Cytokine And Cytokine Storm; What are They And How Do They Affect our Health?
The following article contains a lot of background information. The information is relevant and important in order for the reader to be able to make educated health decisions when working with their health care provider.
Overview: Cytokines are produced by the immune system. Their job is to attack and remove foreign substances from the body. A cytokine storm is when the body overreacts to a foreign substance. There are some similarities between a cytokine storm and autoimmune diseases like Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Both are overreactions of the immune system. There are foods and antivirals that enhance the cytokine response, lower the response or are neutral.
Swine Flu: How To Avoid It Like The Plague. Most flu victims are the young and old in any population. Certain strains of flu, like avian H5N1 and the current swine flu H1N1, target more victims in the 20 to 40 age bracket than other flu strains. After a fast rewind in time, we find that during the plagues of the Middle Ages there were people who had no signs or symptoms of the disease. Some of them stripped the dead of their belongings and looted homes of those who’d died from the disease. Others were grave robbers. How was it that they were immune when they were in direct contact with those who were obviously infected? New research indicates it could have been the food and antiviral information they possesed.
The respiratory tract is the primary breeding ground for most flu, colds and the plague. Flu, and a host of other illnesses, are complicated by the build up of mucous in the respiratory tract. Flu, all types, can easily become pneumonia. Pneumonia, bronchitis and secondary bacterial infections are the primary causes of death related to all influenza, with 63,730 average deaths in the US per year.
When a foreign body, in this case the H5N1 and H1N1 flu strains, are immune to certain types of cytokines and not affected by the immune response, the body releases more cytokines which can overwhelm the body, eventually destroying it. When this happen, it’s known as a cytokine storm.
During the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 a higher percentage of people in the 20 to 40 age group died from the flu and its effects, i.e. pneumonia, etc., than from other flu strains. Younger and older people, those usually seen as more likely to die, survived in larger percentages than is usually the case. The 20 to 40 age group has a higher immune response than the young and old, and many in that age group died because of the cytokine storm response. There isn’t anything we can do about our age but we can make changes in how our immune system responds.
As stated earlier, some foods and natural antivirals increase the cytokine response, others are neutral and some lower it. In the case of cytokine storms, some of the items that can be used in normal situations to boost health giving immune responses prove to be detrimental. Enchinacea and micro algaes are good examples. Both increase the TNF-a and IL-6 immune response. H5N1 and H1N1 are immune to TNF-a and IL-6 cytokines. The body’s immune response produces mucous and when that doesn’t rid the body of the invaders, the body produces more. If we enhance the TNF-a and IL-6 cytokine responses, the immune response is heightened and the body can be overloaded with mucous which increases the likelihood of pneumonia and bacterial infections.
Recently, an Australian biology teacher named Stephen Jones, did extensive research on the H5N1 virus. In his research, he pinpointed some common foods and natural antivirals that can have beneficial or detrimental cytokine immune responses to H5N1. H1N1 wasn’t a threat at that time but, considering their similarities, it can be reasonably assumed the following information is applicable to both strains. Each of us is different and our reactions may vary. The only true test is at the individual level and when the effects are tracked. Tracking can be easily accomplished by meticulously noting the foods and antivirals taken, writing them down in a notebook or ledger and doing the same with any reaction, good or bad.
My weak link is the respiratory system. Eliminating as much dairy from my diet as possible has helped me immensely. I made the connection after about three months of tracking what I ate, and my reactions. Reading the research information, I had and “Aha” experience when I found that bananas increase mucous production. I’ve noticed that very often, if not always, after eating a banana I have mucous in my throat. With the information I now have, I’m able to make the connections. If the hyped up pandemic ever does materialize, it makes sense for me to avoid foods and natural antivirals that increase the production of mucous and concentrate more on those that lower it or are neutral.
Following is a list of the foods and antivirals that were found to be beneficial or detrimental because of their ability to decrease or increase the immune system’s TNF-a and IL-6 cytokine response and other factors.
I found garlic to be the answer for candida albicans. After going to an Olympic training camp and then following the recommended high sugar diet, I suffered from candida through various therapies that failed to eradicate it. Large quantities of raw garlic, six to eight crushed cloves or more per day, did the trick where other regimens failed. Garlic is a highly effective antiviral. H5N1 and H1N1 have no immunity to garlic. Recommended dosage is two to three cloves a day. No toxic effects, except the brief termination of a social life, were noted. Cooking destroys allicin, the active ingredient.
Vitamin C is an antiviral that H5N1 and H1N1 have no immunity to. Vitamin C was used as a preventative and treatment during the 1918 Spanish Flu. Viruses need the enzyme neuraminadese, which is found naturally in the body, to reproduce. Neuraminadese increases the mobility of viruses when traveling through mucous in the respiratory tract. Vitamin C blocks neuraminadese and may reduce the production of TNF-a and IL-6.
Vitamin E is an immune system booster and decreases the production of the cytokine TNF-a. Vitamin E is enhanced when taken with Vitamin C.
Green Tea has been said to be as effective as the pharmaceuticals Tamiflu® and Relenza®. Green tea decreases the production of IL-6 and inhibits neuramindese. I’m hypersensitive to caffeine and green tea is not an option for me, even the decaf type.
St. John’s Wort, and its extract Hypericum, have been shown to decrease IL-6 production and has been used successfully against the H5N1 strain in vietnamese commercial operations.
Fresh apple, with skin and pulp included, and cranberry juices have antiviral properties. Commercial juices are required to be heated, which kills most or all of their beneficial properties. Their effectiveness on H5N1 and H1N1 is unknown.
Resveratrol, found in red wine, peanuts, red grape juice, mulberry, raisins, red grapes, Japanese Knotwood and possibly chokeberry (aronia melonacarpa) has antiviral properties and sends messages to the cells to stop producing viruses. No research on H5N1 was found pertaining to chokeberry but it is extremely high in antioxidants and other beneficial compounds.
Skullcap is a mild tranquilizer and has been noted in some research to reduce the production of neuraminadese.
Cat’s Claw, the bane of the Southwest hiker, boosts the immune system overall and increases the number of white blood cells while decreasing the production of TNF-a. Active ingredients are found in the entire plant. Cat’s Claw and Turmeric, the next item, are avoidance foods for pregnant wimen, breast feeding women and children.
Curcumin (Turmeric) decreases TNF-a production and may be a cytokine storm preventative. Turmeric should be taken with food. If taken alone, ulcers my result and the medicinal properties are considerably lowered due to its fast metabolic rate. Combining turmeric with black pepper increases its absorption. I sprinkle it on whole grain breakfast cereals.
Steam inhalation of Tea Tree oil slows production of TNF-a, can help clear the respiratory tract of mucous and fight infections. Personally, I’ve found putting two or three drops of eucalyptus oil on a handkerchief, or bandana, and tying it over the mouth and nose provides the same decongesting benefits. I’ve use eucalyptus oil for years to help relieve exercise induced asthma and clear respiratory congestion. Eucalyptus’ effect on TNF-a is unknown.
The following avoidance foods and antivirals may surpise many people.
Honey, elderberry juice, chocolate and Kimchi (a Korean fermented vegetable dish, usually made from cabbage) all increase production of TNF-a and IL-6. Elderberry is very effective, and recommended, for use against most flu strains but not advised when dealing with H5N1 or H1N1 viruses. Most chocolate contains sugar which severely inhibits the entire immune system. Even though honey has many healthful properies, honey is a sugar. Increases in the cytokines TNF-a and IL-6 could cause a lethal cytokine storm.
The Micro Algaes Chlorella and Spirulina increase cytokine TNF-a production.
Echinacea, I separated this out from honey, elderberry, chocolate and kimchi because of its reputation as a healer for all ills. Echinacea increases production of cytokines TNF-a and IL-6. Although it is often used for normal flu and to boost the immune system in general, research shows that it may increase the chance of cytokine storms with H5N1 and H1N1 strains.
All dairy products and bananas increase mucous production and would be avoidance foods when dealing with H5N1 and H1N1.