Q:

What are the uses of salt in the body?

A:

Quick Answer

Salt is used in the body to conduct electricity in body fluids and tissues to generate muscle contractions and produce nerve impulses. Salt is also used by the body to maintain blood pressure and blood volume.

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Full Answer

Salt, which is made up of sodium and chloride, plays a critical role in maintaining membrane potential across cells. Membrane potential describes the electrical potential difference in a cell’s membrane, and it is the energy source needed to transmit nerve impulses, create muscle contractions and move nutrients in and out of cells.

The small intestine uses the sodium in salt to absorb nutrients, such as amino acids, water and glucose. The chloride from salt is a critical component in gastric juice, which also helps the body’s absorption of nutrients. Pressure receptors control blood pressure and volume by adjusting the sodium content in the body. The receptors use signals to the nervous system and the endocrine system to increase or decrease sodium regulation by the kidneys, which raises or lowers blood pressure and volume by increasing or decreasing water retention.

Consuming large amounts of salt causes vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. Healthy kidneys can flush out excess sodium through urination as long as the body receives enough water. Abnormally high levels of salt in the body can develop as a result of dehydration, which can lead to swelling, difficulty breathing, an accelerated heart rate and death.

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