Experimental Medications: Other Therapeutic Strategies
An array of recent research ranging from molecular studies to animal models and even some preliminary human data, has implicated levels of dietary salt – sodium chloride, or NaCl – as potentially affecting MS outcomes. In research presented in 2013,75 high dietary salt was found to increase autoimmune neuro-inflammation by markedly boosting a Th17 helper T-cell driven autoimmune response in EAE (an experimental disease used to simulate MS in mice).
Th17 is an immune-system cell (lymphocyte) involved with the inflammation that causes damage to the myelin and nerves with MS. This Th17-boosting property of dietary salt was also seen in humans.
In a separate study,76 higher salt consumption was associated with increased clinical and MRI disease activity in people with MS. Seventy patients with RRMS were followed over two years, tracking sodium intake. This was in conjunction with clinical and MRI assessment every three-to-six months or at the time of relapse.
Researchers found that individuals with high-sodium intake had 3.4-times greater odds of developing a new lesion on the MRI, and on average, had eight more T2 lesions on MRI. MS relapse rates were higher among those with high-sodium intake as well.
The theory that salt may increase MS inflammation remains to be proven, and interventional studies will need to be performed to establish causality. However, this theory could have far-reaching practical dietary implications for individuals with MS.