While chloride is often thought of as simply being a component of table salt (sodium chloride), it actually plays an important role in human health. Chloride is an electrolyte mineral that helps to maintain fluid balance in the body and aids in the conduction of nerve impulses and muscle contraction.
It’s also involved in regulating blood pressure and kidney function. Your doctor may order a chloride blood test if you have symptoms of dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance. Chloride levels can also be affected by certain medications, so your doctor may test to check for drug side effects. Chloride levels are usually measured along with sodium and potassium levels. An abnormal chloride level may indicate dehydration, kidney disease, or a lung condition. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the imbalance.
It also plays a role in helping our stomachs digest food. When we eat, our stomachs produce hydrochloric acid. This acid helps break down food so that our bodies can absorb the nutrients. Chloride helps balance the hydrochloric acid levels in our stomachs. Too much chloride can lead to indigestion and heartburn. Not enough chloride can lead to constipation.
Chloride is found in many foods, including table salt, seaweed, soy sauce, and pickles. Chloride deficiencies are rare but can occur in cases of severe dehydration or sweating. Chloride supplements are generally not necessary unless recommended by a healthcare professional.