Cytokine Storm and COVID - What you Should Know
You may have heard of the term cytokine storm, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 virus. Some infected patients develop this serious complication which greatly reduces their chance of recovery. This reaction known as cytokine storm is not new and specific to COVID-19 – it has been identified in other pathogen driven diseases and auto-immune disorders.
Today I’ll easily explain the cytokine storm, who is at risk, and its link and impact specifically to COVID-19.
Cytokine Storm Explained
First, let’s define cytokine (pronounced sai-tow-kain in English). It is derived from two Greek words “cyto” meaning cell and “kinos” meaning movement.
Cytokines are an umbrella term for molecules that are involved in the body’s immune response. More specifically, they are proteins produced by all the different types of immune cells. As the name indicates, a cytokine storm is an immune response that is greater than it should be and, in some cases, so extreme it can cause death.
Cytokines play a key role as signaling molecules (messengers) that help cells communicate during an immune response to stimulate movement toward areas of inflammation, trauma or infection in the body. By binding to special receptors on cells, cytokines change how cells act. For instance, they change gene expression or the function of proteins within a cell. In short, cytokines have a huge impact on immune cell development, activation, and lifespan.
There are actually four structural groups of cytokines, but knowing them is not critical to understanding cytokine storm. What’s important to know is that some cytokines are “anti-inflammatory” and work to aid healing by reducing inflammation. But there are also cytokines that promote inflammation and therefore make disease worse. The overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines can create fever, body tissue breakdown and are a leading factor in developing disease.
If you’re into details like I am, I don’t want to leave you hanging - so here are the four main groups of cytokines:
- Interluekins (IL)
- Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF)
- Interferons (IFN)
- Colony Stimulating Factor (CSF)
Cytokines Influence Immune Response
In the scientific world, cytokines are known as “immunomodulating agents” which means they influence and change the way the immune system responds. Immunity is the body’s protection against infections and disease. Cytokines alter two types of immunity - innate and adaptive/active.
↳ Innate immunity is the natural protection that you’re born with. This includes physical barriers such as your skin, gastrointestinal and respiratory tract, and body hair (think eyelashes and how they protect your eyes from debris). Innate defense mechanisms also come from chemical barriers like stomach acid, tears, and mucous. The innate immune system also has cellular defenses that offer protection by identifying and targeting harmful substances. All of these components of the innate immune system serve as barriers to germs and pathogens entering your body.
↳ Adaptive/active immunity is developed over time and is more complex than innate. It is often referred to as “acquired immunity” and involves the creation of antibodies – proteins that work to recognize and neutralize a toxic or foreign substance.
Cytokine Storm and COVID-19
Of course, an immune response is necessary to combat infection. It’s normal to see a hyperactive response at the onset of infection, but it should then decrease and resolve itself. There is a subset of patients infected with COVID-19 that have an exaggerated immune response post infection, which does not decrease over time as it should. They are experiencing cytokine storm, a very dangerous situation leading to an uncontrolled inflammatory response. Cytokine storm can be deadly and is heavily associated with the morbidity rate of COVID-19 patients.
In COVID-19 patients, cytokine storm initiates an immune system attack on the body that typically begins in the area of infection (lungs) and can spread (become systemic). This is the driver behind the respiratory stress and edema (swelling) that ensues in these patients causing severe breathing dysfunction and long-term tissue damage. Cytokine storm damage can go beyond local areas and cause multi organ failure.
Who is at Risk for Cytokine Storm?
The risk for cytokine storm partly depends upon the virus that triggers an immune response. It also tends to be more prevalent among certain pre-existing health conditions and age groups including:
- The elderly (in the case of COVID-19)
- Cancer patients receiving immunotherapy
- Auto-immune disorders
- Compromised immune systems
- Lung dysfunction
Solutions to Cytokine Storm
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, cytokine storm has been under more intense investigation than ever before. Scientists are experimenting with ways to test for cytokine markers to catch it before it spirals out of control. Extensive research for a drug solution that could prohibit viral replication and excessive cytokine production has been underway.
Although drugs have been a big part of life saving medical advancement, the foundation of true health is created by proper diet and lifestyle habits. This is an individual responsibility – meaning if you consistently rely on medicine to “fix” things, you’ll find your body failing you.
Creating True Health is Your Best Bet
Over your lifetime, you’ll be exposed to millions of harmful toxins, bacteria and viruses, no matter how careful you are. How your body responds rests significantly on the condition of your immune system. Upon exposure, you’ll have a huge advantage if you follow these 4 guidelines:
1. TAKE CARE OF YOUR GUT
Poor gut health is directly related to developing auto-immune disorders.
Avoid known gut irritants like sugar, alcohol, gluten, and conventional dairy.
Alter your diet:
Learn more about the link between gut health and overall health here.
Did you know that exercise helps flush bacteria out of your body, reducing your risk for illness? It also strengthens specialized immune cells that fight disease. When you get moving, you not only boost your immune system, you sharpen your brain activity, support mood, and control your waistline.
3. REST & CONTROL STRESS
Even if you follow a nutrient dense anti-inflammatory diet, supplementation is almost always necessary for better health. For many reasons, today’s food supply lacks the nutrition that it used to and the stress we experience now is only greater. Supplementation bridges the gap between what your body needs and what your body receives.
In particular, vitamin D deficiency is linked to an increased susceptibility to contracting infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
Amazingly, research indicates that vitamin D suppresses cytokine storm! In short, proper vitamin D levels pad your immune system and can make the difference between falling ill and functioning optimally.
Check out my video/blog here where I discuss the link between vitamin D and chronic lung disease.
To further heighten the responsive power of your own immune system, you can include Super Immune Boost in your daily supplement regimen. I’ve designed this formula with specific nutrients, vitamins, and herbs that help your body prepare for and combat illness caused by pathogens, bacteria, and viruses.
Super Immune Boost has an impressive lineup of ingredients that work synergistically to give your body the edge to stay healthy and carry on!
To learn more and see the key ingredients for yourself, check out my article, "A Powerful way to Boost Immune System Health".
I hope now that you have a better understanding of cytokine storm and how you can lower your risk for this complication by elevating your health status.
Don’t wait to improve the function of your body! Start today by following the simple steps above that can greatly reduce complications and speed recovery should you become infected with COVID-19 – or any virus.
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