salt shaker on counter

Put Down the Salt Shaker — It May Be an RA Trigger!

Ever wonder if the salt in your diet is making your joints swell?  Do you feel bloated and uncomfortable after eating that bag of chips?  As it turns out, there is evidence to support this idea.

A 2009 study found that high salt intake can adversely affect the immune system by interfering with macrophage function through TH-17 cells. TH-17 cells may play an important role in the inflammatory process.  Also, corticosteroids like Prednisone which are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, may cause your body to hold onto sodium. Therefore, higher salt intake may be a factor in both disease development and symptom exacerbation. Ideally, you want to cut your salt intake as much as possible — keep it less that 1500 mg per day.  This is easier said than done as most canned foods and pre-packaged convenience foods contain salt as a preservative.  Not to mention, when dining out, restaurants often add it liberally to improve the taste of food.

Easy ways to reduce dietary salt

  1. Replace salt with herbs and spices for seasoning.  Salt is an acquired taste and it may take your taste buds a little while to adjust to this substitution, but don’t give up!  Keep experimenting to find which herb/spice combo works for you. Basil, garlic, rosemary, sage, cinnamon, parsley, and turmeric are good anti-inflammatory herbs.
  2. Try a salt substitute.  There are a whole host of brands on the market, however, be sure to check with your doctor if you have kidney disease as these can affect your potassium levels.  Also, with thyroid disease be cautious since salt substitutes may contain dried seaweed or yeast which may adversely impact thyroid function.
  3. Don’t forget to always rinse your canned vegetables.  This simple act can reduce their sodium content by 50%.
  4. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over canned or processed foods.  Fresh foods are naturally low in sodium.
  5. Use fewer condiments.  For example, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, and steak sauce are often high in sodium.  While the low sodium varieties are lower in salt, you a still getting a significant amount of sodium per serving.
  6. Always read the food label on any canned or packaged food you buy from the grocery store.  If sodium is one of the first 5 ingredients, the item is probably high in sodium.  On food labels look for the following: low sodium = 140 mg or less per serving; very low sodium = 35 mg or less per serving; sodiumfree = 5mg or less per serving.
  7. Lastly, take the salt shaker off the table.  If it’s not there, you won’t use it!

About the author

Susan Taylor, RDN LD is a registered dietitian / nutritionist with 20+ years experience in the nutrition field.  Susan has worked in a variety of clinical settings including hospitals, longterm care, rehab, and private practice. She currently enjoys life in the Charleston, SC area and is always looking for ways to fit in a little more beach time.