Bringing Balance to an Overactive Immune Response

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As we learn more about what is going on inside the body during acute infections we can learn from research what nature has to offer in way of supporting the body systems. This article is in no way offering medical advice , cures or prevention.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of severe illness please seek immediate medical help.

I recently read some articles stating that anti inflammatory products such as Elderberry and Ibuprofen should be avoided during a cytokine storm. (pub med) (Guardian)

This led me to wonder if there were products that had been researched to calm a cytokine storm. I would love to hear what you know about the topic and anything you learn in your research.

When patients with COVID-19 die, it is often due to sepsis, in which the immune system goes haywire and overreacts in what is called a “cytokine storm.”

Humans rely on our immune systems to keep their cool when facing a threat. But during a runaway coronavirus infection, when the immune system dumps cytokines into the lungs without any regulation, this culling becomes a free-for-all, Rasmussen says “Instead of shooting at a target with a gun, you’re using a missile launcher,” she says. That’s where the problem arises: Your body is not just targeting the infected cells. It is attacking healthy tissue too (National Geographic)

Natural agents that are immunomodulatory and immunoregulatory, and bring BALANCE to an overactive immune system, may be one of the best options to support patients with sepsis. Here’s what the literature shows for what may be helpful for critically ill patients with sepsis. In life-or-death critical situations like sepsis where conventional medicine does not offer significant success, we should urge researchers to consider all potential treatment options for further investigation.

Vitamin C,1.5 grams IV every 6 hours (6 grams total daily), given with hydrocortisone and thiamine was found to significantly decrease mortality and prevent progressive organ failure in patients with sepsis. In fact, patients treated with the vitamin C protocol had an 8.5% death rate compared with 40.4% in the control group! (1) Thankfully, there is currently a research trial underway to investigate vitamin C infusions for the treatment of severe 2019-nCoV infected pneumonia where patients in the treatment group will receive 24 grams of Vitamin C daily for 7 days.

Vitamin D has been called a “pro-survival molecule.” In this review of the literature on Vitamin D and immunity , the authors conclude that:

“… vitamin D not only helps the immune system to be dampened during an excessive or chronic reaction (anti-inflammatory potential) but also to rapidly reach its completion or exhaustion, helping innate cells to kill bacteria or viruses. In this sense, vitamin D maintains its pivotal role as a pro-survival molecule.”

Cathelicidin produced by Vitamin D can neutralize LPS (lipopolysaccharides) that are responsible for so much of the damage that we see in sepsis, and also has antimicrobial and immunomodulatory effects. (3) Vitamin D deficiency may actually be considered a risk factor for sepsis and inflammatory disorders, so please ensure that your and your child’s vitamin D levels are optimized as I discuss below in how to protect your child..

Other Natural Agents: This journal article from 2014, Therapeutic interventions in sepsis: current and anticipated pharmacological agents by Shukla P, et al (4), is probably the best article I’ve found on evidence-based yet outside-the-box thinking of potential natural treatment options for sepsis that warrant further investigation. Here are just a few of the fascinating findings:

  • Curcumin has been found to inhibit NF-kB – potent activator of inflammation in sepsis. Curcumin was also found to inhibit binding of LPS and suppress the LPS-induced inflammatory response and damage seen in sepsis, while improving survival, in a mouse model of sepsis. (5)
  • Quercetin has also been found to inhibit the NF-kB pathway (6), and to improve survival and decrease cellular damage in a mouse model of sepsis (7,8)
  • Naringin, a flavonoid found in the skin of citrus fruit, ameliorated LPS-induced sepsis in mice, via the NF-κB pathway, and reduced LPS-induced acute lung injury (9) 
  • The probiotic Bacillus sp strain LBP32 has extracellular polysaccharides (EPS) that were found to inhibit the LPS-induced release of many pro-inflammatory mediators (such as NO, ROS, IL-6 and TNF-α) by inhibiting the NF-κB pathway. Researchers were able to demonstrate that EPS could greatly improve the outcome of mice with LPS-induced endotoxic shock (10). [Please note: this particular Bacillus strain is not available commercially that I can find. I included it for research purposes. I do not know if other strains would have similar benefit but we do know that probiotics have amazing immune supporting properties in general
  • Boswellia (Frankincense)  can inhibit LPS-induced inflammation in sepsis. This study (11) found that Casperome® (Casp), an orally bioavailable soy lecithin-based formulation of standardized frankincense extract, was able to ameliorate the systemic effect and multi-organ damage induced by severe systemic inflammation using a mouse model of sepsis. 
  • Lomatium dissectum is a Native American traditional root that was claimed to have prevented the Washoe Indian tribes from dying during the 1918 influenza pandemic (also called the Spanish flu pandemic). In SARS-CoV sepsis, one of the inflammatory chemokines involved is CXCL10 (12). Poor prognosis with Influenza A is also associated with CXCL10 dysregulation. Lomation dissectum, used by Native Americans in Western US to treat influenza, was found to inhibit CXCL10 secretion by lung cells and may explain why during the 1918 influenza pandemic, L. dissectum was hailed as the cure for influenza and influenza-associated pneumonia. (13) Here is a video on youtube so you can see what this plant looks like: Video
  • LITSEA CUBEBA Immunosuppressive effect, reduces cytokine storm (14)
  • LICORICE PLANT AND ROOT EXTRACT :  results indicated that glycyrrhizin interfered with the production of IgE by decreasing the IgE-stimulating cytokines (15)
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