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Does Too Much Salt Intake Cause Swelling of the Left Side Ankle?

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

Edema, or swelling, can occur at anytime in your life and is very common in the leg or ankle, even just one side. While too much salt in your diet can be the reason for your left-sided ankle swelling, you'll want to consult your doctor to rule out a medical cause first.

Salt and Edema

Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. Sodium is an essential nutrient that helps maintain fluid balance in your cells. When healthy people consume more sodium than their bodies need, the kidneys work to remove and excrete the excess sodium. When you continuously consume too much sodium, however, your body may have a harder time getting rid of the excess, according to the Colorado State University Extension. This can lead to fluid retention and edema.

How Much Sodium

It is recommended that you consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. Ideally, keep your intake at 1,500 milligrams. Colorado State University reports that most Americans consume too much sodium. In addition to fluid retention and edema, too much sodium in your diet also increases your risk of high blood pressure. For reference, 1 teaspoon of salt has 2,325 milligrams of sodium.

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Not Just the Shaker

In addition to the salt you add to your food, many packaged goods also contain salt and may be contributing to the swelling in your ankle. Canned goods, frozen meals, cheese, breakfast cereals, snack foods and deli meats are all sources of sodium. Condiments such as soy sauce, salad dressing and ketchup are also high-sodium foods. If you eat out, be aware that most restaurant meals, as well as fast food, are high in sodium.

What to Eat

If too much salt is causing your ankle to swell, you not only want to stop adding salt to your food, but you also want to eat foods that are naturally low in sodium. This means more fresh foods and fewer processed foods. Good choices include fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables without added sauces, grains such as brown rice or quinoa, fresh meats, dry beans and milk or milk alternatives. Use herbs, spices, vinegar and lemon to add flavor to your food without the salt.

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