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Sodium As An Essential Nutrient
Sodium, in its many forms and compounds, is an element that reaches far into the universe, being a component of the stars, as well as serving as an essential nutrient for the human body. Although it was not isolated in a pure form until 1807, by Sir Humphrey Davy, it was deliberately used in connection with human health for centuries. In Europe, for example, during the medieval era, sodium was used as part of a headache remedy. With all the negative press concerning sodium intake we witness today, it is easy to forget that sodium is indeed an essential nutrient, necessary to the health and functioning of the body.
Sodium has an important role in the circulatory system. The body needs it to regulate the blood pressure, as well as the volume of the blood itself. It also serves to protect from dangerous blood clotting in the blood vessels. This occurs in relation to its actions in the balancing of the fluids in the body, working with potassium and chloride in these processes. Another aspect of sodium's function in the body that makes it important to both the circulatory system and the muscular system is its participation in the processes that serve to help the muscles contract smoothly and regularly, meaning that it helps to regulate heartbeat, and the ways in which it serves nerve function, helping the nerves to be able to communicate effectively.
Sodium, like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, is an electrolyte, and controls the electrical charges that travel from cell to cell, part of the cellular communication process. Without sodium to help the brain and nerves communicate, the basic five senses through which you experience the outside world would not function properly. It helps in the removal of cellular waste products.
Sodium also has an important role in the digestive system, particularly in the metabolism of food to useful and accessible energy for the bodily processes. It helps prevent the digestive acids from burning the stomach lining. It works closely with potassium in some processes, making the balance between these two minerals very important in the body. Sodium is essential to the functioning of the pancreas, spleen and liver. It helps to keep the joints flexible and limber.
While sodium deficiency in the long-term sense is rare, there are times in which deficiency can occur, particularly during illnesses that include bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. In these types of situations, the essential balance of all of the electrolytes is threatened, and must be treated rapidly. This is especially important in infants and children. Chronic diarrhea is well known as a particularly virulent killer of children and the elderly in the poverty centers of the developing nations.
The body is a delicately balanced system of complex chemical reactions that depend heavily on the nutrients that are consumed daily to function properly. Nutritional supplements can serve as a safe and effective means of seeing that the body has the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that it needs to support the many essential and complex chemical reactions and interactions that are the foundation of each and every one of the bodily systems.
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