Covid-19 is a scary, unpredictable global pandemic. Some people recover, and some people – it fatally destroys the lungs. We have seen it is not just seniors and those with pre-existing medical conditions that succumb to the virus. Is there a possibility for this horrifying pandemic and for future global viral attacks – can we do more to protect ourselves? Let’s take a look at immune function.
Our immune system is divided into 2 categories:
Our innate immunity is the immune system we are born with, and functions to keep foreign threats out – bacteria, viruses, toxins…
Our adaptive immunity, the body identifies a threat, and we create antibodies specifically designed to that threat. The threat is neutralized, and the adaptive immune system “remembers” it, so hopefully future responses to the same threat are also neutralized.
We often hear people talk about “strengthening our immune system”. There is a truly obscene amount of supplements that claim to do that.
What we really need is a balanced immune system. When out of balance, the immune system not only fails to protect us, but it can even turn against us, mistaking our own cells for invading pathogens (nasties), resulting in debilitating chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies are all examples of autoimmune responses.
Now let’s take a look at Covid-19:
COVID-19 is an illness caused by a coronavirus. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar to the common cold.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
“The virus is called ‘novel’ because it started with an animal population, was transmitted to a human and now can go from human to human. Our immune systems have never seen this particular strain of virus before, so we haven’t developed immunity. It is likely more contagious than the viruses that cause influenza and common cold because it is new to humans. Humans have no way to prepare for it, and their immunity is not ready to fight it. This results in the virus causing more cellular damage and producing more inflammatory cells.”
I have published many articles here on ezines about oxidative stress and inflammation. Please refer to those for more background here.
Yes, Covid-19 is new to us. Research is showing us
many of the people dying in the novel coronavirus pandemic appear to be harmed more by their own immune system than by the virus itself. It is the inflammatory response of the immune system that presents grave danger.
Research form the University of Melbourne is showing us “a robust immune response across different cell types was associated with clinical recovery”. Balanced immune response seems to be the key in people who recover.
Science now refers to something called a cytokine storm. Albeit still under a great debate, a cytokine storm is an over active immune response and inflammatory responses out of control. An uncontrolled release of proinflammatory cytokines.
Doctors and researchers are increasingly convinced that in at least some cases of Covid-19, the body’s own immune system is overreacting to the virus with a cytokine storm. The immune system has an extreme response that causes more damage than the virus itself. Some doctors are now using powerful anti-inflammatory drugs to fight the virus.
There are a thousands of articles, featuring hundreds of studies on the diseases linked to chronic inflammation. It seems, that our survival of Covid-19, or our demise, is linked as other diseases to immune response and chronic inflammation.
Research on Covid-19 is very recent. The entire world has put other research on hold, scrambling to save lives. There is so much we do not know, however, we do not have the luxury of time. We all have to do our very best to protect ourselves, and we all have a social responsibility to do our utmost to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
Again, many of us think we are choosing a healthy lifestyle, but we are actually increasing our levels of oxidative stress, which can lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation and those cytokine storms, are linked with chronic diseases, and death as research deepens. The research is indicating Covid-19 is no exception.