Anti-Inflammatory Strategies–Achieving Homeostasis
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Influenza– It is Not Over Yet

Posted on Wednesday, January, 30th, 2019 by Dr. Hellen in Infections | Inflammation

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia reports that estimated 6-7 million people have been, or are currently sick with viral flu during the current flu season. Half of these individuals saw a health practitioner for their illness but nevertheless approximately 69,00-84,000 people were hospitalized. Much of the illness and deaths from the flu are the result of bacterial infections that often accompany the disease (secondary infections) and excessive inflammation. Unfortunately, a total of 22 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported during the 2018-2019 season to date.

CDC expects flu activity to continue for many more weeks or even months, and it continues to recommend flu vaccination and antiviral medications for high-risk groups such as children 5 years of age (but especially those younger than 2 years of age), older adults, pregnant women and residents of long-term facilities.

Not everyone experiences the same flu symptoms, but symptoms range from chills, severe cough, sudden and high fever, stuffy, runny nose, severe aches and pains, bad headache, extreme fatigue, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Some people go on to develop serious complications caused by viral infection of the nasal passages and throat and lungs.

The presence of virus and bacteria triggers a robust inflammatory response in the body’s attempt to rid the body of disease. Inflammation is the body’s primary weapon to destroying pathogens, but it is a double-edged sword since “uncontrolled” inflammation in response to the virus may result in significant lung damage, followed by death.

It has recently become apparent that during influenza infection, large numbers of inflammatory immune cells leave the lungs and travel to the small intestines. Here they interact with the microbiome (communities of organisms that occupy the gut) destroying the proper the balance of beneficial organisms and permitting the overgrowth of certain classes of bacteria.

These inflammatory cells may be trying to defend the body against pathogens, but instead they produce so much inflammation that the gut lining is injured by them. (Interestingly, in animal studies, antibiotic treatment of the bacteria in the gut reduces damage.)

Inflammation is the protective process by which the body removes harmful pathogens and substances and initiates healing. It is a tightly regulated process that involves molecular signals that start and maintain inflammation (pro-inflammatory) followed by signals that turn “off” the inflammatory process (anti-inflammatory signals). Imbalances of these immune factors results in damage to the tissues and organs.

A properly balanced immune response is essential for the body to combat viruses like influenza and the bacteria that too often are associated with the illness.

  • Taking the following steps towards helps the body defend itself successfully against infections:
  • Wash your hands frequently and keep them away from your nose and mouth (mucous membranes).
  • Stay hydrated to keep membranes moist and resistant to invasion.
  • Be physically active 2.5 hours/week.
  • Be smart—eat healthy, especially vegetables and fruits.
  • Try to get outdoors a few minutes a day.
  • Stop excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Cut down or quit smoking—your lungs are working hard enough trying to bring oxygen into the body.
  • Consume a proven immune support supplement to help your immune system balance.

Enhance your quality of life.  Dr. Hellen can be contacted by using this form, at  drhellen@drhellengreenblatt.info or call her at:  302.265.3870 (ET, USA).

www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/summary.htm
www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm
www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/01/25/heres-what-you-should-know-about-the-flu-season-this-year/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.690664b3eb78
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27744631
jem.rupress.org/content/211/12/2397
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12890422
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30568659

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this flu season is an unusually severe outbreak with wide-spread instances of disease in 49 States with many schools being closed. The season started earlier than usual, which is never a good sign.   CDC Deputy Director Anne Schuchat has said “This year’s influenza season is proving particularly difficult”. Hospitals do not have enough beds and the prevalence of the flu has led to shortages of anti-viral medications that if prescribed in the first 48 hours may shorten symptoms by a day or so.

This season’s primary virus strain is H3N2, a deadly type of influenza A that tends to result in more severe illness and higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths than other strains. H3N2 is especially dangerous for the frail elderly and children, although people between the ages of 50 and 64 are being hospitalized at alarming rates, second only to the elderly.  As of this post, almost 100 children have already died from the flu.

Since vaccination may lessen the severity of the illness and there are  few other options, the CDC recommends people be vaccinated with the current flu vaccine, even though it may only be 30% -40% effective. [Antibiotics are useless against viruses since they only kill bacteria.]

Although some people view the flu as “merely” annoying and inconvenient, those suffering from influenza along with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, emphysema, diabetes and other pre-existing conditions are at a higher risk of hospitalization or death, especially if they contract a secondary bacterial infection.

The influenza virus is difficult for the body to protect itself from, because it is able to mutate rapidly and frequently. This forces the immune system to constantly change its tactics to combat the latest version of the flu.

Infection by influenza triggers an intense immune inflammatory response in the lungs in the body’s attempt to stop the virus from multiplying. The lungs’ immune cells release cytokines, small molecules that signal and recruit other cells into the lungs to increase or decrease their immune and inflammatory responses.

Lisa Brown JPEG

But such a response can be a double edged sword. Too much inflammation causes lung damage on top of the damage already caused by the virus and secondary bacterial infections such as pneumonia. Additionally, although rare, if the balance of cytokines is significantly upset, the normal level of inflammatory cytokines may become too high, resulting in a cytokine storm (or cytokine cascade) that can kill a previously healthy individual in hours.

A properly balanced immune system, one in homeostasis, is more fully prepared to defend us against invasion by foreign agents, and is ready to help us combat an infection if we get one.

Following the following steps will help keep your immune system functioning at optimum levels:

  1. Eat healthful meals with an emphasis on whole grains and plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits.
  2. Be physical active to help keep the immune system in balance; incorporate it into your daily life.
  3. Get adequate amounts of rest and avoid fatigue.
  4. Drink plenty of fluids to keep membranes moist and more resistant to invasion.
  5. Wash your hands frequently and try to keep them away from your face.
  6. Stop, or at least cut down, on your smoking—your lungs are struggling enough.
  7. Consume a superior immune support supplement to help your immune system balance.
Dr. Hellen’s passion is helping people have a better quality of life. Contact her by using this form, drhellen@drhellengreenblatt.info, or calling at: 302.265.3870 (ET, USA).
www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm
www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/summary.htm
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4711683
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24728596

www.businessinsider.com/baby-boomers-hospitalized-with-the-flu-what-is-imprinting-2018-1
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