Anti Inflammatory Foods to Prevent Cytokine Storm in COVID-19
We know that while a large percentage of the population only experiences mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and won’t require hospitalization, others experience severe symptoms and complications, require hospitalization, or may even die. The cytokine storm may be one possible way to explain the severe reaction of those in hospitals.
This may also explain why younger people and those with a healthy immune system and without preexisting health conditions tend to have an easier time. Their bodies may release lower levels of cytokines creating just enough inflammation for healing. There are a number of things that you can do to improve your immune system, including using foods rich in immune nutrients that may help to calm a cytokine storm (J Biol Regul Homeost Agents, The Lancet, Microbiol Mol Biol Rev).
|Image credit: ClevelandClinic|
However, there are scientific studies that show their immune benefits for other viral infections, including the flu, other coronavirus infections, and other respiratory infections.
While at this point, research is on-going and scientists are working hard to understand COVID-19 and find treatment options, these are some promising developments. The good news is that you don’t have to wait to take steps to protect your health.
Feeding your body certain foods may help keep your immune system strong. Here is the list.
Several foods associated with the Mediterranean diet and other healthy
dietary patterns contain bioactive compounds that go beyond just
vitamins and minerals, including bioactive phenolic compounds; polar
lipids; and peptides with potent anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic,
and antioxidant properties. These molecules can synergistically act to
prevent and protect against inflammatory manifestations and associated
thrombotic and ROS-related complications (Nutrients 2020).
Fish and Omega-3 fatty acids
Best sources: Salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies and other cold-water fish
Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which support the immune system – the body’s natural defense system – and may help fight inflammation.
How much: At least 1½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of veggies per meal
Best sources: Colorful foods such as blueberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, spinach, kale and broccoli
Nuts and Seeds
Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and many other nuts and seeds reduce inflammation and supply healthy fats to the body. Raw nuts without added oil or salt are best. Seeds, such as chia and flaxseed, are proven inflammation fighters and can be easily added to many foods to add an anti-inflammatory boost.
How much: Eat 1.5 ounces of nuts daily (about a handful)
Spinach is a powerhouse of nutrients loaded with vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin E, carotenoids, fiber, and other phytochemicals. The anti-inflammatory superfood is best when eaten raw, juiced, or lightly cooked. Natural antioxidants in spinach — and many other leafy green vegetables — have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body.
Blueberries, boysenberries, cranberries, pomegranates, cherries, raspberries, and other berries provide a sweet taste without adding too much sugar to a diet. Sugar is known to promote inflammation, which can make the body more susceptible to illness and disease. Many berries contain a blue-purple pigment called anthocyanins, which reduces existing inflammation as well. Blueberries also have potent antioxidants called pterostilbene, which reduce inflammation.
Turmeric contains polyphenol curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. The golden-yellow-colored seasoning has been shown to reduce tumor reproduction and induce tumor cell death.
Avocados are filled with antioxidants that reduce the body’s inflammatory response and have also been shown to reduce inflammation in young skin cells. Avocados in their whole, unprocessed state are more likely to be anti-inflammatory, and they can alleviate pain and illness caused by inflammation.
Beans have several antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. They’re a low-cost source of fiber, protein, folic acid and minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium.
Best sources: Try pinto, black, red kidney and garbanzo beans
Olive oil contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, antioxidants and oleocanthal, a compound that can lower inflammation and pain.
How much: Two to three tablespoons per day for cooking or in salad dressings or other dishes
Best sources: Extra virgin olive oil is less refined and processed. It retains more nutrients than standard varieties. For optimal freshness and quality, opt for oils packaged in dark bottles with a certification or seal (COOC, North American Olive Oil Seal, DOP) and harvest date close to the purchase date.
Onions are packed with beneficial antioxidants. They may also reduce inflammation, heart disease risk and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Try them sautéed, grilled or raw in salads, stir-fries, whole-wheat pasta dishes or sandwiches.
Nightshade vegetables – eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes – are central to Mediterranean cuisine. Some people believe they trigger arthritis flares, but there’s limited scientific evidence to support this theory. Try cutting nightshades from your diet for two weeks to see if symptoms improve.
Fiber lowers C-reactive protein (CRP), a substance in the blood that indicates inflammation. Getting fiber from foods lowers CRP levels more than taking fiber supplements. Foods that have carotenoids, the antioxidants that give carrots, peppers and some fruits their color, are quite good at lowering CRP.
Avoid Processed Food
Processed foods such as cookies, chips and other snacks can be high in unhealthy fats, which are linked with inflammation. Opt for fresh fruit instead. Canned goods – vegetables and soups – are often high in sodium, which boosts blood pressure. Look for low sodium options, or go with fresh or frozen vegetables.
Cut the Salt
There are conflicting reports about just how bad excess salt is for us. We know it causes fluid retention – one of many factors that can lead to high blood pressure. Also, corticosteroids, often used to treat RA, can cause the body to retain more sodium. So play it safe and hold the salt when possible.
Choose My Plate
Quercetin - Zinc Ionophores
Kale, Lettuce, hot green peppers, cranberries, blueberries, citrus, cherries, grapes, apples, onion, asparagus.
EGCG (Green Tea) - Zinc Ionophores
The strong oxidative stress-reducing and anti-inflammatory effects of green tea catechins, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), have been well established. A solution of green tea catechins was found to inactivate COVID-19 virus in the laboratory (Ref).
Foods that are high in zinc include oysters, crab, lobster, mussels, beans, seeds, nuts, eggs, oats, potatoes, dark chocolate, red meat, and poultry. Cereals are often fortified with zinc. Most multivitamin and nutritional supplements contain zinc.
Based on several publications and studies, vitamin D seems to be the “most promising” natural supplement for COVID-19 protection. Vitamin D deficiency is known to enhance a process known as the “cytokine storm” (Marik, Jun 2020).
Sources: Eggs, Tuna, salmon, castor oil and sun exposure.
Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, tart cherries, corn, asparagus, tomatoes, pomegranate, olives, grapes, broccoli, cucumber, rice, barley, rolled oats, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, mustard seeds, flax seeds
Eggs, tuna, cod, lima beans
Celery, broccoli, green pepper, parsley, thyme, dandelion, perilla, chamomile tea, carrots, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary, navel oranges, oregano
Fish, Brazil nuts, ham, enriched foods, beef, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, brown rice, sunflower seeds, baked beans, mushrooms, oatmeal, spinach, milk and yoghurt, lentils, cashews, bananas
Chicken, yoghurt, cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds, legumes, spinach, bananas, salmon, tuna.
Anti-viral and immune-modulatory effects
Honey with Black Cumin or Black Seed (aka Nigella Sativa)Caution: COVID-19 causes liver and pancreatic inflammation which alcohol can dangerously exacerbate. Avoid drinking alcohol during symptoms and for at least 30 - 60 days after symptoms.
- The Perez-Araluce study refers to a Mediterranean diet.
- The Vietnamese Nguyen study refers to a 'healthy diet' that is defined by a higher intake frequency of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy and fish.
- The Iranian Moludi study refers to a 'high inflammatory' diet as a risk factor to a more severe COVID-19.
- The Merino study of more than 500,000 participants in UK and USA showed lower risk or COVID-19 cases and severity for higher healthful plant-based diet scores.
- The Kim study in 6 countries also showed plant-based diets were associated with lower odds of moderate-to-severe COVID-19.
Cytokines are an important part of your immune response. However, when your body releases excessive or uncontrolled levels of cytokines it results in hyperinflammation called a cytokine storm. Uncontrolled inflammation has been shown to be associated with certain nutrient deficiency.
Optimizing your immune system with diet and lifestyle changes are critical to improving your health and to decrease your risk of a cytokine storm. However, therapeutics, vaccines and other physical strategies such as social distancing and mask wearing are also needed in order to protect yourself and your loved ones. It doesn't have to be an 'either or' situation. Combination strategies are more effective.
- Unsaturated Fats and Severe COVID-19
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