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Can Salt Trigger Autoimmunity?


A recent breakthrough in the literature was salt and its contribution as a trigger for autoimmunity. What's interesting about this finding is that it was sort of an incidental finding. What happened was some researchers were studying what they call T-Cell proliferations. So what they found was that the new researcher on the team had over salted one of the dishes and it ended up having a very high production of TH-17. TH-17 is what is responsible for aggravating and further promoting the destruction of tissue that is seen in autoimmunity. Think about it like adding fuel to wherever the fire or autoimmune disease is actively taking place. Also what I find even more interesting is these researchers then conducted a study to see if they could mitigate the TH-17 response after salt ingestion by taking a high dose potassium supplement and what they found was it actually did lead to a significant reduction in the TH-17 levels. I thought this was super cool because now we not only have a interesting fact we can throw around on trivia night but we also have an application that can be used to fine tune your dietary management even further. Now important to also understand, there is a subgroup of autoimmune patients who cannot retain enough salt due to an autoimmune adrenal condition known as Addison's Disease. For these patient's they actually need to consume salt. It doesn't flare up their autoimmunity and in fact it's one of the only ways they can get their blood pressure high enough to be able to function. This is just another example as to why managing an autoimmune disease is a personalized game. There is no one size fits all. I think this is important to understand because all I can do as a clinician is provide you with a framework as how to best manage this illness and then we can craft a uniquely catered management plan for you based on trail and error because at the end of the day, despite your best efforts there will be a time when you experience a flare up and it will then be your job to be able to work backwards and say "what happened?" So now, after reading this you can’t forget that salt may also be a factor and also be aware of potassium as the remedy. If you'd like to learn more about autoimmuity and how we systematically work through managing these patients check out our course entilted "Unraveling the Web of Autoimmunity"


  1. Holbrook J.T., Patterson K.Y., Bodner J.E., Douglas L.W., Veillon C., Kelsay J.L., Mertz W., Smith J.C., Jr. Sodium and potassium intake and balance in adults consuming self-selected diets. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1984;40:786–793. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/40.4.786.

  2. Scrivo R, Perricone C, Altobelli A, Castellani C, Tinti L, Conti F, Valesini G. Dietary Habits Bursting into the Complex Pathogenesis of Autoimmune Diseases: The Emerging Role of Salt from Experimental and Clinical Studies. Nutrients. 2019 May 5;11(5):1013. doi: 10.3390/nu11051013. PMID: 31060286; PMCID: PMC6566149.

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