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10 signs you're eating too much salt

Daniel Couglin / 04 April 2017 ( 05 April 2019 )

Puffy eyes, always popping to the loo, rings tight on your fingers? You might be eating too much salt. Find out how to get salt consumption down to a healthy level.

Salty crisps
The more salt you consume, the higher your blood pressure, in addition to other health risks.

Wonder whether you're eating too much salt? A study from Japan has linked frequent night-time toilet trips to diets high in salt. Waking up several times a night with an urge to go is just one of many tell-tale signs your intake could be excessive – and you'd be far from alone. “As a nation, we're still eating too much salt,” says dietitian Helen Bond. “The average person eats 7.2g of salt daily. It should be below 6g.”

The more salt you consume, the higher your blood pressure, and excessive levels in the diet over time can increase your risk of osteoporosis and other chronic conditions, so it's important to restrict your daily intake to no more than the recommended 6g a day, which is about a teaspoon's worth. We reveal 10 warning signs you might be going overboard.

Health problems caused by too much salt

How to reduce water retention

You need the toilet. A lot

Whether at night or during the day, frequent urination is a classic sign of excessive salt intake, but it can also be a symptom of a number of other conditions, from an overactive bladder or urinary tract infection to type 2 diabetes. While it's usually nothing to worry about, see your GP if you notice a change in your normal urinary habits.

Unlimited access to a qualified GP with Saga Health Insurance - you'll have access 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to a GP consultation service. Find out more about our GP phone service.

You're constantly thirsty

If you often find your mouth gets drier than a stale shortbread and your thirst is unquenchable, chances are you could be going OTT on the salt. Excessive amounts draw water from cells, which fire out signals that stimulate the brain's thirst centre. Like frequent urination, constant thirst can be a sign of other conditions such as type 2 diabetes, so make sure you get it evaluated by a doctor.

How much water do you need to drink

You live on ready meals, takeaways and processed food

Ready meals, takeaways and processed food such as bacon, canned soups and breakfast cereal tend to be laden with salt. In fact, according to the NHS, a whopping 75% of the salt we eat is already in these everyday favourites. Check product labels when possible and avoid or limit foods with a red label for salt or that contain more than 1.5g per 100g. If you can, cook whole foods from scratch more often. That way, you control your salt intake instead of the supermarket or pizza joint.

You get puffy under-eye bags

If you're prone to puffiness under the eyes, it could be a sign you're consuming too much salt – when you're overdoing it, your body holds extra water to balance out the excess salt, which leads to swelling (oedema). Under eye bags can be caused by other factors, such as lack of sleep and allergies, or may be a side effect of certain medications, so again, see your doctor if they are a problem.

Are you having a bad age day?

Quick fixes for puffy eyes

Your ankles swell

An excess of salt in the diet can also lead to swollen ankles. Like bags under the eyes, swollen ankles can be caused by water retention as a result of eating too much salt, but other conditions can give rise to ankle oedema, and in any case, it's normal for your ankles to swell a little after a long day on your feet. As always, visit your GP if the swelling is persistent and/or troublesome.

Swollen ankles: causes and cures

Your rings are sometimes tight on your fingers

If you wear a wedding or similar ring, you may notice it feels tight on your finger now and again. Again, an overload of salt could be the underlying cause of this intermittent swelling, but another condition such as an allergy could be the culprit. Limit your salt intake and if the oedema persists, see your doctor.

Swollen fingers explained

You find a lot of food tastes bland and boring

Wish your food had more flavour? An excessive intake of salt could be to blame. Too much of the white stuff can desensitise your taste buds, which may become accustomed to overly high amounts, making anything that isn't loaded with salt taste of nothing. Instead, try to flavour your meals with strong-tasting spices and herbs like black pepper, cumin, rosemary and thyme.

Recipe: low-salt roast chicken

10 reasons to add spices to your diet

You crave salty, savoury food

Likewise, if you find yourself craving salty snacks like crisps, peanuts and olives, you could well be consuming too much salt. You'll enjoy your food so much more if you cut your salt intake to within the official guidelines, and according to Action on Salt, it only takes three weeks for the taste buds to recover.

You get frequent mild headaches

If you suffer from frequent mild headaches and have no idea what's causing them, you might want to reduce your salt intake. An overload of salt in the diet can lead to dehydration-induced headache symptoms. If cutting down on salt has no effect, your doctor will be able to help you figure out the root cause.

12 types of headaches and what they could mean

You can't think straight at times

Given excessive salt in the diet can lead to dehydration, it can trigger brain fog and mild confusion, too. As with the other signs in our round-up, this disorientating brain fog can be a symptom of a whole host of other conditions. Discussing any symptoms you have with a GP is the way forward, especially if they are frequent and/or debilitating.

Find out more about how dehydration can cause confusion and how to avoid it

Want to talk to a GP today? With Saga Health Insurance, you have unlimited access to a qualified GP 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Find out more about our GP phone service.


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.