Eczema, asthma, multiple sclerosis… these are just a few examples of autoimmune disease. It’s a condition in which the body attacks itself because it mistakes native proteins as foreign invaders.
Sadly, these diseases are far too common – affecting about 23.5 million Americans (and the incidence is rising). And recent research may offer clues as to why.
According to a collaborative effort between scientists at Yale University and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, in Germany, processed food could be to blame.
Of course, there is a genetic component involved. But the combination of a predisposition and the “right” environmental insult is what causes these awful diseases. And again, the latter culprit appears to be junk food – more specifically its refined salt content.
Refined salt is in all processed and fast foods. It’s added in large amounts to make them taste better. And if that wasn’t bad enough, apparently products in the US oftentimes have twice the amount of salt as that in other countries due to lack of regulation (thanks FDA). For example, a Big Mac sold in Berlin has less refined salt than one sold in Austin.
Here’s an even scarier statistic. According to the CDC, bread is the number one source of refined salt in the American diet. For instance, did you know that a 6-inch roasted garlic loaf from Subway has 1,260 mg of sodium? That’s about as much as 14 strips of bacon!
But what exactly is refined salt? In a nutshell, it’s salt that has been altered. More specifically, it has been stripped of its 80 or so minerals and elements – minerals that are vital to life – and left with just two: sodium and chloride.
In the study mentioned above, this altered substance (i.e. the table salt you spice your food with every day) was able to transform normal helper T cells in mice (an essential part of our immune system) into very aggressive counterparts. The latter were highly inflammatory and the mice went on to develop a disease that resembles multiple sclerosis in humans.
Now, this unfortunate effect may be the result of its lack of minerals rather than the amount of salt itself. Nevertheless, there are two main takeaways from all this:
- Limit processed food in your diet as much as possible. You can never go wrong by sticking to natural, whole foods. Save the junk for the occasional cheat meal – if that.
And not just for the sake of avoiding autoimmune disease. There’s also the issue of hypertension or high blood pressure. But that’s another story altogether.
- Stop using table salt. Switch to natural sea salt that has its minerals intact. Even if refined salt can’t be definitively blamed for autoimmune disease – eating something in its natural state is always better than its processed counterpart.
And as far as the last point is concerned, it applies to everything, not just salt. Following this key piece of advice will go a long way in ensuring you stay healthy and disease-free.