How to Check Sodium Levels at Home – Take It With a Grain of Salt

How to Check Sodium Levels at Home – Take It With a Grain of Salt

Salt not only makes your food tasty, but you also rely on one of its components, sodium, to survive. Your body needs a small but specific amount of these colorless crystals for various bodily functions. The range of healthy sodium levels is quite narrow, and our modern foods are often overloaded with salt, so it is important to know how to test sodium levels at home. In this article, CARE explores sodium, its significance for your body, and how you can check sodium levels at home.

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE
Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach

Published in General Health
7 min read · Mar 05, 2024

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What Is a Sodium Test?

A sodium test measures the amount of sodium in your blood and/or urine, depending on the specific sodium test.

Sodium is an essential mineral and electrolyte. An electrolyte is a substance that produces an electrically conducting solution when dissolved in water, crucial for many of your bodily functions, such as nerve signal transmission and muscle contractions.

Sodium is classified as an electrolyte because it can dissociate into positive ions (Na+) when dissolved in your bodily fluids, thereby conducting electricity. Your body requires a small and specific amount of sodium to conduct nerve impulses, contract and relax muscles, and maintain the proper balance of water and minerals. A serious and prolonged lack of sodium can lead to coma and death, whereas a lack of sodium can cause lethargy and confusion. [1]

So next time you reach for the salt shaker, remember the power it holds, not just in your kitchen, but for your health.

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When people talk about sodium, they often use the words “table salt” and “sodium” interchangeably, though they do not mean the same thing. Table salt, scientifically known as sodium chloride, is a crystal-like compound that is abundant in nature. Sodium is a mineral and one of the chemical elements found in salt. Salt consists of about 40% of sodium and 60% of chloride. [2]

Your body needs a pinch of sodium – about 500 mg daily – for the mentioned critical body functions. You might be surprised to learn that most of us consume at least 1.5 times the sodium we require. Considering that excess sodium puts a strain on your kidneys and can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and calcium loss from your bones, knowing how to check sodium levels at home seems like a good idea, right? [1]

How Can I Check Sodium Levels at Home?

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Can you check your sodium levels at home? The answer is yes – with different sodium tests like an electrolyte panel test kit or metabolic panel for home use.

Blood Sodium Tests

According to the Stanford Healthcare Innovation Lab, testing your electrolytes is most accurate through blood tests. You can test your sodium levels at home using a basic metabolic panel or electrolyte panel kit that measures blood sodium levels through a blood sample that you have professionally drawn at a clinic or lab. [3]

Urine Sodium Tests

Additionally, urine sodium tests are available to check urine sodium levels with a urine sample and chloride test strips. These home test kits can accurately measure your electrolyte levels, including sodium.

However, lab tests conducted by healthcare professionals are recommended for accurate diagnosis and detailed analysis.

What Do My Sodium Test Results Mean?

A normal blood sodium level is between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). [4] Your sodium test results can indicate either a balance or an imbalance in your body's sodium levels. [4]

High Sodium Levels

If your results show high sodium levels, this condition is known as hypernatremia, which can point to dehydration or other health issues.

  • High sodium intake can lead to elevated blood pressure, as excess sodium holds onto water in the body, increasing blood volume and blood pressure on blood vessels.

  • Over time, this can strain the heart and arteries, raising the risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • Additionally, excessive sodium intake can lead to kidney damage, as the kidneys work harder to eliminate the surplus sodium, potentially impairing their function.

Low Sodium Levels

Conversely, low sodium levels, referred to as hyponatremia, suggest your body may not be retaining enough sodium, potentially indicating conditions like fluid imbalance or kidney dysfunction.

  • Some medications, such as water pills (diuretics) and antidepressants, can disrupt the normal hormonal and kidney processes that keep sodium levels within the healthy range. [4]

  • Drinking too much water can also lower sodium levels and be unhealthy since excreting excessive amounts of water overwhelms your kidneys. [4]

  • Heart, kidney, and liver issues, such as congestive heart failure and specific conditions impacting the kidneys or liver, can lead to fluid buildup in your body. (edema) This accumulation dilutes your body's sodium, resulting in a decreased overall sodium level.

How Can I Get my Sodium Levels Within Normal Ranges?

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1. Monitor Your Salt Intake

Reduce the amount of table salt used in your cooking and at the table. Most dietary sodium comes from salt added to processed foods, so cutting back on these can significantly lower your sodium intake. [2]

2. Read Food Labels

Pay attention to foods that contain a lot of salt (sodium chloride), and start to read food labels. Opt for low-sodium options when available to keep your overall salt intake in check. Avoid foods known to be high in sodium, such as cured meats, canned soups, and fast foods – and everything that tastes especially salty – since those foods can quickly elevate sodium levels in your body. [2]

3. Increase Potassium-Rich Foods

Potassium can help counteract the effects of high-sodium foods and aid in lowering blood pressure. If you ate very salty or plan to do so, include some potassium-rich foods like bananas, potatoes, spinach, and oranges to balance the effect of sodium. If you generally have high sodium, potassium-rich foods should make a regular appearance in your diet.

4. Choose Fresh Over Processed

Fresh fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed meats contain naturally low levels of sodium that give your body the perfect amount of sodium it requires. Incorporating more of these foods into your diet can help balance sodium levels. [2]

5. Use Herbs and Spices

Don’t take us wrong, you should not avoid salt in general, but be mindful of your sodium intake, especially if you love yourself some salty snacks. Instead of salt, you can also flavor your food with a variety of herbs and spices if you have high sodium levels. This can reduce your reliance on salt for taste without compromising the flavor of your meals. Our tip: oregano and cayenne pepper.

6. Stay Hydrated but Don't Overdo It

Drinking adequate amounts of water helps your body keep a healthy balance of sodium. Still, moderation is key since neither drinking too little nor too much is good for you. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is: About3.67 liter of fluids a day for men and about 2.72 liter of fluids a day for women. [5]

When Should I Get My Sodium Levels Checked?

You should consider getting your sodium levels checked through a blood or urine sample in the following situations:

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If You Like to Eat Salty

Even if you are feeling healthy and fit, if you crave salty foods and love to eat tangy, chances are good your sodium intake is too high, putting a strain on your kidneys. For many people, the kidneys struggle to manage an overload of sodium in their bloodstream. As sodium levels rise, your body retains water in an effort to dilute the excess sodium. This leads to an increase in fluid around cells and a higher volume of blood circulating. Consequently, you might feel “heavy,” your heart has to work harder, and there is increased pressure on your blood vessels. [3]

Experiencing Symptoms of Sodium Imbalance

If you're showing signs of either high or low sodium levels, such as excessive thirst, confusion, lethargy, nausea, or headaches, it's important to check your serum sodium or urine sodium levels. You can do so by using a home kit or going to the next lab or clinic and asking for an electrolyte or metabolic panel.

Diagnosis or Management of Kidney Disease

Your kidney function directly impacts sodium balance. Checking your sodium levels can help detect or manage kidney disease, as impaired kidneys may struggle to regulate sodium properly. [4]

Managing Congestive Heart Failure

Monitoring sodium levels is crucial for those with congestive heart failure, as imbalances can exacerbate the condition by affecting fluid balance. [4]

Thyroid Disorders

Since thyroid problems can influence your body's electrolyte and fluid balance, checking sodium levels can be part of diagnosing or managing thyroid conditions.

Diabetes Insipidus

If you have diabetes insipidus, you pee a lot and often feel thirsty. The condition is not related to diabetes type 1 or 2 but affects your body's ability to regulate water, typically leading to dilution of sodium in the blood. Monitoring sodium levels is vital for management. [4]

Scarring of the Liver

Cirrhosis, scarring of the liver due to long-term liver damage, can cause fluid retention and imbalances in blood levels of sodium, making regular checks important for those with liver issues.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

As high sodium intake can contribute to hypertension, people with high blood pressure should monitor their sodium levels to manage or adjust their dietary intake.

Regular Health Check-Ups

Even if you don't have any specific health issues, periodic checks of your sodium levels during regular health check-ups can help catch any imbalances early and assist you in balancing your sodium intake to stay as healthy as possible.

CARE Helps You Unlock Your Health Potential

At CARE, we like to eat salty, too, but we love staying up to date with the latest scientific insights into health and fitness even more.

A membership with CARE grants you access to regular health check-ups, blood analysis, and tailored consultations with our healthcare providers to help you optimize your health and catch potential health gaps or electrolyte imbalances early.

Unlock your health potential with CARE and take charge of your health. Wouldn't you optimize your health and influence how healthy you stay as you age if you could? With us, you can take your health into your own hands (to a certain degree) and become the most vital and healthiest version of yourself.

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Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE

Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach at CARE Zurich

About the author

Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!