Table salt (sodium chloride; NaCl) is the most common form of dietary sodium. Other sodium salts exist in the diet, including sodium bicarbonate (baking soda; NaHCO3) and sodium acetate. Sodium is necessary for the function of nerves and muscles, as well as for fluid and electrolyte balance.
In adults, the adequate intake (AI) of sodium is 1.5 grams daily, with a tolerable upper limit (UL) of 2.3 grams daily. Most individuals in North America consume sodium at levels much higher than recommended. Many experts believe that increased salt consumption is a risk factor for the development of high blood pressure. Too much sodium may also contribute to heart disease (stroke, heart failure), kidney disease, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer.
Sodium chloride and other sodium-containing salts may be taken by mouth or injected into the veins to correct electrolyte imbalance. Sodium chloride is also used to help some medicines dissolve in water and as a priming agent for hemodialysis. Baking soda may be used to evaluate parathyroid gland function in people with a specific chromosome disorder (22q11.2 deletion). Concentrated sodium chloride solutions may be inhaled by people with cystic fibrosis to reduce lung complications.
Sodium chloride may improve the taste of foods, and it is commonly added to many dishes. However, sodium may increase the risk of high blood pressure in individuals who are genetically susceptible to this condition. Therefore, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people "reduce intake to 1,500mg" among persons at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease.
Sodium bicarbonate has been used to treat bleeding gums, sore throats, cankers, mouth sores, and heartburn.
Sodium chloride is used to prevent or treat muscle cramps, fatigue, and other symptoms of perspiration caused by the loss of sodium from sweating.

Related Terms

Atomic number 11, baking soda, elemental sodium, Na, Na+, NaCl, NaHCO3, natrium (Latin), Natrum muriaticum, normal saline, SaltSticksĀ®, sea salt, sodium acetate, sodium ascorbate, sodium benzoate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride, sodium citrate, sodium lactate, sodium phenylacetate, sodium phosphate, table salt, ThermotabsĀ®.
Note: The information in this monograph is based on meta-analyses and systematic reviews of sodium. Various types of sodium are available (in the diet as well as in medications and industrial sources), but sodium chloride is the main salt used as a source of sodium ions. Other sodium salts are generally used for their ion partners. Thus, sodium benzoate, sodium phenylacetate, sodium ascorbate, sodium acetate, sodium bicarbonate, and other sodium salts are not specifically discussed. This monograph does not cover the use of sodium for nasal irrigation; there is a separate monograph available on this topic.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Nutrition (electrolyte imbalance) (Grade: A)
Evidence suggests that sodium chloride, sodium acetate, and sodium bicarbonate may be taken by mouth or injected into the veins to treat electrolyte imbalances caused by dehydration, excess sweating, or dangerously high sugar levels (in people with diabetes).
Exercise performance (Grade: C)
Evidence suggests that sodium bicarbonate may increase exercise performance. However, the positive benefits may be due to bicarbonate, not sodium. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.
Encephalopathy (exercise-induced) (Grade: C)
Preliminary evidence suggests that sodium may help treat exercise-induced encephalopathy (brain dysfunction). Marathon runners may have too low concentrations of sodium in their urine, which can lead to brain dysfunction due to excessive fluid intake and decreased urine production. Limited research suggests that 3% sodium chloride solutions may prevent this effect. Additional research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.