#59: Are Your Choices Preventing Cytokine Storms?

#59: Are Your Choices Preventing Cytokine Storms?



Welcome to the Be Fab Be You Made Simple Podcast. I am your host Maria Horstmann. I am also the founder of BeFabBeYou.com. I have a great episode about inflammation and cytokines lined up for you today. I need to give you an update, first.

You might have noticed that I have spaced my episodes. You were not crazy and I want to tell you why I have spaced them out. I’ve been investing a great deal of time studying for a certification I started in May. I gave myself an aggressive deadline of 6 months to cover all content, practicals, case studies, and written and verbal exams.

I’m glad to report that I am on track but something had to give and that was the frequency of podcasts. I should be a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P) by the end of November.

I am excited about it. The training has offered a couple of new tools which has led me to restructure my program offerings. As a health and fitness coach empowering and coaching you along the way is a no-brainer. Ultimately, I am here to give you a pathway for you to thrive at optimal levels and become a catalyst to others.

I want you to stop the cycle of trial and error and feel like yourself again. The soonest you make progress, that’s a WIN-WIN for both of us!

In addition to using Functional Blood Chemistry Assessment to help you healing opportunities, I am adding a functional lab system that you help us identify malfunctions at the sub-clinical level and healing opportunities within the hormone, immune, digestion, detoxification, energy production, and nervous system right from the start and speed up their healing.

This revised program structure will be very helpful for people who have tried tons of things but aren’t feeling their best yet. They haven’t got the answers they deserve. They are tired of trial and error. They want a natural, step-by-step comprehensive approach that takes their unique body and circumstances into account.

If this sounds like you already, no need to way, I can help you right now.

Anyway, after I accomplish this task, I plan on releasing weekly episodes again. In the meantime, thanks for your patience, for listening to the show, and for sharing this content with your friends and family.

Enough about me, let’s get to the episode.


Last episode, I introduced you to free radicals, oxidative stress with serious potential for tissue damage, the most common causes of oxidative stress, and lab testing to measure oxidative stress. I also explored a few reasons you want to get a Metabolic Wellness Profile test done so you know how healthy your cells are doing and make lifestyle changes that are needed.

In today’s episode, let’s dive

  • into the relationship between oxidative stress and inflammation
  • cytokine storms
  • how cytokine storms can lead to diseases
  • and simple steps we can do to prevent storms and inflammatory diseases that are responsible for more than chronic inflammation

What’s the relationship between oxidative stress and inflammation and how they lead to disease?

Oxidative stress is closely related to inflammation and they go hand in hand because it is the cause of unstable molecular curriculum, and that leads to chronic inflammation. Oxidative stress can activate a variety of transcription factors, which lead to the differential expression of some genes involved in inflammatory pathways. Continuous exposure to high levels of oxidative stress can trigger inflammation through the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Oxidative stress can have both direct and indirect effects on macrophages which are part of innate immunity and are also a major source of cytokines involved in the immune system. We will discuss macrophages, innate and adaptive levels of immunity another time. Right now, let’s talk about cytokines.

Cytokines are molecules that facilitate immune function. They play a role in pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory. Cytokines are powerful because they can affect cells close by, far away, and even cells that produce them. So, they are produced locally in tissues and have a wide systemic inflammatory effect on immune cells. Clearly, you and I do not want a pro-inflammatory systemic effect to get started.

On that note, have you heard of cytokine storm? This topic has been under the radar a bit because of Covid-19.

In a nutshell, a cytokine storm happens when we have an uncontrolled prolonged systemic immune response. This scenario creates an overproduction of inflammatory cytokines which will in turn lets more immune cells come to the rescue. Although all this is positive and needed to heal the body when inflammation kicks in when inflammation becomes chronic or prolonged, severe overflow cytokines can become pro-inflammatory and create tissue and organ damage.

And since cytokines have a wide reach, before we know, our cardiovascular, G.I., and neurological systems are at risk. Ultimately, they can go from playing a protective role to a destructive when the body doesn’t have a chance to rest and recover from these constant attacks.

Hence, reducing exposure to oxidative stress and leading a more anti-inflammatory lifestyle are wise choices, don’t you think?

Now let’s talk about inflammation.

Just like I’ve talked about stress not being a villain, the same we can say about inflammation. Inflammation plays a very protective role in our bodies. We need it to survive injuries and infections as the body uses inflammatory mechanisms to fight intruders and repair tissue.

The acute form is the most noticeable. An acute inflammatory response happens with scratches, blisters, cuts, sprains, broken bones, any sort of injuries from a sprained ankle or a broken bone.

In a normal body, when we have a paper cut. Inflammation is triggered and mobilizes resources to ultimately heal. We feel pain, warmth, redness, swelling, and even stiffness of the area as the wound starts to close. Depending on how deep that cut was, inflammation subsides in a day or two.

Isn’t it a beautiful thing?

Then we have illnesses ending with “-it is” like bronchitis, hepatitis, bursitis, arthritis, colitis, and more. These diseases can be either acute with short bouts of inflammation or chronic with ongoing inflammation which can lead to long-term damage.

In regards to chronic inflammation, that’s often silent and ongoing for some time. When the damage keeps coming, the repair cannot fully happen, leaving the inflammatory response running a system of healing, then turns into one that creates more harm. It starts by damaging our tissues and then causes stimulation of our immune system and leads to accumulative damage. Like I had mentioned, ongoing oxidative stress can trigger an inflammatory cascade which can further lead to not only metabolic syndrome but serious illnesses.

More specific symptoms of chronic inflammation are fatigue, weight gain or weight loss, muscle and joint pain, anxiety, depression, GI issues, and insomnia. The most common inflammatory diseases are cardiovascular like stroke, arthritis and joint diseases, diabetes, respiratory like COPD, cancers, Alzheimer’s, and even allergies—and I regret to inform you that Claritin or Zyrtec works like band-aids, they don’t fix anything, they just cover the wound.

In reality, the temporary fix might prevent you from uncovering the real problem and resolving it for good.

When I work with clients, in addition to testing for oxidative stress, I like to look into blood biomarkers that give us clues to inflammation such as C-Reactive Protein or CRP, homocysteine, ferritin, and insulin. If a person’s lifestyle isn’t the best, cholesterol has not been ideal and has a family history of heart disease, I also like to look into Lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a), and is predisposed to CVD.

I am looking for anyone’s level to be optimal and the average Joe ‘normal’ range that labs give you. As I have mentioned before, you do not want to be within ‘normal’ ranges, you want to be within ‘optimal’ levels.

I am begging you…

Do DOT start attributing fatigue and achiness to what I call the ‘old fart’ syndrome. Yes, as we age, the body changes. Our lifestyle choices will have the greatest impact on the speed and the degree to which these changes happen.

And here is what I want you to remember… Unless the person is invested in her/his wellness, has taken consistent actions, and has a good support system, watch out to whose advice you are listening to.

You set your goals, the direction of your life, do your research. Otherwise, the suggestions and criticism of the average person, which according to the stats, might not be living their best life physically, emotionally, and mentally, might lead you in a different direction. They might be living with hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance. This is the sad reality we live in.

That said, do not fall for the ‘it’s normal.’ Do not accept this mindset. Listen to your body, take action, get help.

If you have been listening to your body and mind and know, deep inside, you are not feeling your best, especially without stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, medications, recreational drugs, sweets of any kind, cheese, and the perfect addictive processed food bombs that combined sugar and fat, ask the question…what’s stopping me from changing? What are my excuses? Am I lacking purpose in life? What are my drivers? What’s stopping me from taking one consistent step toward something healthier?

Tough questions, I know. I’ve been there and asked them myself.

You might be wondering what an anti-inflammatory diet is. Let me just tell you…I do not like the word diet in any shape or form. It implies short term and has such a negative tone to me. I use it because most people associate with it better.

When it comes to nutrition and inflammation, I suggest you lead an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Nutrition is one of its legs.

I am not an extremist or purist. That by itself is stressful. However, I do believe when some level of metabolic chaos exists, we must give our bodies a break. We need to give the body time to heal.  We need to FUEL our cells what they need so they can thrive again.

Five Steps You Can Take Today

I want to wrap up today’s discussion by giving you five (5) simple action steps you can implement asap that will help you reduce or keep inflammation triggers down.

Also, I want you to focus on adding to your nutritional template first and then, you can think of reducing or swapping or even eliminating if that’s what your body needs

  • Whole fresh foods instead of processed foods. Put a goal to eating 80% of fresh foods and as you do that, watch your energy and health climb.
  • Consume seven to ten servings of fresh colorful vegetables or fruits. Include dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, citrus fruits, and purple, red, oranges vegetables and fruits. Eat your rainbow. By the way, start slowly. The bacteria in your digestive tract needs time to adjust. If it bothers you, start with more cooked vegetables and slowly progress to raw.
  • Incorporate healthy fats into your meals. Examples are nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut. If you can tolerate butter, choose organic grass-fed butter that has Omega 3’s in it.
  • Minimize refined carbohydrates white bread, cookies, cake, cereals, pastries, candies, and sodas. What can you add instead? You can find healthy versions of all these foods online or make your own. As far as sodas, how about grabbing an unsweetened seltzer, adding fresh fruits or a touch of fresh juice, and stevia or monk fruit to sweeten things up?
  • Lastly, if you eat animal protein, please invest in the quality of your meats. Purchase organic grass-fed meats or lean meats, organic poultry or lean poultry, pasture-raised eggs, and wild-caught fish. Yes, they are more expensive but you won’t be eating every day and for most people, 4-6 oz is enough.

Ok, my friend, that was my piece of content for you today. Next episode, I will continue the discussion on the immune system. We will talk about innate and adaptive immune responses, macrophages, and weight gain.

Thanks for listening. If you found this information valuable, share it with someone. And I’d love for you to live us a rating in iTunes. That will help the podcast reach other awesome people like you.

Talk soon. Tchau Tchau.

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