Chloride


Chloride is one tiny electron change away from chlorine, the nasty-smelling chemical hotel pools always smell of so badly. Unlike chlorine, however, chloride is actually here to help our bodies.

Read on to learn what exactly it is, how it keeps our bodies running smoothly, and a rough general estimate of how much of it you should be getting from you diet every day.

What Is It?

Chloride is a mineral that the body needs in specific amounts to help keep us healthy. Chloride is classed as an electrolyte, and is an ionic form of chlorine. While chlorine in its original state can be quite toxic to humans, this ionic form is not a danger and in fact keeps us feeling healthy.

What Is Its Biological Role?

Chloride [1] has a few function in our bodies. When we first ingest it, either as whole foods or as part of compounds like table salt (sodium chloride), the beginnings of the digestive process take some of the chloride.

That isolated chloride is then combined with hydrogen in our stomachs to form hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is a highly corrosive type of acid; however, when our stomach makes hydrochloric acid it is actually helping us. This acid is one of the major components responsible for helping us digest our food by dissolving it into simpler nutrients that can then easily be utilized by our bodies.

Another vital function of chloride is to help us balance the levels of fluid both in our body as a whole, as well as inside our cells compared to the spaces outside our cells and in our blood. This function helps keep the right mix of nutrients in our cells and in our blood, and on a larger scale helps to prevent water retention.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

Regardless of who you are or what type of lifestyle you lead, you need chloride in order to function properly and avoid getting ill. The only way chloride would interest fitness enthusiasts is that, because it is an electrolyte, [2] it helps support proper hydration.

Most of those who like to hit the gym or lift big know that when you sweat one of the first things to be lost from your body is electrolytes. After all, that’s how sports drink companies keep making money. In order to avoid concerns about becoming overly dehydrated it is important to make sure that you are getting enough electrolytes from your diet so that you don’t lose them all at once as soon as you start or shortly into an intense workout.

What Foods Contain It?

Most Americans get the majority of their chloride intake from table salt. This is both a relatively poor choice and not the only option. The sodium in table salt has its own set of negative health effects; it is better to get as much chloride as possible from whole foods. Chloride can be found in many vegetables including tomatoes, celery, olives, and lettuce. Other foods containing a good amount of chloride include rye and seaweed.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

Recommended daily [3] allowances for chloride set forth by the National Institute for Health vary based on age. At birth the recommended allowance is 0.18mg per day, and increases steadily until adulthood. For adults between the ages of 14 and 50, the recommended daily allowance is 2.3mg per day.

When you reach 51 years of age the recommendation falls to 2.0mg per day, and when you reach 71 years of age it falls yet again to 1.8mg per day. Regardless of age, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding have a recommended daily allowance of 2.3mg per day.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

Excessively high levels of chloride in the blood is a condition referred to as hyperchloremia. Most people do not have problems with hyperchloremia; rather they will develop a related condition such as high blood pressure because of all the sodium they ingest with the chloride in salt.

Hyperchloremia is typically caused by prolonged periods of diarrhea and vomiting, such as is commonly seen in chemotherapy patients. Symptoms include extreme dehydration and poor blood glucose control. Other than these symptoms, patients will generally not notice any symptoms with hyperchloremia and will need to be diagnosed via a blood test rather than a specific presentation of symptoms.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Low levels of chloride in the blood is referred to as hypochloremia. Symptoms of hypochloremia include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, inability to draw a full breath, and muscles that twitch or spasm uncontrollably. Hypochloremia is typically the result of malfunctioning kidneys, and treatment involves finding and addressing the cause of the original disturbance to the kidneys.

Though its role may be small, chloride helps to keep us healthy and feeling good. Hopefully now that you’ve read a bit about chloride, you feel more informed and able to take the reins of your own dietary habits to ensure you are being your best self.

References:

[1] Medline Plus. Chloride in Diet. National Library of Medicine, 2015.

[2] Medline Plus. Electrolytes. National Library of Medicine, 2015.

[3] Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health. Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intake. US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015.