I’m a busy guy these days.
As I’m the founder of a publishing outfit that focuses on both money and health… this coronavirus mess has me wishing my team were 10 times bigger. There’s no shortage of news and ideas to share.
Normally I leave these columns to our expert docs and researchers, but I’ve got something I’m quite passionate about that I want to share with you.
It’s something that I find fascinating… and I’m convinced it is vital knowledge for all of us as the planet grits its teeth and fights this damned tiny bug.
Well, That’s New…
If I were to bet, I’d say you’ve never heard of a cytokine.
And I almost guarantee your doctor has never sat you down and explained how a cytokine storm can wreak havoc in your body.
This is crazy stuff.
In theory, cytokines are quite simple. They’re sent out from one cell to another as a sort of messenger to relay information about inflammation.
Some are pro-inflammatory… some are anti-inflammatory… and others, well, like good regulators, they’ll go whatever way they’re told.
What we eat has a big effect on these messengers.
Omega-3 fatty acids, for instance, seem to trigger a surge in the anti-inflammatory variety. Refined vegetable oils, like corn oil, on the other hand, seem to trigger pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Just knowing that – combined with the horrors we’re learning about inflammation and our overall health – is handy enough.
But with the coronavirus going around… there’s something else you need to know.
A Storm’s a Brewin’
It has to do with elderberry, a very popular old-timey flu remedy.
For folks in the know, one of the plant’s main selling points is that it helps boost the body’s levels of cytokines, specifically IL-6, TNF-alpha and IL-8 – a specific form of cytokine called a chemokine.
And while there’s not a lot of scientific research on these specific molecules, there is a troubling study from a doctor at Stanford. She focused on pregnant women who suffered severe reactions to the flu.
What she found was that it wasn’t the virus that was causing all the trouble… It was severe inflammation.
More specifically, she found that the women’s bodies were producing too many cytokines – or what docs now call a cytokine storm.
“If the chemokine levels are too high, that can bring in too many immune cells,” the study’s author said. “That’s a bad thing in a lung where you need airspace.”
And what have we heard so much about with the coronavirus?
Patients say it’s like their lungs are filled with cement. They can’t breathe.
Hospitals are running out of ventilators.
It makes sense. And a study from 2013 backs it up. Researchers took a look at the lifeless bodies of 50 victims of the H1N1 virus, who, it turns out, had died of these cytokine storms.
They found “remarkably” high levels if the aforementioned IL-6 and IL-8 cytokines.
It’s fascinating stuff. And we’re just now figuring it all out.
It has a lot of doctors focusing not on stopping the replication of the flu bug in our bodies… but stopping our body’s massive inflammatory response and, as we earlier reported, keeping us from killing off all our inflammatory cytokines.
It’s too early to be certain about elderberry’s effect on all of it.
But, like we’ve learned about ibuprofen and the coronavirus, I say we push the old-time remedy aside on this one.
I’ll use it to ward off a less-potent adversary.