Tuesday, October 27, 2009 by: Alex Howard, citizen journalist
There is a surprising link between Heart Attacks, Cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. These other diseases include all forms of Autoimmune disorders including Arthritis and MS, Parkinson’s, Osteoporosis, Diabetes, Obesity, Allergies including Asthma and Food Intolerances, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and many other pain disorders. And there is much evidence to suggest that the link is inflammation. The modern diet and lifestyle is likely to cause inflammation in the body, and this can lead to a variety of illnesses.
Inflammation is now the hottest area of medical research, as drug companies rush to find remedies for this modern day epidemic. Unfortunately, these drugs are generally dangerous and don’t get to the root of the problem.
Inflammation is the age-old immunological defense mechanism that causes the area of tissue of an injury to become red, hot and swollen. Most of the time, inflammation is a lifesaver that enables our bodies to fend off various disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites. The inflammatory response should subside after it has fought off any invaders to an injury site and has allowed the healing to begin. However in certain circumstances, the inflammatory response fails to shut down and becomes chronic.
This is often due to poor dietary and lifestyle factors which promote chronic inflammation. Immune cells use “free radicals” to kill off pathogens and other foreign invaders. Free radicals (also known as reactive oxygen species) are unstable particles which puncture and damage cells around them. This is great for killing bacteria, but it can also damage healthy cells if allowed to become out of control. In a body with chronic inflammation, there is therefore increased free radical or “oxidative” stress in the body. Free radicals damage blood vessels, joints, cell membranes, nerves and just about any other part of the body – this is why chronic inflammation is so bad for us. Free radical stress is also essentially how we age.
The body has an army of natural defense against free radicals; these are known as anti-oxidants. In states of chronic inflammation, the body can become depleted of anti-oxidants, and hence free radical stress does a lot of damage. This in turn causes more inflammation and more free radicals! It is essential to break this cycle of damage by lowering factors which promote inflammation, and by boosting our anti-oxidant status through dietary and lifestyle changes.
One last point – do we want to “boost” our immune system if it is already “over-active” due to inflammation? The answer is yes and no! There is only one PART of the immune system which gets over-active and begins to create problems with inflammation. Another part of the immune system works along a different line of attack; it does not create inflammation, but does a very important job fighting off bacteria, parasites, cancers cells and viruses. Many people today have signs of inflammation, yet also come down with yeast infections, viruses, dental infections and so on. In a sense their immune system needs modulation, reduction of the pro-inflammatory side, and a boost to the other side which fights off the baddies without inflammation.
Risk factors which promote inflammation:
-A poor diet can create micro-nutrient deficiencies. Type “B” malnutrition is rampant in the Western countries. This is a diet high in calories but deficient in nutrients, resulting in obesity and poor health. Micro-nutrient deficiencies make us more susceptible to low grade infections such as helicobacter pylori (the cause of stomach ulcers), gum disease, recurrent urinary tract infections, and Chlamydia. All low grade chronic infections can set up a chronic inflammation in the body.
-Poor gut health. A significant part of the immune system is found in the gut. The immune system in the gut is one of the most important first lines of defense against the outside world; after all, it is the area where matter from the outside is brought inside the body. The gut contains many billions of bacteria; most of them are good and help promote good immunity as well as good digestion, and they help with the absorption of nutrients. However, if there is an over-growth of “bad bacteria”, these produce toxins and trigger the immune system. This is known as gut dysbiosis and can trigger a systemic low grade inflammation throughout the body’s immune system. A symptom of poor gut health are food intolerances. A diet low in fiber and high in saturated fat and sugar promotes gut dysbiosis. Constipation is very bad for your health!
-Stress causes inflammation through worsening gut health, makes the body more susceptible to chronic low grade infections and lowers the immunity to bacteria, viruses, parasites and so on. All of this can trigger inflammation. Stress can also reduce cortisol hormone levels if adrenals are exhausted, which is a natural anti-inflammatory hormone.
-Obesity. Fat cells behave like immune cells, spewing out messages to increase the inflammatory immune response. Therefore a sedentary lifestyle and a diet high in fat and sugar promote inflammation.
– Environmental pollution such as pesticides, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals from things like exhaust fumes and electrical appliances.
-Excessive sunlight since sun burn is free radical stress.
-Excessive exercise since the process of energy production produces free radicals as a by-product. Some exercise is good for you but overdoing it at the gym every day is very bad for you.
-Trans and hydrogenated fats made from over-heating vegetable oils. These are also found in processed and refined foods and deep fried foods.
-A diet deficient in anti-oxidants; (anti-oxidants can be found in most fruit and vegetables).
About the author
Alex Howard is author of “WHY ME? My Journey from M.E. to Health and Happiness” and founder of The Optimum Health Clinic, an award winning clinic specialising in M.E./C.F.S./Fibromyalgia based in Harley Street Clinic, London, UK. The clinic has treated over 5,000 patients with M.E./Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia in over twenty-five countries around the world, and is currently running a two year clinical trial in conjunction with two top universities. A free information pack, including a 75 documentary about the clinic and its work, can be ordered from www.FreedomFromME.co.uk