Nutritional Support for Lung Inflammation
Avoiding Viral Lung Damage
As I write this we’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re reading this after we have recovered, I want you to know the data contained below is no less relevant to you now.
We always need a strong immune system and, unfortunately, whether you’re trying to avoid influenza or a coronavirus, all of them “like” to attack the respiratory system, making the data below important.
Inflammation, good or bad?
There’s a point at which COVID-19, typically about Day 10 of the infection, can create what’s called a cytokine storm, resulting in severe lung damage.
Cytokines are chemical mediators of inflammation, produced by your immune system.
Acute inflammation, which turns on and then off quickly, is effective at handling pathogenic organisms. This is good and healthy.
Chronic inflammation is when the inflammation turns on but then stays on, increasing in scope. This can be dangerous.
It’s a firestorm to your lungs
There is a particular cytokine, called IL-6, that can be tested in your blood. When it rises in the blood of COVID-19 patients, it’s a harbinger of the upcoming cytokine storm and impending lung damage.
You can think of IL-6 as the inflammatory agent responsible for the sudden downturn and deterioration of COVID-19 patients.
If you can bind IL-6 you can turn down the “fire” it’s creating.
Imagine there’s a “key” that fits into IL-6 and can render it less effective. That would turn down the fire.
The power of anti-inflammation
There’s a pathway called NRF2 (yes, it’s pronounced “NERF”) that puts the fire out by inhibiting IL-6.
Il-6 starts the fire and NRF2 puts it out.
This is exactly what we want, to put out the fire before it gets out of control and you experience lung damage.
Drugs vs real food and spices
Certain drugs can do it, particularly those used for Rheumatoid Arthritis, but as you well know all drugs have side effects.
The drugs studied to do this are Kevzara and Actemra.
There are several naturals, real food alternatives:
- Turmeric – taken as a supplement, turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory and is the best-studied and most potent for this effect
- Grapes – rich in resveratrol
- Green tea
- Chamomile tea
- Cruciferous vegetables – include broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi – rich in sulforaphane
- Allium family – includes garlic, onions, leeks, spring onions, shallots, and red onion – rich in quercitin
- Tomatoes – they are more “effective” when cooked
- Dark chocolate – 70% cacao please, no dairy, and little to no sugar. [Note: I prefer Lily’s brand – sweetened with stevia.]
Lifestyle factors that help
In addition to the above-mentioned foods, there are two lifestyle factors that also activate your friendly NRF2 pathways.
- Exercise – about 30 to 45 minutes, for as many days of the week as you can.
- Caloric restriction – there are many ways to do this. I like to keep it simple with a 12-13 hour fast each day. It’s pretty easy to not eat for 12 hours when you’re sleeping for 8 of those hours.
The healing power of food is impressive
Sometimes we hear about eating certain foods vs others, but I hope the explanation of how foods actually up-regulate or engage particular anti-inflammatory pathways is helpful for you.
It reminds us that maintaining the basics of real food, healthy fruits and vegetables is very real “medicine”
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