It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to [email protected] and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.
I attended a health seminar where you mentioned how important it is to reduce the sodium in our diets and not have more than the daily recommended value. You gave a few examples of the amount of sodium in some fast food and chain restaurant meals and how the daily maximum could quickly be reached. If I do have these items, will drinking extra water counteract the increase in sodium?
This is a great question.
There may be a slight effect, but sadly, drinking more water won't likely offset a high sodium diet very much. The body has a very elegant mechanism that regulates the volume of water in the body as well as the levels of sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes. The kidneys are quite efficient at holding on to electrolytes and filtering water.
While increasing water intake will help increase the excretion of sodium to some extent over time, it's not likely to be to a great degree. There may be slightly more sodium in the urine but the real effect of drinking more water is that the urine will be much more dilute than usual.
Thanks for writing,
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP