You probably are most aware of this mineral, if you are aware of it at all, through a popular condiment in which it is found.
Although we seldom mention it or think of it, Chloride is the other half of sodium-chloride, or table salt. Although it does not seem to receive much attention, its importance inside the body is nonetheless invaluable.
Working together with potassium and sodium, chloride is also one of the electrolytes.
Electrolytes are substances which help conduct the electrical impulses which carry many messages within the body. This particular electrolyte is found mainly in the fluids surrounding cells of the body. Its major role is to work with the other electrolytes to control the flow of body fluids in the veins as well as throughout the body, and assist the body in maintaining the proper electrolyte balance.
The dietary mineral, chloride, also helps reduce excess acid levels in the body.
The internal body environment prefers to be as close to a neutral state as possible. When the pH balance is upset, as is the case when too much acid enters the body, the body works quickly to attempt to remedy this situation. Chlorides act as neutralizing agents and their work helps to bring the acid/alkaline level back into balance.
In the stomach, chloride is found in the form of hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is an important component of the digestive process. It helps break foods down so they can be properly absorbed by the small intestines.
In the liver, chloride may also help in the process of removing waste.
Sources of the Mineral Chloride
Sodium chloride, or, as we know it, table salt, is present in practically every food we eat. Some foods contain much higher levels than others. Foods like chips, pretzels, French fries, tomato-based sauces, processed meats, canned meats and fish, olives, preserved meat, animal liver, canned vegetables and peanut butter contain the most. Chloride is especially abundant in processed foods because of the high levels of preservatives needed to keep these foods fresh.
Since chloride is so abundant in the daily diet it is not considered necessary to recommend a daily allowance. Nonetheless, 750 mg/day is the generally-accepted RDA for this mineral. Infants should get at least 0.5 to 1 gram of chloride each day.
Chloride Deficiency is Rare
When the body gets too much sodium chloride, table salt, it makes itself known by causing water retention. Over time, too much salt can lead to hypertension and may elevate the blood pressure. While too much salt can be hazardous to your health, a genuine chloride deficiency can be dangerous as well. In healthy individuals, such a deficiency does not usually occur. However, under certain conditions and situations, such serious bouts of diarrhea or vomiting, or excessive use of diuretics, or excessive fluid loss due to sweat, a chloride deficiency cn occur.
Symptoms of a Chloride Deficiency
Low blood pressure and a general feeling of weakness are two symptoms of a deficiency of this mineral. When chloride levels drop the body usually experiences a simultaneous loss of potassium via the urine. A condition known as alkalosis can develop if acid levels in the body drop too low. This is a dangerous condition that causes the blood pH to become elevated.
A chloride deficiency, combined with a significant loss of potassium, can lead to hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis. The symptoms of this condition include loss of the ability to control muscle function. This in turn leads to problems with breathing and swallowing, and if not addressed, may lead to death.
As stated, a true chloride deficiency seldom exists due to the accessability of this mineral in most diets. In fact, while many minerals are available either as a supplement or as part of a daily multivitamin, there are some excellent vitamin/mineral preparations which do not even include it. When it is present, it is generally a very small quantity and a minor percentage of the RDA for this mineral.