Can Salt Cause Autoimmunity?
IS SALT TO BLAME?
There has been a marked increase in the incidence of autoimmune diseases in the past half-century. Autoimmune diseases are complex chronic inflammatory diseases that involve genetic and environmental factors. There has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of autoimmune diseases in the p The underlying genetic basis of autoimmunity has been recently come into awareness through identification of predominantly immune-response genes. However, there is belief that 80% of the causes of autoimmune is related to environmental and dietary factors. More recently, salt intake has been proposed as a diet factor that can instigate the immune response.
Multiple studies are indicating that salt (sodium chloride) influences cells that promote the expression of an immune response like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn's disease.
These forms of autoimmunity have been linked to overproduction of TH17 cells, a type of helper T cell that produces an inflammatory protein called interleukin-17.
SALT CRAVINGS + ADRENAL FUNCTION
What is even more interesting is that individuals with compromised adrenal function due to relentless and overwhelming stress crave salt. So if you are highly stressed, have a busy life that affords you little time to prepare your own meals (and control nutrition as well as sodium intake), you could be craving a substance that can actually harm your autoimmune. And so the downward cycle goes!
FOUR WAYS TO REDUCE SODIUM
I do ask my clients to look at and measure their sodium intake as well as be observant about their cravings. One of our favorite sodium-free seasonings is a blend of organic spices and vegetables (and gluten-free!) by Bragg.
- Don't assume natural salt is better! Even sea salt (which is healthier only because it has natural minerals versus table salt) has sodium chloride.
- Limit (avoid) all processed foods including: Frozen meals, canned or pickled foods, snack foods, deli meat, cheese, condiments, sauces and dressings, breads, cereals, soda (including diet soda).
- Look for other names for salt including: baking soda, baking powder, monosodium glutamate (MSG), disodium phosphate or salt.
- Lastly, you can talk with your doctor or functional medicine practitioner about the role sodium has in your diet - as well as other dietary and lifestyle choices affecting your autoimmune condition.
Be well, be healthy, be happy!