Published: September 11, 2018

    Does Salt Water Dehydrate You?

    You likely learned at a young age that human beings cannot drink salt water. Whenever you go for a swim in the ocean inevitably some bitter-tasting salt water will get into your mouth, and you’ll understand the aesthetic difference between refreshing, pure drinking water and salt water, which carries a strong briny taste.

    For scientists, the reason for this is simple: salt water dehydrates you. But the body also needs sodium, an integral component of salt, in order to retain water. What causes this seeming contradiction? And why is salt water unsafe to drink?

    What Happens When You Drink Salt Water

    Salt water contains a much higher concentration of salt than your body requires to survive, and in fact a higher concentration than it can safely handle. When your body detects excess salt in your bloodstream your kidneys kick into overdrive to filter and remove the salt through the passage of urine. However, the kidneys require a good deal of water in order to process a small amount of water.

    When you drink salt water you are ingesting a high concentration of salt, and not enough water to safely filter it out of your body. So, while you are drinking water, during your body’s natural processes you lose more water than you ingest, leaving behind a toxic level of salt in your system.

    As your kidneys continue to create excess urine to dilute the salt you will become severely dehydrated. This process will kill you if you continue to only drink salt water.

    Why Too Much Salt Is Deadly

    When too much salt enters the body it disrupts your ability to naturally regulate the amount of water in your cells. A high concentration of salt can make the water content in a cell appear higher than it actually is, causing the water to leave the cell and enter the bloodstream.

    When this occurs a cell will quickly lose its shape, or “denature,” and die. While these cells are dying water is entering the bloodstream and being transported to the kidneys to flush out the excess salt, destroying your cells and leaving your body unable to complete basic tasks.

    How to Safely Drink Salt Water

    In an emergency situation you can remove the salt from salt water by boiling the salt water and collecting the water vapor with a separate instrument. Water boils at a lower temperature than salt, leaving the salt behind.

    If you are able to condense the water vapor into a pure form you will be able to safely hydrate yourself. However, in general salt water should not be consumed and this should be considered a last resort.

    You’re not stranded on a desert island yet, so continue to drink only pure, refreshing filtered water. Pelican Water experts are standing by to help you choose the right filtration system or water softener alternative for your home. Give us a call at 877-842-1635 to outfit your home with industry leading water filtration technology.