Although the term “cytokine storm” was only coined in 1993, both the public and scientific communities have been fascinated with the notion. In fact, ecoNugenics chief formulator Dr. Isaac Eliaz attempted to warn the medical community about the concerns of a cytokine storm in the early 90’s. But the concept of a cytokine storm, its causes, and its consequences are not always clearly defined. Keep reading to learn about cytokine storms and why they occur in the body. (1)
Cytokine Storm 101
Before learning about cytokine storms, it’s important to understand what cytokines are. Cytokines are proteins that are secreted by immune system cells for intercellular communication. They have diverse effects on other cells, including regulating immune and inflammatory responses. Some cytokines can stimulate the immune system, while others can slow it down. (1)
Cytokines have an important role to play in normal immune function. But sometimes, the body releases too many cytokines into the blood too quickly in a severe immune reaction. This is the cytokine storm. (1-3)
But instead of healing the body, this immune response can have dire consequences for the person’s health. It can cause hyper-inflammation and create a condition that looks similar to sepsis. This can lead to organ damage or multiple organ failure and be life-threatening. (2-4)
The body may react with a cytokine storm as a result of an infection, autoimmune condition, or another disease. The body may also respond in this way to some types of immunotherapy. (4)
Symptoms of Cytokine Storm
In a normal immune response, the body’s healthy inflammatory reactions help fight off a virus. But in a cytokine storm, hyper-inflammation occurs, and it can cause lasting damage to organs and tissues. (1,3)
During a cytokine storm, the body exhibits signs including: (1, 2)
- high fever
- inflammation (redness and swelling)
- severe fatigue
- severe nausea
- altered mental status
- increased heart rate
- abnormally rapid breathing
- low blood pressure
- swollen lymph glands
- enlarged organs, especially the liver and spleen
Balancing vs. Boosting the Immune System
While boosting the immune system to ward off disease may seem like common sense, this practice can actually have unintended consequences. The immune system’s basic job is to detect and destroy invasive pathogens, as well as to learn about those pathogens so it can defend the body against them long-term. (5)
But sometimes the immune system can become overactive and target proteins or normal cells that aren’t actually invading the body. This happens in the case of autoimmune diseases, when the immune system attacks the body’s own cells, tissues and organs. And in the case of allergies, the immune system overreacts to foreign proteins that are actually harmless. (5)
In the case of the cytokine storm, the immune system produces a much larger response to a disease than it needs to. And the inflammation it creates in the body can lead to long-term health issues, or death. (1)
So while boosting the immune system may sound good in theory, it could actually lead to the immune system going into overdrive. Instead, it’s important to keep the immune system in balance. A person can do this by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as: (5, 6)
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Avoid fried foods and other inflammatory food items
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding smoking
- Getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night
- Taking the researched supplement, PectaSol Modified Citrus Pectin regularly to balance and optimize immune responses*
Foods to Prevent a Cytokine Storm
Eating healthy foods is one way to help prevent a cytokine storm and reduce excess inflammation in the body. Some balancing foods include: (7)
- Turmeric - Turmeric contains curcumin, which regulates cytokines and enzymes related to inflammation.*
- Hot Chile Pepper - Hot chile pepper contains a compound called capsaicin, which has both antifungal and antibacterial properties. Capsaicin is also anti-inflammatory and has been shown in a study to inhibit the production of a specific pro-inflammatory cytokine.*
- Thyme and Oregano - Both of these aromatic herbs contain a phenol called carvacrol. Carvacrol has antioxidant, antibacterial, and inflammation-balancing properties.*
- Seafood and Fish Oil - The polyunsaturated fatty acids in seafood and fish oil modulate inflammation and actually decrease the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.*
- Lemongrass - Lemongrass oil contains citral, which inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokines from getting out of control.*
- Rosemary and Sage - These aromatic plants have antiseptic, antioxidant, and inflammation-balancing properties. They contain diterpenoids, such as carnosic acid and carnosol, which can activate receptors that keep the immune system from overreacting.
- Pomegranate - The punicic acid contained in pomegranate seed oil is both inflammation- balancing and immunomodulatory. Punicic acid inhibits the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, helping to avoid a cytokine storm.
Galectin-3 and the Cytokine Storm
There is evidence to suggest that the “alarm protein” galectin-3 plays a key role in cytokine storms. It is involved in the hyperinflammatory response that drives the cytokine storm in the first place. And overactive galectin-3 participates in the fibrosis (uncontrolled scar tissue buildup) that ultimately causes damage to organ tissues. (8)
Modified citrus pectin is the only available binder of galectin-3 and is shown to help support healthy kidney and liver function, as well as other vital organs.* The researched form of modified citrus pectin can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream and help to block galectin-3’, resulting in numerous critical health benefits. (9, 8)
Frequently Asked Questions About Cytokine Storm
Why are cytokine storms so dangerous?
A cytokine storm occurs when the immune system overreacts and releases too many cytokines into the blood too quickly. This severe immune reaction drives hyper-inflammation, which can damage organs, cause multiple organ failure, and lead to death. (1)
What does a cytokine storm feel like?
People who are experiencing a cytokine storm may have many different symptoms. It is common to have a high fever, be very tired, and experience nausea. Someone with a cytokine storm may also have an altered mental state and notice a rash, redness, or swelling on their body. They may also experience extremely rapid breathing, an increased heart rate, and low blood pressure. (1, 2)
Is cytokine storm an autoimmune disease?
A cytokine storm is not an autoimmune disease. However, both happen because of an overactive immune system. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system attacks the body’s own cells, understanding them to be dangerous. A cytokine storm happens when the body overreacts to an infection, releasing too many cytokines and causing potentially deadly inflammation. (5, 1)
- Tisoncik JR, Korth MJ, Simmons CP, Farrar J, Martin TR, Katze MG. Into the eye of the cytokine storm. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2012;76(1):16-32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3294426/.
- Canna SW, Behrens EM. Making sense of the cytokine storm: a conceptual framework for understanding, diagnosing, and treating hemophagocytic syndromes. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2012;59(2):329-344. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3368378/
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Preventing “cytokine storm” may ease severe COVID-19 symptoms. Science Daily. Published online May 21, 2020. Accessed October 26, 2020. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200521165706.htm
- NCI dictionary of Cancer Terms. Cancer.gov. Published February 2, 2011. Accessed October 26, 2020. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/cytokine-storm
- Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Immune system -- Knocked off balance. Science Daily. Published online July 23, 2020. Accessed October 26, 2020. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200723115847.htm
- Sanchez J. Keeping your immune system well-balanced. Uth.edu. Accessed October 26, 2020. https://www.uth.edu/news/story.htm?id=570eb713-2337-47ee-9c00-06503efb2bf8
- Ciavarella C, Motta I, Valente S, Pasquinelli G. Pharmacological (or synthetic) and nutritional agonists of PPAR-γ as candidates for cytokine storm modulation in COVID-19 disease. Molecules. 2020;25(9):2076. https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/25/9/2076/htm.
- Garcia-Revilla J, Deierborg T, Venero JL, Boza-Serrano A. Hyperinflammation and fibrosis in severe COVID-19 patients: Galectin-3, a target molecule to consider. Front Immunol. 2020;11:2069. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2020.02069/full.
- Eliaz I, Raz A. Pleiotropic effects of modified citrus pectin. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2619. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6893732/