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Can salt water be consumed?

Can salt water be consumed

The results of medical studies confirm that excessive salt consumption has dangerous consequences: increased risk of stroke, arterial hypertension and kidney failure, formation of kidney stones, osteoporosis, asthma, even stomach cancer. While most of the civilized world is trying to reduce salt consumption, proponents of folk healing shares a series of recommendations such as “Drink half a glass of warm salt water in the morning on an empty stomach!“, “Drink warm water with salt for 7 days” etc.

Today we will talk about what salt is, what amount of salt consumed is not harmful to the health and does salt water cleanse the body?

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What is salt and what are its properties?

Main content of salt:

  • Sodium chloride is the main component of salt, which has the salty taste we are used to and whose consumption we are trying to limit;
  • Potassium iodide or potassium iodate is an impurity added to salt in regions where the population has problems with iodine deficiency;
  • Sodium and potassium fluorides are added to the water to increase residents’ consumption of fluoride which protects teeth and promotes healthy bones;
  • Potassium, calcium, and magnesium sulfates are included in polyhalite such as pink Himalayan salt.

Salt can also contain small amounts of other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, sulfur, etc. The widely popular Himalayan salt contains 11 elements (sodium (31%), chlorine (48%), oxygen (11%), sulfur (3.5%), calcium (2.5%), potassium (3%), magnesium ( 1.3%), silicon, aluminum, iron and fluorine in small amounts.

How is salt obtained?

Rock salt is obtained from underground layers where it was formed many thousands of years ago such as Himalayan salt (it’s color is due to iron). Sea salt is obtained by evaporating salt water. The principle of its production is based on the fact that the solution in shallow pools is concentrated by natural evaporation or such salt is obtained by steaming. The main disadvantage of the sea salt is that it contains heavy metal salts and organic substances. Another method is brine evaporation which is obtained by pumping water into salt mines. This method makes it possible to obtain purer “Extra” salt and for this purpose the solution is purified beforehand.

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How much salt do we consume?

The recommended daily allowance of salt is five grams which is almost a full teaspoon. It seems that not every household consumes such amount of salt per day but it is possible to take it more when buying and eating ready-made food. For example, the salt content in boiled sausage is 1.5-3.5% but in smoked sausage 2.5-6%. Cheese with mold contain up to 3.6% salt, feta and parmesan cheese about 3%. 100 grams of chips can contain up to 15 grams of salt. In general, sodium chloride consumption for adults can exceed 10 grams per day. Excessive sodium consumption can lead to an increase in blood pressure, thereby increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and strokes. According to the World Health Organization excessive salt consumption leads to 2.5 million deaths per year.

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Salt water for cleansing the body – the truth or myth?

The proponents of folk healing for “treatment” with salt water offer two options:

  • to prepare a warm salt solution containing 1 teaspoon of salt per liter of water and drink a glass of it per day for a week;
  • to prepare five liters the same solution and drink it in large quantities until diarrhea appears (“cleansing the body”).

The authors of “treatment” recommend using only sea or rock salt which is particularly useful. This statement is not true because the composition of all types of salt is almost the same.

A teaspoon of salt is about 6-7 grams. This results in a solution with salt concentration of 6 g/l or 6000 mg/l if the salt is dissolved in distilled water. The maximum salt content indicator for drinking water is 1000 mg/l and such water is not suitable for consumption. If a glass of such salt water is drunk per day, then approximately 1.1 – 1.2 grams of salt is taken. Although this amount of salt is not dangerous, eating 30 grams of parmesan cheese and drinking plain water is probably tastier.

Regarding so-called “cleansing of the body” the following processes take place in the body: a concentrated salt solution enters the stomach and then moves to the intestines. As it is a hypertonic solution (the salt content is higher than in human body tissues), it contributes to the osmotic effect. It “draws” moisture from the tissues and contributes to the liquefaction of the intestinal contents, which in turn causes increased defecation.

Before the advent of modern laxatives a hypertonic solution of magnesium sulfate was used in medical practice which produced approximately the same effect. Today, however, it is used only in preoperative conditions when rapid bowel cleansing is required. In most cases more gentle and safer agents are used.

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Why do you need to drink salt water?

As we don’t have one clear answer to this question, we decided to look at and analyze the “recommendations” of proponents of folk healing:

  1. Water with sea salt is a source of necessary minerals“. As we found out earlier, 95-97% of table salt is sodium chloride and the rest are calcium and magnesium salts. Taking into account the modern human diet, the consumption of salt is sufficient, moreover, it does not contain sufficient amounts of other important elements (only artificially added iodine and fluorine are useful).
  2. Salt acts as a natural antibiotic“. Indeed, salt solutions in a concentration of 10-15% are used to store meat and other products because salt slows down the processes of rotting. The problem is that to get a 10% solution you need to dissolve 100 grams of salt in a liter of water, which is 3 times more than in salty ocean water.
  3. Salt water can prevent osteoporosis and brittle bones“. The calcium content of salt is low and medical studies show that high consumption of sodium chloride can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.
  4. Maintains normal fluid levels”. Salt water can have the opposite effect – dehydration. The comparison with the medical saline solution is not correct because its concentration is only 0.9% which does not cause a violation of the osmotic balance.
  5. Improves the functioning of the nervous system“. Although the relationship of salt with the work of the nervous system (the release of serotonin and cortisol) is an interesting research question, it still has a negative effect on the development of multiple sclerosis.
  6. Salt and water help to thin and clear mucus in the lungs and sinuses“. Saline solutions, when taken orally, help to dilute the contents of the intestines.

Most of the information from the Internet has nothing to do with chemistry, evidence-based medicine or common sense. Although some recommendations are simply harmless, some can seriously harm health. Before you decide to use salt water in your diet, find out the opinion of your family doctor and the possible consequences.

Effects of using salt water

Dietary salt water increases daily salt intake which is unlikely to cause adverse effects, except when following a low- or no-salt diet.

Consequences can occur if the saline solution is used to “cleanse the body” and has a laxative effect. In medicine, sodium chloride is not used as a laxative. But if it is used as a “medicine”, the consequences of using such agents are dehydration as in the case of viral or bacterial diarrhea. Doctors say that among the more common consequences of using hypertonic solutions as laxatives are:

  • probability of termination of pregnancy;
  • exacerbation of inflammatory processes in the gastrointestinal tract;
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • imbalance of water-salt exchange.

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Frequently asked Questions


Salt water is usually drunk by athletes during prolonged intense physical exertion (such as during training or competition) or in conditions of high heat and high humidity. Drinking salt water helps to lose less salt and avoid the sodium deficit that can occur with heavy sweating. Sodium is a key electrolyte and its balanced intake is important for normal body function, especially muscle function and hydration. However, it is important to follow the correct proportions and not to exceed the recommended salt intake, as this can have negative health consequences.


Seawater purification can be achieved using a variety of methods, including desalination, which involves removing salts and minerals from seawater. This process, which provides purified water for drinking or agricultural irrigation, is widely used around the world. Desalination of salt water can produce fresh water that is suitable for drinking, leaving the salt as a secondary product. Different methods can be used to purify water from salts and make it suitable for drinking, industrial use or irrigation, such as vacuum distillation, geothermal desalination, membrane processes (reverse osmosis), etc.

Read also: Drinking water: myths and the truth.


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