Low Sodium and Immune System: What's the Connection?

    Low Sodium and Immune System: What's the Connection?

    Increased salt intake is highly associated with the development of cardiovascular diseases, that’s why health authorities urge the public to be mindful of their sodium consumption. But did you know that there’s also a connection between salt and immunity or low sodium and immune system? How does low sodium affect our immune system? Find out here.

    The connection between low sodium and immune system

    Let’s look into the various studies suggesting that low sodium intake could be a driving factor for a more effective immune system.

    Salt intake, immunity, and hypertension

    In one study published in the American Heart Association Journals, a team of researchers mentioned that the immune system plays an active role in the development of hypertension and that salt intake could influence changes in the immune response.

    When the researchers analyzed several studies, they found that increased salt intake stimulates the production of certain cytokines. This resulted in organ damage and inflammation.

    Increased salt intake and excessive immune responses

    Another scientific investigation compared the immune responses between healthy participants who had different levels of salt intake: 6 grams per day, 9 grams per day, and 12 grams per day.

    At the end of the study period, the researchers concluded that there’s a direct connection between monocyte number and sodium intake. Participants who had 12 grams of salt daily had the highest levels of monocytes. This a type of white blood cell that the body normally produces when there’s an infection. This is indicative of “excessive” immune responses that may bring about damage to the balanced immune system.

    Furthermore, they observed that lower sodium intake reduced the levels of cytokines that promote inflammation. However, it also increased the levels of cytokines with anti-inflammatory effects.

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    Too much salt weakens the immune system

    When understanding the relationship between low sodium and immune system, is low sodium good for the immune system? According to a recent study at the University of Bonn, it could be.

    The researchers mentioned two studies: an experiment with animals and research with human participants.

    The animal study showed that mice with increased levels of sodium exhibited 100 to 1,000 times more disease-causing pathogens. Urinary tract infections in laboratory mice also seemed to heal more slowly when they have high levels of salt in their body.

    Likewise, volunteers who consumed 6 grams of salt on top of their usual diet for a week seemed to develop a weakened immunity. The researchers noted that their immune cells “coped much worse” with bacteria after their high salt diet.

    How much is too much salt

    Now that we have a better understanding of how low sodium could be better for the immune system, let’s talk about healthy salt intake. So does low sodium and immune system have a connection?

    According to experts, adults should have no more than 5 grams of salt (2 grams of sodium) per day.

    The problem is, most people consume about 9 to 12 grams of salt daily. That’s more than twice the recommended amount.

    It would be helpful to remember that many foods already contain salt, so reaching out for the salt shaker to add taste to meals might lead to excessive salt intake.

    Case in point: Each time you consume a slice of pizza, sandwich, crisps, soup, or cereals, know that most of them already contain salt or sodium.

    So, don’t forget to check food labels. Furthermore, remember that there are alternatives to salt when it comes to seasoning your food.

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    Strengthening your immune system

    In the discussion about low sodium and immune system, low sodium intake could be just one factor in strengthening your immune system. Keep in mind that many things you do daily contribute to stronger immunity.

    Don’t forget to have a healthy, balanced diet, composed of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Additionally, engage in regular exercise and have adequate sleep and rest. Finally, talk to your doctor as soon as you experience unexplained or unexpected symptoms.

    Learn more about Healthy Eating here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jun 17, 2021