The sodium to water ratio in the body is a delicate balance that is easily upset today by not drinking enough water, drinking too much water, or eating a diet too high in sodium.
Sodium imbalance can dehydrate the skin, causing premature ageing, dryness, and destruction of the collagen strands in the skin. Maintaining a proper ratio of sodium to water in your body, then, is an important key to attaining youthful, springy, plump, moisturised skin.
It’s important to hydrate with fluids, but it is also important to replenish sodium and other electrolytes to maintain homeostasis in the body, which is ideal for hydrated, healthy skin.
The sodium water balance: a delicate high wire act for everyone today
It is often said that the human body is mostly water, but salt water is a more accurate description. The fluid in your body is a saline fluid, a mixture of salt and water. Your body needs a balance of these two fluids for all the intracellular and extracellular functions in the body and, especially, to keep the body hydrated.
As Dr. Batmanghelidj, author of the book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, explains:
“Basically, there are two oceans of water in the body: One ocean is held inside the cells of the body and the other ocean is held outside the cells. Good health depends on a delicate balance between the volumes of these two oceans. The balance of the two oceans in our body is achieved by (1) drinking enough water daily, (2) adding a moderate amount of natural salt to our diet.”[i]
- Dr Batmanghelidj -
When the sodium to water ratio is thrown out of balance by behaviours such as eating too much salt or not drinking enough water, the chief side effect is dehydration, which has all kinds of negative impacts on the skin such as drying of the skin, wrinkling, and premature ageing.
Sodium is key to hydration, just like water is . . .
Sodium functions as an electrolyte in the human body and as an electrolyte, it has many important roles such as normalising blood pressure, regulating blood flow, aiding in nutrient absorption, facilitating nutrient transport and maintaining the integrity of cell membranes.
Sodium is also crucial for maintaining fluid balance in the body and in keeping the body hydrated, from the cells to the surface layers of the skin.
Sodium is just one of many electrolytes in the human body, along with magnesium, potassium, and chloride. All of these electrolytes are important for numerous functions such as muscle contraction, controlling the PH of the blood, and maintaining fluid balance in the body. Sodium, however, is the one most important for maintaining hydration of the tissues.
Sodium needs to be consistently replaced and water in the body, especially due to the fact that these compounds are lost through excretions such as tears, sweat, urine, stool, breathing out and through other normal metabolic processes.[ii]
The body tries to achieve a condition of homeostasis, which means balance, when it comes to the salt and water balance in the body.
As Dr. Axe explains, “Essentially, water follows salt, which means if you increase sodium too much, water retention also occurs. At the same time, the opposite is also true: A loss in sodium results in a loss in water, causing dehydration and extreme thirst.”[iii]
So, no matter what amount of salty food we ingest or how much water we lose because of, say, exercise or taking a diuretic, the body will either dump water out of the body through urination or hold onto water via water retention in an effort to match the level of sodium in the body, whether low or high.
That’s why both low sodium and high sodium can be dangerous. Too little sodium and you become dehydrated from all the water you’ll urinate out, yet have too high a level of sodium from not drinking enough water and, again, you’ll have dehydration.
Whenever sodium and water are out of balance, this creates a situation of dehydration in the body, which can affect the appearance and health of the skin, creating dryness, depleting collagen, destroying elastin, and causing premature ageing as well.
The role of water and sodium consumption in sodium balance.
Sodium imbalance can occur not just from drinking too little water but from drinking too much water as well. This is because overconsumption of water leads to a depletion of sodium in the blood that the body tries to equalise by excreting more water in urine, which, again, leads to dehydration. Overconsumption of water, also called hyper-hydration, is most typically witnessed in athletes, especially during the summer months when the tendency is to overhydrate to keep the body cool.
In fact, all of these behaviours below can lead to sodium imbalance and dehydration:
consuming too much salt
not drinking enough water
drinking too much water
removing salt from the diet or eating too little of it
Taking medications such as diuretics that aggravate the sodium to water ratio
Having illnesses where lots of diarrhoea or vomiting is present, which results in a loss of water, sodium, and all the electrolytes from the body.
The recommended maximum RDA for sodium is 6 grams a day, which is around one teaspoon, and consuming more sodium than that is harmful and can ultimately dehydrate the body.
In the United Kingdom, the average intake of salt is 8 grams a day, which is well over the recommended daily allowance.[iv]
The importance of sodium balance for skin health
Dehydration, the primary consequence of a sodium imbalance in the body, can impact collagen, elastin, and the moisture layer of the skin, all of which can lead to premature ageing, wrinkling, and sagging of the skin.
First, dehydration can destroy the skin’s natural ability to hold water in the outer layer of the skin called the stratum corneum. The stratum corneum is made up of what is called Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF), and this moisture factor binds with water to hydrate the skin. So water consumption is crucial and helps gives skin its plump, hydrated appearance and its springiness as well.[v]
Dehydration has other ageing effects upon the skin as well, causing
Puffiness in the face and around the eyes
Oily skin and acne
Loss of elasticity due to absence of moisture to fortify elastin
Collagen strands, which are chiefly composed of water, begin to crack, clump together, which is what a wrinkle is[vi]
What are the effects of dehydration on collagen?
As you age, your skin begins producing 1% less collagen in your skin every year after the tender age of 20. Therefore, you want to assure that you nourish and hydrate the collagen you have. When you dehydrate the body, you dehydrate your collagen stores. That is because collagen is comprised, chiefly, of water. When collagen becomes inadequately dehydrated, the strands start to crack and they become joined together. As a result, wrinkles begin to form on the surface of the skin.[vii]
What are the symptoms of dehydrated skin?
Dehydrated skin often feels like sunburned skin—dry, irritated, pulled too tightly . . . you might even feel a slight burning or chapped sensation on the skin. Itching is also a symptom of severely dehydrated skin.
Interestingly enough, it is not just a lack of hydration that can dry the skin but also taking very hot showers all the time or using saunas, which are extremely drying. This is because when dried by heat and extreme temperatures, the lipids in the skin begin to break down and the skin cracks. The skin needs those fats to remain resilient, healthy, and bouncy. Deodorants and soaps can rob moisture from the skin as well.[viii]
How to balance water and sodium from within
Drinking a healthy amount of water and eating foods rich in natural sodium are keys, then, to beautiful, hydrated skin. The healthiest ways to do this are through eating foods naturally rich in sodium, using clean, nutrient-dense salts like Himalayan salt for seasoning, and drinking lots of clean, purified water.
When it comes to knowing how much water to consume, most doctors have revised that old adage about drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day, advising individuals that it is better to make a goal of drinking half their weight in ounces of water every day and more after exercising. So, for example, an 180-pound woman would need at least 60 ounces of water daily, or about seven 8-ounce glasses a day.[ix]
What about healthy sources of sodium?
Both the quantity and quality of sodium you eat is important. For example, you never want to use mere table salt, which is chemically produced, bleached and devoid of any nutrients save sodium chloride. Plus, researchers have found other dangerous compounds in table salts, such as aluminum, which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other serious health problems.[x]
Nutritionists recommend Himalayan sea salt because it contains 93 trace minerals, providing a wealth of nutrition with every sprinkle.
Situations which will require you to replace water and sodium in the body
Although you want to strive to drink adequate amounts of water and make sure to get enough sodium in the body to stay hydrated every day, there are some circumstances which can really aggravate the sodium and water balance in your body and leave you dehydrated and electrolyte-depleted.
If you exercise vigorously and often, you definitely want to make sure to replenish your body with plenty of water and electrolytes (like pre-made formulas that include sodium).
Also, if you’ve had any kind of illness with lots of vomiting and diarrhoea, you’ll be depleted of water and electrolytes as well. With these situations, you’ll want to replenish potassium, sodium, and water by drinking electrolyte-rich fluids and eating potassium and magnesium rich foods.
To replenish both salt and water after exercise in a low-calorie way, you can look to coconut water and beverages like Propel, which contain electrolytes, water, and no calories, to hydrate you healthily without adding calories to your diet.
To get more natural sodium in the diet, here are some sodium rich foods to include:
Sea vegetables: kelp, kombu, wakame
V-8 or vegetable juice
Sweet potatoes and spinach
Canned navy beans and olives
Fruits like apples, guava, and passion fruit[xi]
Hydrate from without with the most hydrating natural compounds
It is also important to prevent dehydration of the skin by moisturising it from without. Hydrating sprays and moisturisers protect the outer layer of the skin and give the skin’s stratum corneum the moisture and water it needs to bind with and hydrate that crucial outer layer of the skin. Some of the most effective natural compounds for hydrating skin from without include almond oil, aloe vera leaf juice, avocados and avocado oil, and Himalayan sea salt scrubs. Other hydrating compounds are macadamia oil and rosehip oil.[xii]
centess+complex is rich in almost all of these compounds. We recommend a good exfoliating skin regimen, followed by hydrating spray and moisturiser, which work to create a veil of moisture on the skin that nourishes the skin’s natural moisturising layer, locking in moisture that aids in collagen synthesis and hydrates all the layers of the skin.
To keep skin ultimately hydrated, look to natural foods, beverages, and hydrating compounds. Pink sea salt, healthy sea vegetables and grasses, sodium rich fruits, drinking a healthy amount of water, and making sure to replenish electrolytes after exercise is crucial for maintaining hydration in the layers of the skin and keeping you at your youthful best.
References and Sources:
[i] Batmanghelidj, F. and M. Page. (2008). Your body’s many cries for water.
Global Health Solutions.
[ii] Berkeley. Fluid and electrolyte balance.
[iii] Dr. Axe. Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance, plus how to solve it.
[iv] World Cancer Research Fund. Salt: How much do we eat?
[v] Consumer Health Digest. Dehydrated skin wrinkles: How dehydration affects your face.
[viii] Pons-Guiraud, A. (2007). Dry skin and dermatology: A complex pathophysiology. European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, Supplement 2:1-4.
[ix] Kresser, C. (2012). Hydration 101: How much water do you really need?
[x] Dr. Axe. Pink Himalayan salt benefits that make it superior to table salt.
[xi] Global Healing Centre. (2015). 7 foods rich in iodine.
[xii] Dr. Axe. 13 Best Ingredients for Your Natural Skin Care Ritual