A substantial body of scientific information is now linking chronic inflammation to almost all chronic degenerative diseases. These include the leading killers, cancer, heart disease and stroke as well as diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and a multitude of others. In fact many diseases like benign prostatic hypertrophy, are essentially inflammatory by nature and should be treated with an anti-inflammatory diet and natural anti-inflammatory therapeutics.
Inflammation is a normal body process; even the body itself will even produce some of these toxic chemicals to kill pathogens. But when we take in or produce toxins the body will attempt to rid itself of these. The excretion process through urine, sweat, tears, and cough are some of the ways the body rids itself of toxins. When this process is inadequate or is overwhelmed with excess toxins, the body will attempt to “burn” out the toxins with inflammation. When this process is insufficient, the toxins become entrenched in the tissues, the inflammation continues and the process ends in a chronic degenerative disease.
Any inflammation is a message that something is wrong. And this inflammation that leads to all these diseases is initiated primarily by two sources – microbes, and our typically rotten diets. In some cases the initiating event is a trauma of some type, emotional or physical, including surgery. Even chronic allergic reactions may act as a trigger but this usually leads to a microbial infection. Any trauma, surgery or allergic response will cause an increase in white blood cells at the site of tissue damage. These macrophages in turn produce several pro-inflammatory messenger chemicals called cytokines. If the inflammatory trigger or the microbial infection continues, or if the body is unable to get the inflammatory response called off, cytokine production continues. This will result in cellular/tissue destruction, which, by the way, leads to more macrophage production. If the body loses this battle to “dial down” this inflammation, this cycle continues. The resulting tissue destruction can be extensive and sometimes permanent.
The Typical Inflammatory Cytokines
- C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
- Interleukin 6 (IL6)
- Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-a)
- Interleukin – 1 and 8
- Cyclooxygenase 2 (Cox 2)
Elevated levels of CRP or IL6 dramatically increase one’s risk for heart attack, diabetes or cancer. Consider the huge over-emphasis conventional medicine has placed on cholesterol levels and realize then the disconnect in the fact that half of all heart attacks occur to people with normal cholesterol. And serious killer plaque is found in people with arteries that are not blocked.
In most every chronic degenerative or autoimmune disease a chronic virus, parasite, bacteria, or similar microbe is present. When the genome project was completed it was found that 1/3 of our genes are viral genes. These viral genes can be expressed with a chemical insult. Considering that the average American body is contaminated with 300 – 500 different chemicals, it is not too difficult to see how easy it would be for the expression of a virus and the onset of an inflammatory response. In this case the virus is not coming from outside to within but originates from within. The role of infection in heart disease is well documented in the scientific literature, but likewise with arthritis and a host of others. Unless these pathogens are eliminated or in the case of viruses, the chemical provocateurs excreted, they will continue to act as an inflammatory mediator and continue to promote the inflammatory cycle described above. These really must be tracked down and eliminated and the sources for re-entry greatly reduced.
Changing Our Diets
While pathogens or traumas via the inflammatory response are indeed involved in most all chronic diseases, the most pervasive factor under girding this is the Standard American Diet (SAD). Our SAD diets are typically loaded with inflammatory fats, processed foods and really junk foods. Consider that the number one source of calories in the American diet is soft drinks. This used to be white flour/bread, so we are not making any progress whatsoever. The consumption of doughnuts, pastries, potato/corn chips, burgers, cookies, candy and the like are indeed, well designed to produce inflammation in our bodies.
So what in our diets has to change? We have to decrease the excess consumption of pro-inflammatory omega 6 fats (oils from corn, soy, safflower, etc) along with the omission of all trans fats and hydrogenated fats (found in margarine, mayonnaise, crackers, cookies, chips, and in fact almost all processed food). We also have to increase anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats (cold-water fish/fish oil, and to a minor extent flax) that are way under-consumed compared to the omega 6 oils.Any liquid oil that is exposed to heat, light or air will begin to oxidize and become partially rancid, unfit for consumption. Since every cell of our body has a lipid (fatty) membrane, these damaged fats, along with the excess undamaged omega 6 fats, will become a part of the cellular structure where they will participant in the inflammatory cascade.
Remember, inflammation is not necessarily bad in and of itself. It becomes a problem when it becomes like an accelerator in a car that gets stuck and the brakes (omega 3 fats) are inadequate. When the balance of the omega 6:3 ratio shifts excessively in the omega 6 direction, we create an inflammatory pump just waiting for a trigger to flip the “switch”.
Here is an example of how we do this. Beef used to come from animals that were almost exclusively grass-fed (exactly what they were designed to eat). Now, the epitome of a great steak is one from corn-fed beef. But when we consume corn-fed beef instead of grass-fed beef, we change the omega 6:3 ratio from 1:1 in grass-fed beef to 16:1 in corn-fed beef-a dramatic increase in the pro-inflammatory direction. The same shift occurs in chickens and their eggs when we cage them as opposed to free-range hens and eggs. Some estimate that we consume as much as twenty times the amount of omega 6 fats as we should, compared to the amount of omega 3 fats.
Dietary Recommendations – Eat Whole, Natural foods
The following dietary/supplement guidelines are contraindicated if you are on a blood thinner such as coumadin and are not to supplant the specific advice of your physician.
- Use only red meats such as grass-fed beef or buffalo but never in excess. Omit all processed meats such as bacon, sausage, deli meats etc.
- Use eggs, chickens and turkeys for consumption that have been allowed free-range. Not generally found at commercial grocery stores where eggs are at least 1 month old.
- Protein from wild Alaskan salmon, halibut or other cold-water fish is encouraged; but use only wild, uncontaminated sources. Most fish today, including fresh water fish, are contaminated with mercury, PCBs or dioxin. Farm-raised salmon (about 2/3 of the US market) should never be used.
- Omit all refined carbohydrates and high glycemic foods from white flour, white sugar, white rice, etc. These foods are nutritionally depleted and convert to sugar rapidly (high glycemic). Other high glycemic and problem foods include potatoes, breakfast cereals, muffins, crackers, cookies, etc. One anti-aging specialist finds that high glycemic foods may be responsible for 50% of skin aging caused by sugar molecules reacting with collagen and releasing cell damaging free radicals that will induce an inflammatory chain of events.
- Reduce significantly all deep/fried foods and food requiring high temperatures including, French fries, corn/potato chips, burgers, fried chicken, pizza, doughnuts. Fried foods and foods held at high temperatures will produce Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) whereby a sugar molecule binds to a cell protein. The damaged proteins accumulate and will stimulate the production of inflammatory cytokines. In addition the fats in some of these foods may be more than 1/3 trans fats.
- Eliminate beverages containing refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners (including Splenda and Aspartame or NutraSweet). These include sodas, most bottled teas, diet sodas and most fruit juices. All of these will encourage the inflammatory process.
- Do consume 4 -6 servings of anti-inflammatory, green or yellow vegetables daily.
- Fruits can be an excellent source of anti-oxidants especially highly colored ones. The best fruits to consider that are low glycemic and anti-oxidant rich are cherries, berries, apples, pears and red grapes.
- Nuts, seeds and legumes are low glycemic and most nuts and some seeds have some healthy fats including some omega 3s.
- The best cooking oils are olive, coconut, and grape seed oil. Do not use oils from soy, corn, sunflower, safflower etc.
Anti-inflammatory Supplements to Consider
- Always use digestive enzymes to adequately digest your food. Plant-based enzymes before meals are preferred. Most individuals with autoimmune or other chronic disease will benefit from potassium-activated hydrochloric acid to fully digest food, support the stomach and immune system and decrease intestinal inflammation.
- A probiotic (friendly bacteria) naturally assists the enzymes in improving gut health and controlling intestinal inflammation.
- Omega 3 fish oils are an essential component of any anti-inflammatory program. Fish oils in the range of 2-3000 mg/day (or higher in some cases) have been found to significantly suppress inflammatory cytokine production. Be sure the total consumed is for the combined amount of EPA and DHA only, not the total amount of fatty acids in the capsule or liquid. And be sure it is free of toxic contaminants as well.
- Gamma Linolenic acid (GLA), 250 – 350 mg of GLA/day can also promote a reduction in inflammation. Sources of these include, Borage oil, Black Current Seed oil, or Evening Primrose oil (preferred).
- Proteolytic enzymes from natural (plant or animal) sources can have a significant benefit in pain syndromes and inflammation reduction. They can improve blood flow and breakdown immune complexes (inflammation) in auto-immunity. Possible sources include: Bromalin (pineapple source), 1200-2400mg/day; Marcozyme or Wobenzyme (multiple enzymes of plant/animal sources), 4 –12 tablets/day on empty stomach; Nattokinase (best for cardiovascular and plant source), 100 – 200 mg/day; Serratiopeptidase (from silk moth) 10 – 30 mg/day.
- Anti-inflammatory herbs can be of significant help in alleviating inflammation.
- Turmeric (best choice all-around/active component is curcumin) 600 – 1200 mg/day
- Ginger root 300 – 600/day
- Garlic – in capsules use the allicin equivalent to 1 ½ cloves/day
- Boswellia Serrata, 500 – 900 mg/day
- Devils Claw, Cats Claw, Green tea and Cayenne pepper – consider these also
- Anti-oxidant support may have considerable impact on CRP and other cytokines and will decrease inflammation
- Vitamin C, 1-2 gm daily with higher doses in some cases
- Vitamin E (including D-alpha and D-gamma Tocopherol) 400 – 800 IU with higher doses in some cases
- Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) 500 –1200 mg/day or best DHLA Nano-Plex (a reduced form of live-source ALA) ¼ – ½ tsp 2X/day. DHLA can significantly reduce lipid peroxides, the destructive promoters of chronic degenerative, inflammatory diseases.
- General Recommendations
- Get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation will increase inflammatory cytokines and cortisol significantly
- Use as much organic food as possible. Pesticides, herbicides, act as inflammatory toxins
- Be cautious about what you put on your skin – what you apply to your skin you eat! Would you eat Deep Woods Off? How pure are your cosmetics? Does your antiperspirant contain aluminum?
- Be cautious about what you spray or smell such as spray paints, insect spray, week killers, perfumes, etc. the list is endless. We live in a rather toxic world.
- Reduce your weight if necessary. Fat cells are a significant source of inflammatory cytokines.
- Reduce stress/anxiety as it will directly lead to increase the inflammatory process