Under the best of circumstances, uncontrolled chronic inflammation is a killer that causes heart disease, diabetes, even Alzheimer’s disease. But right now, controlling chronic inflammation can literally save your life…
For people who become infected with the COVID-19 virus, the outcome of overblown inflammation can be death. And time is of the essence. Now, more than ever, it’s important to protect your immune system, strengthen your lungs — and reduce systemic chronic inflammation.
That’s why a major drug manufacturer is in the process of testing a known arthritis drug for its ability to calm deadly inflammation, and possibly even to kill the virus.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to control the “inflammation abomination,” as my colleague Dr. Mark Wiley describes it. More about that in a bit…
When the immune system goes into overdrive, so does inflammation
When your body is invaded by a virus or a bacterium, your immune system puts on its combat gear and goes to war against the invader.
The “soldiers” in this war against disease are cytokines, molecules that set off an inflammatory response that combats infection. Once the infection has been eliminated, the body stops producing these inflammatory cytokines.
At least, most of the time, and in most people.
For up to fifteen percent of people who are fighting serious infection, including the coronavirus, the immune system goes a little haywire and keeps on fighting, even when there’s nothing left to fight.
This phenomenon has come to be known as a “cytokine storm.” The body continues to release cytokines, which attack vital organs, including the lungs and liver, in their misguided attempt to keep the body safe.
Scientists believe that it could be this attack on the body, rather than the virus itself, that’s caused the death of seemingly healthy, younger people during this pandemic.
Drugs are being tested as we speak
These “cytokine storms” often occur in autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis. So, with this fact in mind, researchers are starting to test drugs for arthritis to see if they’ll calm the cytokine storm that overtakes many people with the coronavirus.
The National Institutes of Health was slated to begin testing the arthritis drug baricitinib, to find out if its immunosuppressant ability can help stop these deadly overgrowths of cytokines.
Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals, makers of baricitinib, agreed to have their drug tested when they realized that many doctors were prescribing it off-label.
This concerned the drugmaker since it made little sense to prescribe an immunosuppressant to people who are already fighting an infection.
But desperate times have people, including doctors, taking desperate measures, and the company soon realized that the only way to make these measures safe was to have the drug tested in clinical trials.
Proceed with caution
Dr. Andre Kalil has been through this kind of thing before.
Dr. Kalil is an infectious disease and intensive care specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He’s also a principal investigator in the clinical trial of baricitinib.
“This is very charged emotionally,” Dr. Kalil said. “It is Ebola déjà vu.”
He cautions both doctors and patients to wait until the drug has been trialed and proven both safe and effective in humans.
“Many drugs we believed were fantastic ended up killing people,” he says. “It is so hard to keep explaining that.”
And so, we wait, patiently and hopefully for the medical community to determine how to help. But that doesn’t mean you’re left out in the cold…
Inflammation-proof your body naturally before you get sick
If you’re hit with an infection of any sort, coronavirus or not, you don’t want your immune system to overreact and sweep you up into a cytokine storm that could be just as deadly.
Hopefully, the doctors fighting these cytokine storms on the front lines will learn how to best attack them going forward. But unfortunately, even when “well,” most of us are living with an inflamed body that’s silently making you sick.
And it’s part of a vicious cycle. Obesity leads to inflammation in the body. Premature aging and free radical assault do as well. These things can lead to chronic metabolic diseases that are not only fueled by, but also fuel more inflammation in the body.
There’s also a growing belief among scientists and doctors that accumulated exposure to toxins is also sending the immune system and inflammatory response into overdrive.
So, you can see why people with pre-existing connections fare much worse when facing infection.
In order to reduce the daily damage of inflammation and better help your body’s immune system, use it wisely, here are ways to help keep cytokines in balance and inflammation at bay…
- Control stress in your life. When you’re stressed out, your body enters a state of “fight or flight” and increases the production of a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB). NF-kB encourages your genes to produce cytokines, which promotes inflammation in your cells.
- Follow an anti-inflammatory diet. Emphasize organic produce and meats, lean protein, lots of vegetables, some brightly colored fruits, healthy fats, raw nuts and seeds, and unprocessed foods. Cruciferous vegetables, which when metabolized, produce a compound called DIM help maintain hormone balance if your cortisol (stress hormone) is out of whack.
- Avoid foods that cause inflammation. That includes sugary foods, as well as trans fats, present in a variety of snack foods, fried foods, and baked goods. One revealing correlation is the presence of glycotoxins, also known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs), that are formed in foods that are heated, pasteurized, dried, smoked, fried, or grilled. Once absorbed into the body, they bind to tissues and oxidize them, causing inflammation.
- Try nutrients known to reduce inflammation: Turmeric, ginger, and black cumin seed oil have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation and have been used for thousands of years safely by some of the world’s oldest healing traditions, like Ayurveda. Omega-3 oil supplements from flax and fish oil can also help cool chronic inflammation. The bioflavonoid quercetin and the antioxidant nutrients alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D3and selenium can similarly help reduce chronic inflammation and protect cells and tissues. Keep in mind that many of us are already deficient or low in many vitamins, especially D. That’s why Peak D3™ is a staple in my house. The dosage is enough to keep my levels where they should be to fight inflammation.
I realize how fortunate I am. The “COVID,” as I call it, attacked my household, and not just me but every member of my family — all four of us. But our bout with the coronavirus was on the mild side. If only everyone could be so lucky.
In reality, though, I feel it had little to do with luck. Yes, the experts have told us the majority of cases, thank goodness, would be mild. But as a health researcher, I’ve been aware for years of the importance of tamping down inflammation in the body to help ensure a healthy immune response, especially when I might need it most.
So when I share the research I come across, you can know it’s something I practice.
I’m hopeful that with all the research into drugs that can stop this awful virus, it will soon be behind us. Though we’ve heard we can expect to see it, just like the flu, possibly next year. The good news is, we are learning more every day about how to beat it at its own game.
- Despite Qualms, Arthritis Drug Is to Be Tested in Coronavirus Study — The New York Times
- How does COVID-19 kill? Uncertainty is hampering doctors’ ability to choose treatments — Nature.com
- The Coronavirus Patients Betrayed by Their Own Immune Systems — The New York Times
- At the Center of a Storm: The Search for a Proven Coronavirus Treatment — The New York Times