When you stop eating salt, this is what really happens to your body

When you stop eating salt, quite a few things happen, as we often eat plenty of it in our day-to-day lives. Although you might not realize it, salt is one of the most important ingredients when it comes to cooking tasty food. Learning how to season properly is an art form — too little salt means the flavor won't pop, and too much salt will overwhelm the dish. Additionally, salt can be used to preserve food for extended periods of time, making it an even more essential cupboard staple.

But as important as salt is, consuming too much of it can pose a wide variety of health risks, according to Harvard University. Combine that with the fact that most Americans consume far too much salt on a daily basis, according to the CDC, and it becomes apparent that we have a bit of a problem on our hands. To that end, it can be a good idea to be conscious of your salt intake and reduce it to a healthier amount. 

What sorts of physical changes can you expect when you decrease your sodium intake? Read on to find out what happens to your body when you stop eating salt — specifically table salt.

Your blood pressure drops when you stop eating salt

Do you have a penchant for fast food and French fries? Do you love going to the movies and getting a big bucket of buttered, salted popcorn? While all of those foods are delicious, eating too much of them can be bad for your health. That's because, according to Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, there is an inextricable link between how much salt you eat and how high your blood pressure is. "Sodium is linked to hypertension very closely. When you take too much salt, your body tries to regulate this by holding more water inside the body," he explained to The List. "As a consequence, significant pressure on the circulatory system is created which instantly increases blood pressure as well." And that's not a good thing. 

Fortunately, if you stop eating salt, your blood pressure will decrease, according to the Mayo Clinic. So if you're at all concerned about your numbers, it's best to ditch the salt shaker. 

When you stop eating salt, your kidneys function better

It's not just your blood pressure that's directly impacted by the amount of sodium that you eat. Rather, according to Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, salt can do some pretty serious damage to other organs in your body. "Kidneys are also affected by high amounts of sodium," he shared. "There is a direct link between kidney malfunction and salt intake. Additionally, hypertension damages numerous organs and kidneys are frequently the first to start failing." Given that you need your kidneys to function well in order to live a normal, healthy life, that's not something you want to be dealing with.

Fortunately, once again, you can spare your kidneys that fate if you stop eating salt, according to the National Kidney Foundation. They also offer several helpful ways that you can do so, which include using fresh meat instead of packaged meat, using spices and seasonings that are salt-free, and eating lots of fruit and vegetables, to name a few.

Your risk of kidney stones drops when you stop eating salt

Speaking of kidneys, there's another thing that your salt consumption can have an impact on within them, according to Dr. Anthony Kouri: the development of kidney stones. "Too much salt increases the risk of developing kidney stones," he revealed to The List.

In case you weren't aware, kidney stones are small, hard deposits comprised of salt and minerals that form inside your kidneys, according to the Mayo Clinic. But just because they are small doesn't mean they don't make themselves known. If you've ever had a kidney stone, or know someone who's had one, you know how excruciatingly painful they can be. To that end, if you've never had one, you can count yourself extremely lucky.

But if you have had a kidney stone in the past, or know you're at risk of developing kidney stones in the future, you can take preventative action now and stop eating salt. "By decreasing our salt intake, we decrease the possibility of developing kidney stones and kidney disease," Kouri continued. That's one more reason to go with the low-sodium option next time.

You'll feel less bloated after you stop eating salt

Do you experience a lot of bloating and swelling, either during certain parts of your menstrual cycle or after meals? And are you someone who has to take your rings off on occasion because your body is retaining too much fluid? Well, salt might have something to do with that, according to Dr. Nikola Djordjevic. "Since sodium is one of the reasons for water retention, by reducing the salt intake you will actually release more water from your body," he told The List. "You will feel less bloated and swollen." That's one easy way to reduce that annoying bloat. 

Djordjevic isn't alone in his observations, either, as studies have confirmed that bloating is one of the top reported gastrointestinal complaints in the United States, according to an article in Science Daily. Plus, the reason that bloating is so commonplace is because people are eating diets that are far too high in sodium. Once again, the proof is in the pudding, and it's probably for the best to just stop eating salt.

You'll feel more energetic when you stop eating salt

Feeling bloated doesn't just make you feel uncomfortable and cramped, as well as unable to fit into your favorite clothing comfortably. Rather, it also can zap your energy levels and make you feel exhausted, according to registered dietitian Diana Gariglio-Clelland. And that can put a serious damper into your fitness routine. "When someone feels weighed down with fluid retention, it can be difficult to motivate to be active, which also increases energy levels," she explained. So not only are you already tired, but you lose out on the energy-boosting properties of exercise.

Fortunately, if you find yourself battling the bloat on a regular basis, and feeling sluggish because of it, you can get some of that energy back if you stop eating salt. "Some people may feel more energized when reducing their salt intake because of the reduced water retention, making them feel more light and potentially more energetic," Gariglio-Clelland continued. That way you won't feel tempted to skip out on your exercise class next time. 

If you stop eating salt, your palate will change

We get it: the idea of cutting salt out of your diet is a grim proposition. After all, that means saying no to a lot of tasty foods, including fast food, processed foods, cured meats, and potato chips. Plus, if you want to take control of your sodium intake, that means you have to be a lot more picky when you dine out, which isn't fun. That also means that reading food labels is going to become a full-time job, and who has time for that?

But there's good news, according to registered dietician Diana Gariglio-Clelland, who assures that any sense of deprivation is going to be temporary. "While it may be a difficult change to cut back on sodium initially, your taste buds will in fact adjust to the lower threshold," she shared with The List. "Many people who have cut back on sodium claim that they can't stand the salty foods they used to eat once they've adjusted to a healthier sodium amount." So fear not! With a little patience, your palate will adjust after you stop eating salt, and you'll wonder why you were such a salt fiend to begin with. 

You'll be less thirsty when you stop eating salty foods

Obviously, it's exceedingly important to make sure you're drinking enough water every day. According to the CDC, water is vital in maintaining a healthy body temperature, lubricating your joints, ensuring that your body disposes of waste properly, and keeps your spinal cord safe from pain and damage. And if you live in an especially warm climate, exercise a lot, or are feeling ill, staying hydrated is especially important. 

But if you find yourself especially thirsty and don't meet the above criteria, you might want to stop eating salt, according to Dr. Anthony Kouri. "When we eat a high amount of sodium on a daily basis, we feel thirstier," he shared. "This is because we need water to balance the sodium levels in our body." That's why you feel the need to drink a glass of water after indulging in a big bag of salty snacks. 

Naturally, if you decrease the amount of sodium you take in, you will be less thirsty. "By eating less salt, our body doesn't crave water the same way because it doesn't need to normalize sodium levels as much," Kouri added. That makes perfect sense!

You'll get fewer headaches when you stop eating salt

Do you find yourself prone to getting headaches fairly frequently? Do you keep a bottle of ibuprofen in your purse just in case one sneaks up on you? If so, you might be surprised to learn that salt could be a culprit, according to Caleb Backe, a certified personal trainer. "Sodium has a direct effect on your blood vessels which may trigger headaches," he revealed. "Research shows that a reduction in sodium resulted in fewer headaches than participants who maintained their sodium intake." That's good news for headache sufferers!

The researchers made sure to narrow down what was causing the headaches, and what wasn't. "This was regardless of the type of diet they ate — the only correlation was levels of sodium," he continued. "This means that when you stop eating salt, you're likely to experience fewer headaches." So even though it's no fun cutting out the potato chips, if that can help to decrease your pain levels, it's worth a shot. 

Stop eating salt, and you'll have a decreased risk of stroke and heart attack

If your blood pressure is high enough to be hypertension, your risks of heart disease and stroke are increased, according to Dr. Amin Yehya, a cardiologist at Piedmont Heart Institute. "Worldwide, 54 percent of strokes and 47 percent of heart disease are attributed to hypertension," he explained in an interview with Reader's Digest. "Excess sodium has blood pressure-independent effects promoting left ventricular hypertrophy [a pumping problem of the heart's main chamber] as well as fibrosis [thickening and scarring] in the heart and arteries." Translation: eating too much salt is bad for your heart, period.

Fortunately, if you stop eating salt, you can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association. Specifically, they recommend that you aim to consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily, which honestly isn't a lot! But if your health is at stake, it's worth the sacrifice. 

Your chances of getting stomach cancer decrease when you stop eating salt

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, stomach cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the world and the third largest cancer killer. Yikes! And while rates of its occurrence are thankfully decreasing, it's still important for people to be vigilant about how to prevent stomach cancer via diet and lifestyle.

One thing that is recommended is to limit your sodium intake to five grams or less every day, as advised by the World Health Organization, as eating salt-preserved foods like meat and vegetables can cause stomach cancer. That's why in regions where salting and fermentation are used to preserve traditional foods, like Korea and Japan, instances of the disease are significantly higher than parts of the world where traditional foods are preserved via refrigeration.

As for other salty foods, they say that the data is inconclusive and that more research is needed to see if they too cause stomach cancer. But for now, you may as well play it safe and stop eating salt. Your stomach will thank you!

Your mortality risk decreases all around when you stop eating salt

According to Dr. Amin Yehya (via Reader's Digest), the American Heart Association wants to see deaths due to cardiovascular events decrease by 20 percent, and the association has set a goal to make that happen. Specifically, the American Heart Association wants to educate people about the dangers of salt and about how eating less of it can make you live longer. "Studies have reported that reducing sodium intake by 1,200 mg daily could lead to up to 120,000 fewer coronary heart disease cases, up to 66,000 fewer strokes, 99,000 fewer myocardial infarctions, and 92,000 fewer deaths from any cause," Yehya shared in an interview with Reader's Digest. Those are some seriously impressive numbers!

Additionally, there's other research out there that says if people tried to stop eating salt and reduced their salt consumption to having about 1,500 mg a day, up to 500,000 people will be spared from heart-related deaths over a ten-year period. If ever there was a time to get rid of your salt shaker, it's now!

You might lose weight when you stop eating salt

If you stop eating salt, you'll likely notice that right away you drop a few pounds. Chances are this is water weight you're losing, at least at first, as salt causes the body to retain water.

But it's not just water weight that you can lose when you decrease your sodium intake. That's because the types of foods that you stop eating are less healthy than what's included in your new diet, according to registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade. "If you start to shift your diet to include more whole, unprocessed food, this naturally helps to reduce sodium intake," Palinski-Wade revealed in an interview with Reader's Digest. "In addition, this can help to reduce your intake of added sugars and refined carbohydrates while increasing fiber. This shift can promote a reduction in calories with an increased feeling of fullness that can lead to weight loss."

That's just one more reason to shift away from higher-sodium foods. 

When you stop eating salt, you won't use the bathroom as much

Chances are that if you eat a diet that's high in sodium, you find yourself using the restroom more than folks with a lower salt intake. But according to registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, it's not the food itself that makes that happen. "Eating more sodium alone doesn't cause you to pee more, but it can increase thirst — and as you drink more, you are more likely to excrete more urine," the dietician explained in an interview with Reader's Digest. That's why you're naturally thirsty after eating a bag of chips or a fast food meal.

It's also important to note that eating a high-sodium diet and not drinking enough water can cause additional problems. "High sodium diets without additional fluid intake can, however, force the body to pull water out of other cells, which may increase the risk of dehydration," Palinski-Wade noted. And being dehydrated is not a fun experience! That's why hangovers are so awful.

So if you stop eating salt, that's less time spent running to the restroom and potentially fewer interruptions in your sleep. Sounds like a win-win!

Your bones will thank you when you stop eating salt

In addition to having an impact on your organs and circulatory system, eating too much salt can cause damage to your skeleton. Specifically, according to a study that was presented to the Endocrine Society, women who eat a diet that's high in salt are at an increased risk of breaking a bone after menopause. This is regardless of a woman's bone density, too.

Specifically, the Japanese study found that women who consume excessive salt are four times as likely to sustain a nonvertebral fracture, or a fracture anywhere but the spine, than women who eat less sodium. And according to Dr. Kiyoko Nawata, lead author on the study and a professor at University of Shimane in Matsue, Japan, changes in diet could help prevent these fractures. "Excessive sodium intake appears to be a risk factor for bone fragility," Nawata said. "It is therefore important to consider excessive sodium intake in dietary therapy for osteoporosis." To that end, if you stop eating salt now, your bones will be healthier in the long run.