Symptoms Of Inflammation: Can It Kill?
Anti-inflammatory Effect and Pro-inflammatory Properties
Some threats to our health are obvious: toxic smoke rising from a trash burner, or a diet loaded with processed and chemically laden “fake food” comes most readily to mind. But sometimes the worst threats are invisible and silent. That’s exactly the case with chronic low-level inflammation. Its stealthy nature belies its destructive power.
Unfortunately, thanks to our modern lifestyles, chronic low-level inflammation could be severely eroding your health even as you read this article. This silent lurker contributes to at least seven of the 10 leading causes of mortality in the United States—which include heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and nephritis.
Fortunately, you can reverse and prevent the health declines and premature aging caused by chronic inflammation with proven and easily implemented lifestyle changes.
Killer Unmasked: What Exactly Is Inflammation, Anyway?
Like virtually all bodily processes, inflammation has a place in the natural, healthy order of things as one of your body’s natural defense mechanisms. When your body detects a foreign invader, your immune system rushes antibodies to the area, which typically produces redness, pain, and swelling. Unpleasant as all this is, this is a sign that your body is doing its job properly. In this situation, inflammation is healthy.
“Inflammation … is a normal and necessary part of the body’s repair team,” says Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum,
However, if inflammation lingers unabated, that healing hyperactivity can actually damage your tissues as it persists as chronic, low-level inflammation. A temporary state of emergency becomes a perpetual (and highly destructive) state of war.
“Chronic inflammation that continues over time is abnormal and is actually a disease condition,” Teitelbaum says. “It’s like your immune army never heard the order to stand down, troops are running all over the place, attacking everything in sight.”
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a board-certified physician in pain management and anesthesiology with a private practice in New York, agrees.
“Inflammation occurs when our immune system essentially gets ‘out of control,’” he says. “It can be dangerous if not addressed or treated properly.”
Once triggered, this type of stress-induced inflammation can persist undetected for years or even decades, while the invisible inflammation causes cell death throughout the body. In fact, many medical experts believe that inflammation is at the root of 80 to 90 percent of all serious illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and painful “-itis” conditions like arthritis, diverticulitis, or cystitis (your bladder).
“Most diseases of the 21st century can be associated with inflammation,” Teitelbaum maintains.
This includes the “disease” of premature aging, as well. In fact, since inflammation contributes so greatly to deterioration associated with aging, chronic inflammation has been nicknamed “inflammaging.
Immunity And Inflammation: A Military Response Run Amok
To understand the difference between acute and chronic inflammation, we must turn to the immune system, which is essentially responsible for waging battle against foreign substances.
Teitelbaum describes the immune system as a military organization, with the sole purpose of protecting you from outside invaders called “antigens.” Just as the U.S. military has branches (i.e Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines) so does your immune system.
Rank And File: The Human Immune System
Horseman No. 1: Shitty Food
It’s not enough these days to get your daily servings of fruits and veggies. You have to make sure your produce is organic and not laced with chemicals, fungicides, and herbicides. These chemicals synergize and unleash sub-lethal effects in the body, most of which we’re only beginning to understand. And since the body finds these additives unrecognizable, inflammation is triggered. Meanwhile, when it comes to good ol’ modern agriculture, crop rotation is virtually nonexistent, meaning the soil itself is compromised and depleted of nutrients.
Next, consider the ill-effects of GMOs. These foods have been created through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology, such as tomato seed genes crossed with fish genes in an attempt to boost frost tolerance (yeah, that happened). But they can also happen without direct laboratory involvement, as was evidenced by a four-year study at the University of Jena in Germany. The study found that bees ingesting pollen from transgenic rapeseed, had gut bacteria with modified genes—otherwise known as “horizontal gene transfer.”
Humans, like bees, depend on friendly bacteria and microorganisms to keep our digestive systems (and our whole bodies) healthy. However, our gut bacteria can mutate, too, just as happened to the German bees. Those mutations can then travel internally to other cells, tissues, systems, and organs—with as of yet unknown consequences.
In a more recent study, French scientists revealed that rats fed on Monsanto-made GMO corn suffered tumors and other complications, including kidney and liver damage.
An estimated 70 percent of processed foods sold in the United States contain genetically engineered ingredients. That’s according to Sustainable Table, a subset of the nonprofit organization GRACE, whose mission is to help consumers understand the myriad current problems with our food supply. Today, in the absence of GMO labeling requirements, the only way to avoid Frankenfood is to eat organic.
Horseman No. 2: Sixes Over Threes
In our modern society, most folks eat too many foods loaded with omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory. Think cooking oils made out of corn, soybean, and cottonseed, along with the trans fats in chips and other processed foods. Meanwhile, if you eat meat from cows that have been fed grains, not only does the meat itself instigate inflammation, but the animal’s omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio is off-kilter as well (see more about omega-3 acids in the next section).
According to those who follow a Paleolithic lifestyle, our bodies have not changed since the days of our ancestors. Therefore, we have not adapted to properly digest grains found in most foods—especially wheat and wheat-derived products. The same goes for corn and corn syrup, Teitelbaum says.
Since our bodies don’t know how to handle grains, what you end up with is partially digested foods, leading to the unpleasant territory of leaky guts and irritated bowls. Ultimately, the human immune system sees these food particles as invaders, and defends the body by provoking the gut (the center of your being and intuition) to swell up.
Horseman No. 4: Poor Sleep
More than 70 million Americans belong to the ZZZ-less club, sleeping less than eight hours a night. Lack of slumber is a serious cause of disease, Teitelbaum says. that one of the best ways to suppress your immune system is to deprive yourself of sleep. We’ve all been there; a weakened immune system makes you more susceptible to inflammation.
Fortunately, there are some natural and simple ways to optimize your immune system and prevent, control, and reverse chronic inflammation.
Strategies To Prevent And Reverse Inflammation (And Send The Horsemen On Their Heels)1. Go Raw And Organic
Avoiding processed foods is one of the best ways to reduce omega-6 fatty acid intake. Choose whole, fresh produce (the more colorful the better). For instance, choose red potatoes over white.
“Let’s just say that 40 years ago, food manufacturers destroyed many critical enzymes in food to increase shelf life,” Teitelbaum reminds.
2. Eat Omega-3-Rich Fish
Omega-3s are an integral part of cell membranes that provide the building blocks for producing the hormones that regulate inflammation—along with blood clotting and the contraction and relaxation of artery walls. In a study conducted at the University of Washington, women who ate one or two servings of fish a week were 22 percent less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease. No fried fish, folks! The richest sources include wild salmon, mackerel, tuna, and trout.
3. Buy Grass-Fed And Free-Range Meat
Animals that have been grazing on grass rather than being forced to eat grains are much richer in omega 3s. There’s no denying that the meat costs more, but this is preventative medicine! Pay now for quality food, or later with disease and doctor bills. Hint: the doctor bills will cost A LOT more!
4. Take A Fish Oil Supplement
The anti-inflammatory benefits of fish oil are remarkable. In a recent study out of Scotland, people with rheumatoid arthritis reduced their use of anti-inflammatory meds by 40 percent.
VitalChoice is a reputable brand for people who don’t want to or can’t manage to eat fatty fish a couple of times a week. Teitelbaum also recommends a new form of omega-3 from fish called Vectomega. It has a chemical structure identical to that found in salmon, which increases absorption dramatically—50 times as much as other fish oils. One to two tablets deliver all the EPA and DHA you need, instead of having to swallow the normal 8 to 16 capsules.
5. Use Curcumin
Curcumin, a compound found in the spice turmeric, is known for its anti-inflammatory powers. Despite many noteworthy studies about the benefits of curcumin, however, this compound is not usually well-absorbed in the body. Not to worry—excellent curcumin products are available, including Curamin (also great for pain), CuraMed and our top pick – Purathrive.
6. Try Natural Sleep Aids
If you just can’t slip into the Land of Nod, consider Theanine (50 to 200 milligrams at bedtime), an amino acid found in green tea. It works by helping you produce GABA, an “inhibitory” brain chemical critical for sleep. And it aids in creating the same alpha waves produced by the brain during relaxed alert states, such as meditation. Wild Lettuce (30 to 120 milligrams at bedtime) is also another traditional herbal remedy for insomnia and anxiety. In short, there are many natural remedies for treating inflammation at one’s disposal.
It’s not impossible to fight the silent killer that is chronic low-level inflammation. It’s not even that hard. All you need are the right tools, which in this case boils down to the right foods and supplements.
Medical Aspects and Applications of Humic Substances