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Sodium and the Muscles

By Timothy Sexton

Sodium is a mineral that contributes to regulating the balance of water in the body and maintaining normal heart rhythm. Sodium’s part in muscle contraction may be its most important consideration for some people such as athletes. Another group of people who should consider the value of sodium are those most likely to experience a deficiency of the mineral. Fortunately, sodium deficiencies are rare in the industrialized world thanks to a wealth of natural food sources that provide an adequate amount of sodium in the typical diet.

Prolonged Exercise and Cramps

A diet that restricts sodium intake could result in an imbalance that contributes to muscle cramps. While anyone who cuts back on their salt intake can place themselves at risk, those most likely to suffer from this symptom of sodium deficiency are athletes who expose themselves to exercise for several hours at a time, according to The risk for developing muscle cramps as a result of the lack of sodium increases when prolonged exercise is done in high heat.

Food and Beverage Treatments

An increase in the risk of a lack of sodium causing muscle cramping is also related to consuming plain water while engaging in heavy exercise. Since the lack of sodium is directly related to the muscle cramping, choosing beverages containing sodium is a more effective choice. Another alternative is to eat a salty snack during the period of exercise to increase your sodium level to a point that will aid nerve transmission during muscle contractions.

Effect of Diuretics

Poor muscle contraction and an increased risk in muscle cramping is also a concern for athletes not engaged in prolonged exercise. Anyone of any fitness level who uses diuretics increase the risk of muscle problems related to sodium deficiency. Diuretics are a group of drugs that remove excess water from the body lost through increased urination.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Low levels of sodium are also linked to muscle contractions related to the medical disorder known as restless leg syndrome, according to One method of dealing with sodium’s role in this medical condition is making sure the ambient air temperature is comfortable enough to keep you from sweating during the night which causes you to lose sodium. Sodium supplements to treat muscle contractions causing restless leg syndrome should only be considered if your natural intake of sodium is low.

Excessive Sweating

Excessive sweating after heavy work raises the level of muscle problems related to an immediately deficiency of sodium levels. The New York Times reports that this particular type of muscle cramping is caused by the muscle and nerve being depleted of sodium and potassium. Anyone doing work heavy enough to produce extreme perspiration or working in high temperature conditions that cause heavy sweating should make sure they get enough sodium during the day to fend off muscle contractions leading to cramps. Beverages containing sodium or salty snack breaks can help reduce the risk.

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