Cytokines are a group of substances that are responsible for, among other things, our body’s immune response. What we are interested in are pro-inflammatory cytokines. An excess of these has been linked to a number of conditions, not only because they are created by the body as a result of a threat, but also because of their role. They sometimes deregulate the entire body, producing a range of symptoms. In other words, if we are healthy, but for some reason our body produces an excess of pro-inflammatory cytokines, we will get sick. Of course it is not that simple, we know so far more than 100 different substances from this group and we are still discovering new ones, all working together in a complex network of relationships, nevertheless the main assumption remains true: excess harms.
It is not entirely clear what role they play in anxiety neurosis and panic attacks, but it is known that patients have significantly elevated levels, the more severe their neurosis is:
At the moment no one knows the answer to the question whether lowering their levels will cure anxiety disorder. If anyone claims this, they are lying. Until rigorous research is done on this, we can only guess. I’m afraid no one will be in a hurry to do this research. Most of the therapies that lower their levels are not patentable, so there is no sponsorship to be had.
But whether their excess is a result of disease or a cause of disease, it is undoubtedly harmful to the body. It is worth taking steps to regulate the mechanisms responsible for inflammation. For example, in one study, mice that received the synthetic cytokine IL-6 had up to five times faster growth of atherosclerotic plaque in their arteries!
A large number of the therapies described on the site parallel beneficial effects on cytokine levels, such as supplementing magnesium or correcting hypothyroidism. Something that has been very trendy lately and recommended as a “cure-all”, especially for excess pro-inflammatory substances, does not work at all. Vitamin C supplementation had no effect:
There is one major problem with studies that determine what supplements or therapies lower cytokine levels: they have to be done on a really large group. I’m currently reviewing a study that supposedly showed that spirulina lowers IL-6 levels. It decreased by 0.7 pg/ml, but at the same time it increased by 0.9 pg/ml in the placebo group. Someone may say: well great, the difference is 1.6! And I will say: the absence of any therapy produced a greater change than the therapy. During infection or strong stress the level can jump even over 150 pg/ml, just one person from the study group gets sick and the results can be thrown in the trash. Only a study with more than 1000 people could give a clear picture.
For this reason, one can only guess what factors might lower or raise levels. A list of the most commonly mentioned things that work positively:
Mediterranean or vegetarian diet
meditation and relaxation
carnosine (or beta alanine together with histidine, the same thing but much cheaper)
Unfortunately, not much more can be said – I described this phenomenon as a curiosity. It has been repeatedly shown that supplementation with omega 3 acids has a beneficial effect on anxiety and depression. Who knows, maybe one day it will turn out that their mechanism lies in the reduction of cytokine levels?