There was more response than I expected from my last post about my efforts to obtain a better understanding about my chronic conditions, the new drugs I was taking, and how to lower my inflammation. I offered in that post to share the links that I used to figure out what foods impact the levels of cytokines that are important in my systemic sclerosis. I’ve gotten feedback/requests for the spreadsheet with my links that I used in my adventures at PubMed.
I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days, and I think that the most useful thing to do would be to share my process as I hunted down information about cytokines involved in my systemic sclerosis (SSc), and the cytokines that I needed to pay attention to in my diet.
I started out asking: What are the cytokines involved in systemic sclerosis? I did searches using terms like cytokines and systemic sclerosis. Here are some of the links to papers that I found.
- Cytokines in Inflammatory Disease
- Plasma cytokine profiles in systemic sclerosis: associations with autoantibody subsets and clinical manifestations
- Potential use of TNF-α inhibitors in systemic sclerosis
- Cytokine and chemokine levels in systemic sclerosis: relationship with cutaneous and internal organ involvement
- The benefits and prospects of interleukin-6 inhibitor on systemic sclerosis
I kept a list of the cytokines that were being measured in these studies and I finally began to get a sense of the four big players that were being measured and considered as targets for therapy: Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha (TNFα), Interferon gamma (IFN-γ), Interleukin-6 (IL-6), and Interleukin-1beta (IL-1β). You can follow the same process to research any inflammatory disease that you are interested in; you may get different results. (For example, C-Reactive Protein, called CRP for short, features in many inflammatory conditions. For little SSc me, not so much… my levels are normal.) Anyway, once I had the cytokines of interest, I did searches on all 4 of them. Here’s my info on TNF-α.
|TNF-α is also a potent inflammatory mediator and apoptosis inducer||The role of Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-α) in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus|
|Produced by activated immune cells (macrophages, NK cells, T-cells) known to trigger a series of various inflammatory molecules, including other cytokines and chemokines||The Role of Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNF-α) in Autoimmune Disease and Current TNF-α Inhibitors in Therapeutics|
|TNF-α causes other immune response cells to produce IL-1 and IL-6||Tumor necrosis factor – Wikipedia|
I did the same for the other three cytokines and it turns out that for me, it is best to reduce all of them in my blood. At this point I made a little chart with the 4 cytokines at the top and began to do searches on different foods that I thought were anti-inflammatory.
Now the searching gets easy. I just typed in the questions in the search bar like, “Does capsaicin reduce TNFα” or maybe “Does capsaicin reduce cytokines” and the answer would quickly pop up with some resources. Warning: the search engine will give you the pertinent text and then you are on your own as you search through these papers! If you just go with the fast answers, you will take some risks… I told my sister that tomatoes were bad because I didn’t read the whole text, and I’m not sure if she has forgiven me yet…
Anyway, here are some papers about the foods/supplements above:
- Lycopene as a Natural Antioxidant Used to Prevent Human Health Disorders
- Capsaicin: Current Understanding of Its Mechanisms and Therapy of Pain and Other Pre-Clinical and Clinical Uses
- The beneficial effect of tart cherry on plasma levels of inflammatory mediators (not recovery after exercise): A systematic review and meta-analysis on randomized clinical trials
If I found a source that said one of the cytokines was reduced by one of my targeted foods, I just put an “X” in that box and moved on. I was no longer recording all of the links in my excitement, and as I found info it sometimes confirmed previous finds, but not always. If I got contradictory information, I was forced to read whole papers. Ugh. Also, you might want to try a different search engine; I used Chrome on my phone and Explorer on the computer, which is another reason for incomplete links on the computer. For the three foods in the table above it ended looking like this.
I hope this unpacks the process that I used and helps with any searches that you decide to do that are specific to your own needs/interests.