronic dehydration is a particular problem in people as they age and as their bodies’ thirst mechanism becomes less stable.