Salt Innovation objectives:

With salt-based therapy’s widespread popularity in wellness and health, we believe building an evidence base for this therapy as a form of alternative treatment is a worthy investment. Given the predicted rise in prevalence of respiratory diseases, both in developing and industrialized nations, cost-effective therapies with desired impact should be pursued. Salt Innovation has been working since 2016 towards establishing a research project near the heart of one of the world’s richest sources of salt, the Himalayan mines of Pakistan. Using local resources and support, an established research project aims to conduct a methodologically rigorous study on the efficacy of salt-based therapy for asthmatics. This study aims to fill the current evidence gap by implementing a randomized controlled trial with sufficiently high statistical power to determine efficacy. In planning, designing and implementing the study, Salt Innovation would like to invite researchers and experts in relevant fields for potential collaboration. Though the research will be carried out on the ground in Pakistan, the Salt Innovation team spans across various continents, including North American and Europe. By building on this international network, the strength of the study will be enhanced, and there are greater chances for dissemination of results and follow-up to the study.

Salt Innovation Progress :

Gathering the resources and building the justification for a randomized controlled trial are neither simple nor straightforward. To begin with, Salt Innovation has established a local team in Rabwah, Pakistan comprised of medical expertise and project management ability. These capacities are supplemented by oversight and management from an international network comprised of expertise in public health, evaluation, and biochemistry. Within Rabwah, the research project is also supported by the Tahir Heart Institute, a cardiac hospital with two existing salt chambers. These salt chambers are currently used in Salt Innovation’s initial trials. Additionally, there is support and buy-in from local businesses for the research project. With this local network interwoven with international technical support, Salt Innovation seeks to implement a study that makes a meaningful research contribution as well as include as stakeholders the local populations around one of the world’s leading salt mining locations. Initial trials with mild to moderate asthmatic research participants are currently in progress. These trials are intended to detect and optimize effects of exposure to salt chambers, measured through changes in FEV1 rates. After this period of initial trials, plans will be made in consultation with international researchers and experts in the field to go on with a methodologically rigorous study.

Salt Innovation’s Work And Collaboration -A Primer

Background :

The therapeutic effects of salt have long been believed to treat a range of respiratory illnesses. Speleotherapy is a unique kind of climatotherapy making use of different characteristics that are particular to salt mines and caves for the therapeutic treatment of various health conditions, especially those which are respiratory and skin-related. It is believed that this unique environment reduces the concentration of irritants in the cave/mine, resulting in masked or suppressed symptoms when patients are in its vicinity (Lăzărescu et al., 2014). The vital agents believed contribute to therapeutic effects are air quality, synchronization of climate variables including of temperature, humidity and salt aerosols (Chervinskaya&Zilber, 1995). Halotherapy stems from speleotherapy, and aims to mimic salt cave environments in above-ground facilities.

 

At present, halotherapy centers are rising in popularity in the wellness and alternative health fields. The use of this salt-based therapy in treatment of respiratory diseases presents a potential opportunity for fewer contraindications due to standard medications. Additionally, salt-based therapy opens exploration for treatment in low-resource settings, a worthy investment considering the high cost of standard medications for respiratory diseases.

 

The importance of focusing on respiratory diseases cannot be understated. Lower respiratory infections, including asthma, were among the leading causes of death in 2010, disproportionately affecting children under five and the elderly (Vos et al., 2015). These infections persist in industrialized and developing countries, and are rapidly increasing in prevalence with the spread of urbanization and the progressively worsening quality of air in many countries. This forecasted increase in respiratory diseases will result in increased burdening of health care systems worldwide as well as quality of life for those affected.

 

Over the past few decades, various studies have been conducted to study the effectiveness of salt therapy in respiratory disease treatment. Many of these studies provided somewhat positive or inconclusive results. Of note, there are a few Cochrane reviews in this field. In the first, Beamon et al. (2001) performed a meta-analysis of controlled clinical studies assessing effectiveness of speleotherapy in asthma treatment. The authors concluded that there was not enough evidence to determine whether speleo-therapeutic interventions are effective for the treatment of chronic asthma, and that randomized controlled trials with long-term follow up are necessary. In another Cochrane review by Blackhall et al. (2012), randomized controlled trials evaluating ionizers as asthma treatment were reviewed. As with the previous review, the authors concluded that the effect of ionizers on asthma is far too inconclusive. Contributing to these results is the lack of methodological rigor and quality, as all reviewed studies lacked statistical power to detect changes due to small sample sizes (ranging from 12 to 20).

 

Despite the reported success of salt therapy as treatment for respiratory illnesses, and its frequent adoption by wellness practitioners in respiratory disease treatment, it is still not certified by the medical community by the vast majority of countries.

Salt Innovation Progress and Next Steps :

Gathering the resources and building the justification for a randomized controlled trial are neither simple nor straightforward. To begin with, Salt Innovation has established a local team in Rabwah, Pakistan comprised of medical expertise and project management ability. These capacities are supplemented by oversight and management from an international network comprised of expertise in public health, evaluation, and biochemistry.  Within Rabwah, the research project is also supported by the Tahir Heart Institute, a cardiac hospital with two existing salt chambers. These salt chambers are currently used in Salt Innovation’s initial trials. Additionally, there is support and buy-in from local businesses for the research project. With this local network interwoven with international technical support, Salt Innovation seeks to implement a study that makes a meaningful research contribution as well as include as stakeholders the local populations around one of the world’s leading salt mining locations.  Initial trials with mild to moderate asthmatic research participants are currently in progress. These trials are intended to detect and optimize effects of exposure to salt chambers, measured through changes in FEV1 rates. After this period of initial trials, plans will be made in consultation with international researchers and experts in the field to go on with a methodologically rigorous study.

Seeking international collaboration :

Building relevance and credibility for our work is of critical importance. Parallel to the progress of Salt Innovation’s work in Pakistan, the global network supporting this research should gain momentum. In order to achieve this, we seek the support of researchers and experts in the field of salt-based therapy and alternative treatments for respiratory diseases.  If you are a researcher – your technical expertise in salt-based therapy or respiratory diseases in the design and implementation of a randomized control trial would be greatly valued. We seek collaboration with the top research institutions and working groups in these fields to produce meaningful and technically sound results.  If you are a stakeholder in the salt industry – your knowledge and experience of salt-based therapy in wellness and health is important for the planning and dissemination of our work. Your contributions to this research make this initiative relevant and practical.  The quality of our work and research is only as strong as our network. We welcome requests for collaboration and all expression of interest and inquiries.

References  :

  1. Beamon, S. P., Falkenbach, A., Fainburg, G., & Linde, K. (2001). Speleotherapy for asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (2).
    http://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD001741
  2. Blackhall K, Appleton S, Cates CJ. Ionisers for chronic asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD002986. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002986.pub2.
  3. Chervinskaya, A. V, & Zilber, N. A. (1995). Halotherapy for treatment of respiratory diseases. Journal of Aerosol Medicine, 8, 221–232.
  4. Lazarescu, H., Simionca, I., Hoteteu, M., & Mirescu L. (2014). Speleotherapy – modern biomedicalperspectives.
    Journal of Medicine and Life, 7(2), 76–79.
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