Calming the Cytokine Storm during COVID
You are calmly driving down a steep incline and your shoelace catches in the accelerator and you instantly feel that tightening in your chest, and panic is your reality. You imagine the worst is to yet to come.
This scenario is a metaphor for the immune system and our health. When we become exposed to a virus our immune system goes into battle to fight what is attacking the body and causing panic to try to get rid of the illness.
What happens if the immune system goes into overdrive and gets “stuck?”
Enter cytokines. Cytokines are small proteins that are involved in “cell signaling” – meaning they help with communication within the cells of your body for immunity. What happens when these cytokines go into overdrive?
When COVID19 takes over it is coined the cytokine storm which can lead to increased mortality. HOW do you protect yourself from the cytokine storm? And if you do become infected what do you do to weather it?
- Increase your “mucosal immunity”
Mucosal immunity is protecting parts of the body that come in contact with the external environment – the respiratory and intestinal system – i.e. what you eat and what you breathe. A healthful diet is more important than ever before – possibly in our lifetime. Having extra weight, high glucose and blood pressure are the major risks for the virus. Lowering starches and sugars and increasing healthy protein, a range of vegetables and healthy fats from whole real foods is essential. I know I am preaching to the choir but using COVID as an excuse for eating poorly is very detrimental.
What happens if you eat more processed or high sugar foods? Over time you develop low level nutrient deficiencies in your cells, leaving you more vulnerable to the virus. During normal times you may feel sluggish or unwell but these low levels of vitamins/minerals in the cells leave the mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) exposed kind of like an ember in a dry forest.
To translate that – the virus preys on those who consume a high sugar or processed food diet – and whether that person will survive.
- Increase Vitamin C.
Dr. Michael Gonzalez suggests mortality related to COVID-19 may be related to these nutrient deficiencies. He also highlights that importance of diet as part of a plan to support immune resilience.
To fortify our immune system and protect ourselves our diet needs to stay healthy and strong, but we also need to increase our immunity with additional vitamin C and zinc. He states that vitamin C is like a sponge. It mops up the cytokine storm and in high doses cleans up the free radicals to prevent damage to the lungs and vascular system (two characteristics of COVID). It can also clear the mucus from your lungs.
How much is needed? His recommendation is 3000 milligrams per day as preventative during this time, split into 3 doses. What if you do have COVID? He recommends you take 1000 mg. every ½ hour till you have GI symptoms. The tissues in your body absorb a lot more vitamin C than when you are well. Dr. Gonzalez calls vitamin C the first tier in treatment of COVID as it lowers all forms of inflammation and helps inhibit damage to the red blood cells and those of the alveoli in the lungs. He also talked about how high dose IV vitamin C is the main treatment when a patient with COVID is in the ICU.
You may be doing all you can in terms of physical protection – staying at home, wearing a mask, etc. But these internal forms of protection are equally as important. If you have good immunity through your diet and supplements experts are saying the key won’t get in the lock and your system will likely bypass the virus. However, if you do get the virus and your immune system is strong it’s likely you will weather the storm, with a quicker recovery time.
Just like we keep our cars maintained to take us safely where we need to go, healthful eating and supplement intake during COIVD is essential to avoid or calm the cytokine storm so we can enjoy the rest of 2020 without further storms!
Disclaimer: This blog does not replace medical advice. Check with your physician before starting supplements.