Chloride is the ionic form of chlorine and is one of the major electrolytes in the body, alongside sodium, potassium, and bicarbonate. Electrolytes are minerals that dissolve in water and conduct electricity, facilitating essential processes within the body. Chloride is predominantly found in the extracellular fluid and helps maintain proper fluid balance and pH levels.

Functions of Chloride

  • Fluid balance: Chloride works closely with sodium and potassium to regulate the balance of fluids in and around the cells.
  • Acid-base balance: Chloride helps maintain the body’s acid-base balance by participating in the formation of hydrochloric acid and buffering potential changes in pH.
  • Digestion: Chloride is a component of hydrochloric acid, which is produced by the stomach to break down food and aid digestion.
  • Nerve function: Chloride is involved in nerve impulse transmission, facilitating communication between cells.

Good Sources of Chloride

  • Table salt: Sodium chloride, or common table salt, is the primary source of chloride in most diets.
  • Seaweed: Seaweed, such as kelp and dulse, is a natural source of chloride.
  • Salt substitutes: Potassium chloride-based salt substitutes are another source of chloride.
  • Vegetables: Some vegetables, such as tomatoes, lettuce, and celery, contain small amounts of chloride.

Many processed and packaged foods contain added salt, providing significant amounts of chloride. However, it is recommended to reduce the consumption of processed food.

How Much Chloride Do We Need?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) does provide recommended daily intakes for chloride anymore. However, as with most nutrients, excessive intake of chloride can have negative health effects. The best way to meet your needs for chloride is by consuming a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods, particularly fruits and vegetables that are rich in potassium, which can help to balance the effects of excess chloride intake. Some common sources of chloride include table salt (sodium chloride), sea salt, celery, olives, and tomatoes as mentioned above.

A study published in 2018 did provide the adequate intake (AI) of chloride. The study, which was published in the journal Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, found that the adequate intake of chloride for adults should be at least 2.3 grams per day.

Age GroupChloride Daily Intake (mg/day) (Milligram)
Infants 0-4 months300
Infants 4-12 months450
Children 1-4 years600
Children 4-7 years750
Children 7-10 years1,150
Children 10-13 years1,700
Adolescents 13-15 years2,150
Adolescents 15-19 years2,300
Adults 19-51 years2,300
Adults 51-65 years2,300
Adults 65+ years2,300
Pregnant women2,300
Lactating women2,300

What Are The Signs of Chloride Deficiency?

Chloride deficiency, or hypochloremia, is rare but can occur due to excessive fluid loss, certain medications, or some medical conditions. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • Dehydration
  • Muscle weakness or spasms
  • Alkalosis, a condition characterized by an increase in blood pH
  • Poor digestion due to reduced hydrochloric acid production
  • Neurological disturbances, such as confusion or seizures

What Happens If I Take Too Much Chloride?

Excessive chloride intake, or hyperchloremia, is generally associated with a high intake of sodium chloride (salt) and can lead to several health issues, such as:

  • High blood pressure: Excessive chloride and sodium intake can contribute to increased blood pressure, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Fluid retention: High chloride levels can cause the body to retain fluid, resulting in swelling and bloating.
  • Kidney issues: Excessive chloride intake can strain the kidneys, potentially causing damage over time.
  • Osteoporosis: A high-sodium diet, which is typically associated with high chloride intake, can lead to calcium loss from bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
  • Electrolyte imbalances: Excessive chloride intake can disrupt the balance of other electrolytes, such as potassium, which can affect muscle and nerve function.