Can Stress Cause Low Sodium Levels – 7 Facts to Know

In today’s world, stress is the most prominent problem people face. Due to the changing lifestyle, stress has undoubtedly become part of daily life, leading to various diseases in the body. With the increasing problem, people are also becoming aware of how to tackle it, so there are multiple ways to cure it.

1 Introduction

Stress is a reaction produced by the brain and hormones caused by external situations. For instance, failing an exam, poor health, sudden encounter with a dangerous animal, etc can cause stress. It has different effects on the physiology of the body, including sodium imbalance, which has various effects that will be discussed further.

2 What is Stress?

Stress is our responsive action about the situations that are occurring around us. It is how we react when we are under pressure.

There are many reasons why stress occurs; some are:

2.1 Causes of Stress

The factors responsible for stress may vary from person to person, what may be stressful for one individual might not be stressful to another. Some common causes are-

·        Poor financial conditions.

·        Chronic health issues.

·        Not able to manage tasks on time and procrastinating.

·        Any past trauma.

·        Setting high expectations for oneself and fearing failure.

·        Anxiety about the unknown, like worries about the future.

·        Major life changes can also cause stress.

2.2 Types of Stress

There are many types of stress, like-

i) Physical Stress:

Physical stress is a type of stress that causes changes in the body, it occurs when a person is exposed to chronic stress. Symptoms of physical stress are headache and fatigue.

ii) Psychological Stress:

Psychological stress is a type of stress that affects an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. Symptoms include anxiety & depression.

iii) Cognitive Stress:

Cognitive stress is a type of stress that comes from our way of thinking and perceiving information, and it can affect our behavior. Symptoms include anxiety, depression and irritability.

iv) Acute Stress:

It is a short-term stress that comes in response to a sudden threat. It is not permanent and often goes away when the situation turns normal.

v) Chronic Stress:

It is a long-term stress that persists over a lifetime. It can occur due to the cumulative effect of past trauma.

2.3 Positive Effects of Stress

Stress does not always work like an enemy; sometimes, it also behaves as a friend to an individual. For instance, the body’s flight or fight response tells a person when and how to respond to the threat. It helps avoid procrastination at work and leads to perfectionism.

However, when the body is too activated or there are too many stressors at once, it can weaken a person’s mental and physical health and cause injury.

3 Sodium in Human Body

Sodium is an essential element of the human body, as it plays vital roles like maintaining normal blood pressure, body fluid balance, contraction and relaxation of nerves and muscles, and more. That is why a proper amount of sodium in the diet is essential.

Normal blood sodium level is between 135-145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L).

3.1 Sources of Sodium in the Human Body

The food we intake is a rich source of sodium as it occurs naturally in most foods. A most common source is table salt, which has sodium chloride. Milk, beets, celery, processed meat like bacon, processed baked foods like bread or cookies and some vegetables are rich sources of sodium.

3.2 Management of Sodium in the Human Body

· The kidneys play an important role in maintaining salt balance. The kidneys filter out excess sodium from the blood and expel it in urine. The adrenal glands generate the hormone aldosterone, which regulates sodium reabsorption in the kidneys.

· Sweating releases little amounts of salt during physical exertion. This is one of the reasons why athletes and anyone who engages in strenuous physical exercise may require salt replenishment through diet or electrolyte beverages.

· Sodium is contained in extracellular fluid surrounding cells, and its concentration is higher outside than inside. This concentration gradient is required for nerve impulse transmission and muscular contraction.

3.3 Function of Sodium in the Human Body

As sodium is an essential element, it plays many crucial roles in the human body. Some are:

i) Blood Pressure Regulation-

Sodium plays a crucial role in blood pressure regulation as it influences the volume of blood and the degree of blood vessel constriction. Sodium is a key component of sodium chloride or table salt.

ii) Fluid Balance in Body

Sodium works along with potassium to maintain proper water balance for the normal functioning of the cell. It regulates electrolyte balance and excretion of fluid from the body.

iii) Muscle Contraction

Without sodium, muscle contraction cannot take place, sodium along with potassium and calcium is essential to facilitate contraction and relaxation of muscles of the body including heart muscle.

iv) Movement of the Body

Movement of the body occurs due to the contraction-relaxation phenomenon, so if there is a sodium imbalance in the body, muscle sprains can take place during movement.

v) pH Balance

Sodium is involved in the body’s acid-base balance and thus helps regulate body fluids’ pH.

vi) Nerve Functioning

Sodium ions help to generate and transmit nerve impulses. They help nerve cells depolarize and re-polarize, allowing them to communicate and transmit signals properly.

4 Can Stress Cause Low Sodium Level

Short-term and long-term stress have varied effects on different people; one example is sodium imbalance in the body. The body regulates sodium levels by releasing surplus sodium in the urine and limiting the water released.

Short-term stress increases the quantity of sodium released in urine, and some people’s systems retain sodium after stress, even if they eliminate it at night. This nighttime excretion may be more likely if a person is stressed throughout the day.

As a result, stress impacts salt levels differently from person to person.

5 Relation Between Stress and Sodium

Stress can affect some physiological mechanisms of the body that involve sodium imbalance, like-

5.1 Hormonal Imbalance

Stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol, which is involved in the body’s flight or fight responses. The hormone affects the sodium balance by altering the function of the kidney.

5.2 Function of Kidney

Stress can affect renal function by increasing the excretion or retention of the kidney.

5.3 Fluid Balance in Body

Chronic stress can cause fluid imbalance in the body and can affect the salt level.

5.4 Change in Food Pattern

Stress can affect the food patterns of different individuals differently. Some people are involved in stress eating, so they ingest food high in salt, while stress may cause loss of appetite in some, which leads to a decrease in overall nutrient intake.

5.5 Blood Pressure Regulation

Chronic stress and higher cortisol levels can cause hypertension (high blood pressure), and salt intake can also affect blood pressure in sensitive individuals.

5.6 Individual Responses

An individual’s stress response may depend on factors like heredity, overall health, prior diseases or many more. Some people, based on these factors, are more susceptible to sodium level imbalance during times of stress.

6 Diseases Causing Low Sodium Levels

Low sodium levels, also called hyponatremia, can lead to various health problems. Some of the diseases associated with low sodium levels are-

6.1 Seizures

The imbalance in the electrolytes (sodium) can affect the normal functioning of the nerve cells, which leads to the bombardment of electrical signals through neurons that can cause seizures.

6.2 Cerebral Edema

Cerebral edema or swelling of the brain can be caused due to hyponatremia as the water moves into the brain cell. It can result in increased intracranial pressure and severe neurological symptoms.

6.3 Fatigue & Cramps

As sodium plays a crucial role in muscle contraction, its imbalance can cause an alteration in the contraction process that can lead to cramps and fatigue in muscles.

6.4 Low Heart Rate

Sodium is also responsible for the contraction of myocardial muscles. When the sodium is not present in adequate amounts, the sodium channels present in the myocardial muscles cannot work properly, and contraction doesn’t take place properly. As a result, the heart rate goes down.

6.5 Nausea & Vomiting

These are the gastrointestinal symptoms caused due to hyponatremia which can lead to fluid imbalance.

6.6 Coma

Coma can be caused in severe cases of hyponatremia when the amount of sodium is critically low.

7 Management of Low Sodium Levels

Low sodium levels are managed to avoid the occurrence of certain diseases, as mentioned above. Some of the ways to manage are-

7.1 Determine the Cause

Determine the cause of hyponatremia, as treatment frequently requires addressing the underlying condition. Common causes include kidney problems, heart failure, liver disease, hormonal imbalances, and medications.

7.2 Fluid Restriction

Fluid restriction may be recommended in mild cases of hyponatremia that do not cause severe symptoms. This entails limiting overall fluid intake to help prevent further sodium dilution in the body.

7.3 Regular Monitoring

Regular monitoring of sodium levels is necessary to avoid any complications. It can be monitored through blood tests. Adjustments to the treatment may be necessary based on ongoing assessments.

7.4 Nutritional Deficiencies

When hyponatremia is related to nutritional deficiencies, correcting them through dietary changes is recommended.

7.5 Slow Correction

Rapid correction of sodium levels may lead to certain complications, so correcting sodium levels slowly or gradually is crucial.

7.6 Electrolyte Replacement

When hyponatremia is due to dehydration, replacing the electrolyte or sodium through IV (intravenous) fluid can be recommended by healthcare professionals.

8 Medications for Hyponatremia

Medicines of low sodium levels can be prescribed based on the different underlying causes. Some medications that can be recommended during treatment are-

8.1 Use of Vasopressin Receptor Antagonist

Tolvaptan and conivaptan inhibit the function of vasopressin, a hormone that controls water retention. These medications may be used to increase urine output and treat hyponatremia, particularly in cases of excessive water retention.

8.2 Use of Loop Diuretics

Furosemide, a loop diuretic, improves urine production by decreasing salt re-absorption in the kidneys. This can be used to remove excess water and restore sodium balance.

8.3 Use of Demeclocycline

This antibiotic has the side effect of causing nephrogenic diabetic insipidus, which can result in increased urinary output. Demeclocycline may be used in some situations to treat hyponatremia.

8.4 Use of Salt Tablets

In some circumstances, healthcare experts may prescribe sodium chloride tablets as a supplement to boost sodium levels. This should be done with medical supervision.

8.5 Drug-Induced Hyponatremia

Certain drugs can be the root cause of hyponatremia during their course of treatment like diuretics, antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs.

9 Conclusion

Stress can affect life in many ways; it can affect various physiological functions of the body, and one such function is sodium imbalance. It varies from individual to individual, but stress can cause low sodium levels in most cases. Various factors responsible for stress lead to sodium imbalance; in some cases, low sodium levels can also be the factor responsible for stress.

It is essential to highlight that stress can change sodium levels, but sodium can also affect stress reactions. An imbalance in sodium levels can cause physiological changes that contribute to stress and other disorders.

A balanced lifestyle, which includes a good diet, frequent physical activity, and adequate stress management, is essential for general health and can help moderate the possible influence of stress on salt levels. If someone has specific health issues or conditions related to stress and sodium, they should speak with a healthcare practitioner for personalized guidance.

Last Updated on March 24, 2024 by Gautam