The term “long-haul COVID” has now entered our lexicon in relationship to this infectious disease. Unlike so many other infectious events, it looks like, in many people, COVID-19 is not monophasic. This means that a significant number of individuals have persistent symptoms for extended periods of time. This experience may now be affecting millions of people globally following their supposed “recovery.”
In fact, the NIH in December 2020 sponsored a meeting to call attention to this specific problem because of its global extent. Indeed, the long-term consequences of COVID-19 are now being described as a “second health crisis,” globally.
One of the common statements often repeated in the media about COVID-19 is that it is seemingly random in terms of both getting the virus and having a poor outcome. But, upon further inspection, that’s not what the actual science is revealing. As we move deeper into our involvement with this virus some important patterns are emerging that make it quite clear that COVID-19 does indeed discriminate.
In a recent article, Dr. Austin Perlmutter explored how COVID-19 is actually an “opportunistic infection,” meaning that it takes advantage of patients whose immune systems are not functioning optimally. In the past we would have considered less than optimal immune function to be a characteristic of people who have had, for example, chemotherapy or radiation treatment, exposure to immune-suppressing medications after organ transplantation, or a diagnosed autoimmune disease. But as Dr. Austin Perlmutter has made clear, we now need to broaden our scope and embrace the notion that so many of our most common degenerative conditions, from diabetes to obesity, actually compromise immune function and allow the SARS-CoV-2 virus the opportunity to do its dirty work. Continue reading
One topic that’s certainly moved to center stage as of late is immunity. For obvious reasons there is great interest in exploring what we can do to enhance our immune functionality. The key idea, as it relates to functionality, is the notion of balance. While a robust immune system seems like it would be an ideal goal, we now know that excessive immune function may actually prove threatening. Such is the case with the so-called “cytokine storm.” Cytokines are chemical messengers that are involved in regulating immune function. When overproduced, as may occur in COVID-19 infection, cytokines can amplify inflammation with all its attendant destructive manifestations.
Regulation and balance of the immune system deteriorate with aging. So as we age we become more susceptible to inflammation, both acutely as with the cytokine storm, as well as chronically, in disease states like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and various other chronic degenerative conditions. Continue reading
Over the past several months I have been writing and broadcasting about the potential role of vitamin D as it relates to COVID-19. Understanding the multiple roles that vitamin D plays in regulating immunity really supports the level of interest that we are seeing in the scientific community at a time when so many ideas are being vetted.
By and large, effectiveness of any intervention is looked at in terms of either prevention of a problem or its actual treatment. And while there is a fairly robust body of literature accumulating that clearly shows higher risk for the disease as well as worse outcome associated with low levels of vitamin D, actually using vitamin D as a treatment for existing disease hasn’t really been extensively studied. Continue reading