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The last few weeks have been an unsettling time for all of us, and we understand that many of our clients, family members, friends, and others in our community are worried about COVID-19 and rightfully so. We are being bombarded with information, and it is difficult to make sense of it all.
Today I want to address a common question that has been raised.
Why do chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, or autoimmune conditions increase the risks associated with COVID-19?
This is a complex issue that the medical community is still trying to wrap its head around.
So let’s dive in by starting with the body’s immune system and its 2 main teams:
The innate or “general” immune system
The adaptive or “acquired” immune system.
The innate system is the quicker of the two and is your first line of defense against invading pathogens such as bacteria, viruses like COVID-19, parasites, and other organisms or foreign bodies. It is this system that triggers production of white blood cells (WBCs) and other disease fighting cells to gobble up and kill pathogens. To assist with “the kill,” WBCs produce multiple chemical substances such as cytokines, tumor necrosis factor, interferons and other substances that produce inflammation and can trigger oxidative stress.
While all of this is occurring, the innate system helps activate your second team, the adaptive immune system.
The adaptive immune system is the more specialized of the two. It produces T-cells that help kill the pathogens and B-cells that produce longer term protection in the form of antibodies. It is the adaptive system that triggers “immune memory” after the initial responses have been mounted against an offending pathogen.
Each exposure to the pathogen typically enhances the response and memory by forming more antibodies. This is the basic way vaccines work and why they are effective. It is also why some viruses, such as measles, confer lifetime immunity after a single occurrence. Other viruses, including influenza (“the flu”) and common cold viruses, constantly change or mutate, so it is unlikely you will develop lifetime immunity to these.
COVID-19 is a novel or “new” virus. That means neither your innate nor your adaptive immune response teams have ever seen COVID-19 before. Therefore, your body has no “immune memory” whatsoever. Your innate immune system responds with an all hands on deck approach, triggering an onslaught of inflammatory responses, oxidative stress, and immune mechanisms to defend against this novel virus. It is this immune response that can make you feel so crummy.
Now let’s shift to what occurs when you have a chronic disease such as diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, autoimmune disorders, or other cardiovascular diseases.
Take high cholesterol, for instance. When you have elevated LDL “bad” cholesterol in your blood, it activates the innate immune system.
Your body treats the LDL as an offending pathogen and tries to get rid of it! So just as it does with COVID-19, the innate immune system triggers WBCs to gobble up the LDL. It also produces more inflammatory substances and oxidative stress to assist with “the kill.” But when this immune defense is waged at the level of the artery, the resulting inflammation and plaque formation in the wall of the artery are extremely dangerous.
Now imagine you are walking around with a chronic disease, are constantly stressed out, are not sleeping, and/or are eating poorly when you get COVID-19. You are taking a system that is already under an inflammatory attack and adding a new, never seen jet fuel to the firestorm. This additional COVID-19 induced inflammatory response can overwhelm the body, sometimes fatally. This is what the media means by “cytokine storm.”
So what to do?
Stop waiting and take charge of your own health, starting today!
Too many of us are suffering from completely preventable diseases that shorten life spans, reduce quality of life, and make us more susceptible to infectious disease, like COVID-19.
Add more leafy greens to your diet, move your body daily, drink more water, and focus on getting good quality sleep.
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And work with us!
Yes, you can get your energy back.
Yes, you can lose weight.
And yes, you can reverse chronic disease.
It’s never too late or too early to start.
Our world-class center is here to support and help you achieve the health and wellness you deserve.
Click here to schedule your first virtual visit with me today. $50 for 15-minutes.
J Immunology Research 2018; Oct 2018: 8653572
Nat Rev Immunol 2015 Feb; 15 (2) 104-116
Nutrients 2018; May 2018; 10 (5): 604
Nutrients 2019; Oct 2019; 11 (10) 2332