New Study: High Levels of Salt May Cause of Allergic Immune Reactions, Like Eczema
Nearly one in three people are affected by allergies at some point throughout their lives. And nearly one in ten children suffer from atopic dermatitis, also commonly known as eczema. A new study from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) reports that the cause could be salt. Here’s what you need to know.
Why Salt is Essential to Our Bodies
Table salt, scientifically known as sodium chloride, is essential to the health of humans and animals. According to Harvard Health, salt is needed to transmit nerve impulses, contract and relax muscle fibers and maintain proper fluid balance. But many also know that salt can be harmful for our bodies.
Harvard Health continues, “When sodium is in short supply, a host of chemical and hormonal messages signal the kidneys and sweat glands to hold onto water and conserve sodium. When you get more sodium than you need, the kidneys flush out the excess by making more, or saltier, urine. If they can’t get rid of enough sodium, though, it accumulates in the fluid between cells. Water inevitably follows sodium, and as the volume of this fluid increases, so does the volume of blood. This means more work for the heart and more pressure on blood vessels. Over time, this can stiffen blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke. It can also lead to heart failure.”
What are T-Cells?
T-Cells are types of white blood cells that play an essential role in our immune system. Simply, they are soldiers who seek out and destroy invaders – or allergens – that can cause harm to our bodies. However, if uncontrolled, these T-cells can also develop pathological responses and start attacking parts of our bodies. When this occurs, certain T-cells can cause inflammatory skin conditions, like eczema, as there is an increase in the production of certain harmful proteins (interleukin 4 (IL-4) and interleukin 13 (IL-13)).
The Link Between Salt and Eczema
Christina Zielinski, a DZIF-professor at TUM’s Institute of Virology, and her team were able to demonstrate that sodium chloride can also induce a state in human T cells that causes them to produce increased amounts of the proteins IL-4 and IL-13. Types of T-cells, which should not cause allergies, can, in the presence of salt, turn into Th2 cells. The changes are reversed when the T-cell is again exposed to lower salt levels.
Her team investigated whether the affected skin regions of atopic dermatitis patients exhibit elevated sodium levels. The sodium levels in the affected skin areas of patients suffering from atopic dermatitis proved to be up to 30 times higher than in healthy skin.
Technical University of Munich (TUM). “Salt could be a key factor in allergic immune reactions: Atopic dermatitis: Elevated salt concentrations in affected skin.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 February 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190220145044.htm>.