By Dr Guy Ashburner, Osteopath – www.osteogoodhealth.com
“It is the object of a physician to find health, anyone can find disease” – Andrew Taylor Still M.D., D.O.
Cytokines are tiny inflammatory protein molecules that act as cell messengers to help direct the body’s immune response and are a natural part of any healing process that are there to fight off infections and ward off cancers. They help surround the invader and then wall it off so that the other cells and actions of the immune system can destroy the virus and then help develop anti bodies to further protect you from future infections. In other words, it helps identify the enemy and then provide future defence. These molecules are released from one cell and then received on receptors of nearby cells, having the ability to stop or start inflammation, managing things like pain, fever, tissue repair and break down, and blood cell production. When cells are injured, cytokines and other pro-inflammatory chemicals are released by the cells and are responsible for the swelling, redness, pain, and fever/heat that we perceive.
A cytokine storm is an exaggerated physiological reaction in which the immune system causes an uncontrolled and excessive release of pro-inflammatory signalling molecules called cytokines that can cause serious health problems. This exaggerated immune response to a new virus, bacteria, or another substance that is foreign to the body is often times the cause.
Co-morbidities such as diabetes, elevated blood pressure, cardio vascular disease, obesity, auto immune disease and inflammatory bowel disease are linked with chronic inflammation and elevated levels of cytokines circulating in the blood. So people who are chronically inflamed and have elevated cytokines. This explains why cytokine storms are seen in chronic illness and pain sufferers, and not often in those without inflammation and chronic illness.
“An increasing body of evidence shows that chronic inflammation causes and advances many common diseases” EMBO 2012
Chronic inflammation and overactive inflammatory cytokines play a role in chronic conditions, including chronic joint pain and arthritis, fibromyalgia, depression, Alzheimer’s and metabolic syndrome. When a person with a pre-existing chronic illness becomes infected with a virus the additional cytokine release may leads to a “cytokine storm” of inflammation which over burdens the body. During a cytokine storm, the body starts to attack its own cells and tissues rather than just fighting off a virus and this can lead to acute respiratory distress and worse. Hence, the more elevated levels of pre-existing inflammation prior to infections, the greater the chance of having severe reaction to the virus. People, who are chronically exposed to processed inflammatory foods, environmental or medicinal toxins, lack of sleep, mental/emotional stress can all lead to the release of cytokines and pro-inflammatory chemicals. Cytokine overproduction may keep your body in a constant state of inflammation which leads to even more inflammation. You can trace many diseases to overactive pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Osteopathic care promotes healthy lifestyles through hands on treatment and lifestyle advice which can help provide some of the building blocks to support healthy immune system functioning. Healthy biomechanical relationships within the musculoskeletal system provide a framework for normal physiology and healthy circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems. Osteopathic treatment can help reduce muscle tension, improve spinal and joint mobility and loosen myofascial tightness thus promoting lymphatic, circulatory and immune function. There are safe, effective, natural and proven medical methods that can be implemented right now to be healthier that doesn’t require resorting to more toxic measures which may have the potential to provoke further cytokine response. Take responsibility for the strengthening of your own innate immunity by working with your G.P, osteopath or qualified health professional.