Not Found
Locations

Find information on medical topics, symptoms, drugs, procedures, news and more, written in everyday language.

Overview of Sodium's Role in the Body

By James L. Lewis, III, MD, Attending Physician, Brookwood Baptist Health and Saint Vincent’s Ascension Health, Birmingham

Sodium is one of the body's electrolytes, which are minerals that the body needs in relatively large amounts. Electrolytes carry an electric charge when dissolved in body fluids such as blood.

Most of the body’s sodium is located in blood and in the fluid around cells. Sodium helps the body keep fluids in a normal balance (see About Body Water). Sodium plays a key role in normal nerve and muscle function.

The body obtains sodium through food and drink and loses it primarily in sweat and urine. Healthy kidneys maintain a consistent level of sodium in the body by adjusting the amount excreted in the urine. When sodium consumption and loss are not in balance, the total amount of sodium in the body is affected. The concentration of sodium in the blood may be

Controlling blood volume

The total amount of sodium in the body affects the amount of fluid in blood (blood volume) and around cells. The body continually monitors blood volume and sodium concentration. When either becomes too high, sensors in the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys detect the increases and stimulate the kidneys to increase sodium excretion, thus returning blood volume to normal.

When blood volume or sodium concentration becomes too low, the sensors trigger mechanisms to increase blood volume. These mechanisms include the following:

  • The kidneys stimulate the adrenal glands to secrete the hormone aldosterone. Aldosterone causes the kidneys to retain sodium and to excrete potassium. When sodium is retained, less urine is produced, eventually causing blood volume to increase.

  • The pituitary gland secretes vasopressin (sometimes called antidiuretic hormone). Vasopressin causes the kidneys to conserve water.

Resources In This Article