Chloride is an essential electrolyte mineral.

What are its health benefits?

It works with other electrolytes in the body, like potassium, sodium and carbon dioxide, to ensure fluid balance, nervous system function, heart function, and the balance of the body’s acid-base.

It’s also an essential component of digestive juices — with hydrogen, it forms hydrochloric acid in the stomach to aid digestion.

Do you have a deficiency?

Chloride deficiency in humans, known as hypochloremia, is rare as it forms part of table salt, which is present in most foods. In fact, people tend to take in more chloride than they need, because of salt-laden Western diets.

Hypochloremia (a shortage of chloride) can, however, be caused by:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Excessive fluid loss due to prolonged diarrhoea or vomiting, or overuse of coffee or laxatives or diuretics
  • Over-hydration
  • Burns
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Certain kidney disorders
  • Addison's disease
  • In infants on chloride-deficient formulae

When a severe chloride deficiency in the body occurs, it can result in a life-threatening condition known as alkalosis, in which the blood becomes overly alkaline. Symptoms include muscle weakness, loss of appetite, irritability, dehydration, and lethargy.

Chloride deficiency treatment includes water restriction, intravenous saline, and the administration of diuretics.

Find it in these foods

Chloride is found in almost all foods in the salt that is added, often in large amounts, during processing or cooking.

Foods high in chloride are:

  • Table salt or sea salt (sodium chloride)
  • Salt substitutes such as potassium chloride
  • Seaweed
  • Olives
  • Rye
  • Vegetables like celery, lettuce, tomatoes
  • Preserved meats such as bacon, ham, sausages
  • Processed or canned or fast foods high in salt

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

On average, these are the recommended daily amounts for different age categories:

  • Infants 0-6 mths: 0.18g
  • Infants 7-12 mths: 0.57g
  • Children 1-3 yrs: 1.5g
  • Children 4-8 yrs: 1.9g
  • From age 9-50 yrs: 2.3g
  • From age 50-70 yrs: 2.0g
  • From age 70: 1.8g

Know the overdose risks

Excessive chloride is unusual as it is excreted through urine, sweat and bowels. But the effects of too much chloride from salted foods can increase your blood pressure and cause a buildup of fluid in people with congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, or kidney disease.

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in February 2015