The Immune System : To Inflame or Not To Inflame?
Updated: Mar 4
SO what is it with NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen….why is it recommended to avoid IBUPROFEN (which is a Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug) if a suspected COVID 19 infection and switch to PARACETAMOL? Although there is yet no REAL strong evidence to show that IBUPROFEN can make coronavirus worse, let’s have look at how it works and that may help to understand why someone with heart, lung or gut issues may want to avoid such medications and look for alternatives whatever the health issue at hand.
Well, it does involve sharing about CYTOKINES. Now, I am not going to share about the ‘cytokine storm’ although that in itself is a very interesting subject in light of this epidemic, but maybe for another day.
WHAT ARE CYTOKINES?
These are simply (and I am keeping this simple) chemicals produced by various cells in the body specifically the immune cells but they are also made by the endothelial cells and mast cells etc. There are various types and their action is short-lived, because once ‘the job’ is done, it is done. Or IS IT?
Now in very simple terms, cytokines can be divided into:
PRO-inflammatory cytokines – these are important in amplifying inflammation, this inflammation is VITAL in ‘destroying’ the invader such as a virus.
ANTI- inflammatory cytokines – these limit inflammation.
(We do have other cytokines that are vital in the production of blood cells and in tissue growth, maintenance, and repair but for this blog, let’s just keep it focused on the current situation without digressing too much.
WE NEED a balance between the two, the yin and yang. We WANT inflammation when there is an infection when there is a virus, when there is a bacteria, when there is a TOXIN because we want that ‘intruder’ cleared out.
BUT we also want the ANTI-INFLAMMATORY cytokines, so the inflammation does not go ‘out of control’, bit like a toddler letting go of mum or dad’s hand and running ahead into the street. There needs to be some kind of regulation, a ‘safety net’. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease where the balance between the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory has been lost.
Now where does IBUPROFEN come in you ask?
Well IBUPROFEN is a drug (a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) …that blocks the production of inflammatory cytokines…SOUNDS GOOD right? I mean who wants inflammation going out of control?
We know that ibuprofen reduces fever, reduces pain, reduces swelling, by mainly reducing inflammation by reducing the inflammatory cytokines…how does it do this? By blocking an enzyme called COX-2 (Cyclo-oxygenase for the geeks amongst us)
BUT ibuprofen also blocks COX-1 and this results in blocking cytokines that support KIDNEY FUNCTION, PROTECT THE STOMACH and regulation of the clotting of blood. These are KEY, VITAL, CRITICAL house-keeping functions. Unfortunately, IBUPROFEN IS A NON SELECTIVE COX inhibitor and this is not helpful for the ‘at risk’.
GI bleeding and peptic ulcers, increased risk of bleeding, kidney injury in susceptible individuals are ALL side effects of the COX-1 inhibition and hence IBUPROFEN. So using IBUPROFEN if you are already susceptible to kidney and heart issues can further complicate issues and ‘catching’ a virus is not a good scenario.
Where do these cytokines come from? From the cell membrane!!! What your cell membrane is made of depends on what you EAT. These cytokines are made from a fatty acid called Arachidonic Acid..the more arachidonic acid you have in your cell membranes the more inflammatory mediators you create.
Paracetamol is being suggested as it is NOT an anti-inflammatory but can reduce fever.
How can you support your immune system and regulate that immune system without suppressing inflammation? Well it is known that Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory BUT not like NSAIDs. FOOD IS SAFE. Food does not block/suppress it supports, manages and nourishes the body.
What sort of FOODS?
Omega 3 rich foods: include cold-water fish, algae, flax seeds/oil, sesame seeds, pumpkins seeds, hemp, walnuts.
Colorful fruits and vegetables: they are rich in Polyphenols that help with regulating inflammation such as pomegranates, peppers, tomatoes, squash, beetroot etc.
Cruciferous vegetables: which are great for liver and gut health hence IMMUNE HEALTH. These include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, leeks, and onions.
Now some may suggest Omega 3 supplements but we want inflammation too…so it is all about balance. Personally, I am not recommending omega 3 supplements but if you did want to check your omega 6:3 ratio, I will be sending out details on this in my newsletter this week. The more omega 6 the more one produces inflammatory mediators, the more omega 3s the more anti-inflammatory mediators.
The KEY is IMMUNO-MODULATION, not immune suppression, immune inhibition or immune activation.
Everything has an equal and opposite, omega 3 and omega 6s, acids and alkali, yin and yang, masculine and feminine.
Suggesting selenium or zinc is the same, each of these minerals has a yang to their yin, has masculine to their feminine….the body does not isolate nutrients, so giving nutrients in an isolated form is nonsensical in the long term.
Always remember alongside nutrition, homeopathy and lifestyle changes it is advised to call 111 and seek advice if you suspect the Corona Virus.
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