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Why Do Tears Taste Salty

by Lyndon Langley
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Why Do Tears Taste Salty

Why Do Tears Taste Salty

When we cry, our tears taste salty — but why? Crying may seem like a silly thing to worry about, especially if you’re not the type who cries often, or if your crying is more out of frustration than grief. But when we don’t understand something, it’s comforting to know how things work. And in this case, understanding how our tears become salty gives us some insight into what happens inside our bodies when we get upset.
Your eyes can produce three different types of tears: basal tear fluid, reflex tear fluid, and lacrimal gland secretory products. All three have similar functions: They lubricate the eye surface; protect the eye from infection and foreign invaders; help clear debris and waste from the eye; maintain moisture on the eye’s surface; and keep the cornea healthy.
The first two types of tears serve an important function at the same time as they perform their jobs. As soon as these tears hit the eye surface, they evaporate quickly, which allows them to do their job and dry up fast. The third kind of tear does its job by maintaining moisture on the eye surface. Think of them as watery windshield wipers keeping the eye protected while driving through a storm cloud.
All tears begin with plasma proteins, which form the basic building blocks of tears. When needed, the plasma protein molecules break apart and combine with sodium chloride to form watery liquid called tears. Tears are composed mostly of water and salts, including sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride. These elements come together when the tears mix with the mucus layer that covers the eyes. A chemical reaction then combines the water and salts to form tears. The exact combination varies based on the amount of stress hormones present during the event. In addition, there are tears specific to each organ system within the body. For example, saliva contains amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starch. Pancreatic juice has proteases, enzymes that digest proteins. Urine has urea-removing ammonia and uric acid-breaking carbon dioxide.
In short, tears are made up of compounds taken mainly from blood, urine and sweat.
So where does the word “tear” come from? Although it was once believed that the Greek god Pan gave people tears, scientists now believe that mythological references to tears actually came from ancient Egyptian writings describing the loss of semen. Men were said to shed tears over the death of their phalluses. Women supposedly cried even harder after giving birth due to their uteri being cut open and removed. So, just like men, women too shed tears when dealing with childbirth!
Although tears aren’t necessary to live, they play an essential role in protecting the eye from infections and damage. We’ll discuss those roles next.
Eye Protection
Just like the windshield wiper fluid mentioned earlier, tears act as a protective shield on the eye. This protection comes from many factors. First, the thin layer of oil coating the eye protects against dirt, dust particles, pollen and insect larvae. Next, the mucus layer covering the eye keeps bacteria away. Finally, the tears themselves add another layer of defense. There are several reasons why tears might be effective at fighting off germs, viruses and fungus. One reason is pH balance. If the environment surrounding the eye is acidic, the tears will lose their ability to fight off harmful organisms. Another reason is the presence of lysozyme, an enzyme found primarily in tears. Lysozymes kill microbes by breaking down cell walls. It also degrades bacterial DNA and RNA. In addition, the presence of lactoferrin in tears makes them less hospitable to certain parasitic worms. Lactoferrin is a protein molecule that binds iron. Without enough iron available, parasites such as roundworms will starve and die.
Now that we’ve discussed how tears prevent infection, let’s talk about how they cleanse the eye.
Cleaning Eyes
We already know that tears contain antimicrobial substances, so it stands to reason that tears would be able to remove debris and pollutants from the eye. However, although a small amount of mucus stays behind on the eye surface after evaporation, most of the debris is swept away by blinking. That means the main way that tears keep the eye safe from contaminants is by washing them off the eye.
Some of the chemicals in tears that help this process include:
Lysozyme – An enzyme capable of destroying bacterial cells, particularly those containing N-acetylglucosamine and muramidase.

Hemoglobin – Contains anti-inflammatory properties and helps to carry oxygen throughout the body.

Sodium bicarbonate – Helps to neutralize acids and irritants.

Calcium phosphate – Combines with lysozyme to destroy bacterial cell walls.

Lactic acid – Produces tissue repair and reduces inflammation.

Proteolytic enzymes – Digestive enzymes released by white blood cells that attack antigens and pathogens and convert them into amino acids. Proteins are digested by various kinds of proteolytic enzymes.

Alpha hydroxy acids – Also known as alpha lipoic acids, these antioxidants reduce swelling and promote collagen production. Alpha lipoic acids have been shown to improve both vision and skin health.

Carotenoids – Found in the yellow parts of carrots, tomatoes and pumpkin. Carotenoids absorb blue light and transform it into vitamin A. Vitamin A improves vision and strengthens tissues around the eye.

Chloride ion – Brings nutrients to the retina and enhances night vision. Chloride ions also regulate the flow of electrical impulses between neurons.

Electrolytes – Essential minerals that provide energy to the brain and muscles. Some electrolytes are sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
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1 comment

zoritoler imol October 31, 2022 - 2:32 am

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