COVID-19 Severity, Prevention, and Control: The Cytokine Key
As more research comes out on COVID-19 and its effects, we at Atrantil want to keep you up to date on the latest information.
A lot of the initial information was based on similar viruses like SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. Now, COVID-19 or SARS-CoV2 has been around for a decent amount of time and we are able to get some detailed information on this specific coronavirus strain.
In this article, we are going to cover
- How the virus affects your body by releasing a cytokine storm
- What a cytokine storm is and why it’s dangerous to your health
- Ways to prevent cytokine storms (in general and specifically for COVID-19)
Let’s dive in!
How COVID-19 Affects Your Immune System
You’ve probably seen a picture or two of the little spiky ball that shows us what the COVID-19 virus looks like.
The little spikes around the outside are a form of protein. These spikes are what make it more “sticky” and part of the reason why this virus spread like wildfire.
Think about those little pokey balls that get stuck to your socks when you’re walking through a field. They stick to your socks, shoes, shoelaces, and pant legs and they’re hard to get off. Essentially that’s how the COVID-19 virus is.
The virus binds to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE 2) receptor and is able to enter cells this way. ACE 2 receptors are found in epithelial cells of your lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
When the virus enters these cells it sets off the inflammatory response in your body. This is a really complex cascade of events. You have T cells, B cells, macrophages, antigen-presenting cells, dendritic cells, cytokines, and so many other cells being activated to carry out different functions to support your health and attack the invader.
One of the major parts of this cascade is the NLRP3 inflammasome. NLRP3 inflammasome is what signals your innate immune system to kick it into high gear. The innate immune system helps your adaptive immune system to know what it’s fighting and lets the adaptive immune system prepare the proper cells needed. The innate immune system takes care of basic care and protocols while the big guns are getting ready for the battle ahead.
Cytokines and NLRP3 seem to be what causes the most malaise and symptom severity when it comes to COVID-19.
Cytokines are proteins that are secreted from other cells to control inflammation (some increase inflammation while others decrease it). There are several types of cytokines including:
Those with severe COVID-19 show an excessively high release of cytokines all at once.
What is a Cytokine Storm and Why is it Dangerous?
The excessive release of cytokines at one time is referred to as cytokine release syndrome (CRS) or a cytokine storm.
Cytokines, as mentioned above, are important in the immune system response to invader cells. Generally speaking, cytokines are really helpful in maintaining your health.
They only become dangerous when viruses or other infections cause your body to have this out-of-control response and send them out at excessively high levels.
Systemic inflammation causes damage to your organs and is where COVID-19 becomes dangerous. People who have conditions that predispose them to an inflammatory response like those with autoimmune disorders or diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes are the most at risk.
Since this group of people already has more constant inflammatory responses, when COVID-19 hits, it exacerbates the already overly inflamed state their bodies are experiencing.
When your organs become inflamed they start to malfunction. This can lead to permanent organ damage or failure. The fact that SARS-CoV2 affects your ACE-2 receptors these are the organs that are most affected by this strain of coronavirus:
Preventing inflammation is the most important factor in minimizing your chances of contracting COVID-19 and improving your prognosis should you become infected.
How Can You Prevent a Cytokine Storm?
They do make medications that can help to calm a cytokine storm. These are typically only used when absolutely necessary. Some people may already be on these medications for other health problems they have. These medications can include but aren’t limited to:
- COX inhibitors
- Anti-TNF therapy
- Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy
There is absolutely a time and place for medication as therapy, but oftentimes there are safer options.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the first and most important thing you can do to prevent a cytokine storm.
- Daily, light exercise
- Getting enough sleep
- Drinking plenty of water
- Minimizing sugar, sodium, caffeine, and alcohol intake
- Going out in the fresh air and sunlight
- Eating a well-balanced diet
- Making sure you’re getting enough vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols
Diet is going to be your best way to regulate your immune system — even if you have a condition that predisposes you to increased inflammatory biomarkers. Specifically, including polyphenols will help you the most.
Polyphenols to Fight Cytokine Storms
Polyphenols have no shortage of impressive ways they help our bodies. We know them as anti-aging and antioxidant products. But they’re also extremely important when it comes to boosting and regulating your immune system.
EGCG, the polyphenol found in teas, has been shown to reduce NLRP3 inflammasome and reduce kidney problems related.
Blueberries are full of several different types of polyphenols and antioxidants making them potent immune system allies. Blueberries were found to have anti-inflammatory properties and are able to control cytokine and interleukin levels.
Curcumin, found in turmeric, has been found to directly affect cytokine storms. Curcumin was able to regulate and suppress cytokine release which in turn prevents the chance of a cytokine storm.
Atrantil has also been proven to help in the downregulation of inflammatory receptors like NLRP3. While Atrantil was created to help with digestive symptoms, it helps to repair your digestive tract which is one of the first lines of defense in your immune system. By keeping a healthy digestive tract, you’re setting your immune system up for success in the battle against pathogens it comes into contact with.
What have you been doing to protect yourself from COVID-19? Which of these suggestions might you start implementing? Let us know in the comments section below!