Inflammation is the cause of virtually all disease. That may seem like a bold statement, but there is abundant scientific evidence to suggest that inflammation plays an important role in asthma, several types of cancer, bone health, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, eczema, depression, and obesity. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Modern western medicine’s treatment approach for inflammation is usually pharma –driven, i.e. pain meds. Except in the absolute worst cases, this is generally a flawed approach, in my opinion. The best way to combat inflammation is to understand the root cause and then strategically go after it through three key approaches: diet, lifestyle changes and targeted supplements.
Two Kinds of Inflammation
Before we attempt to treat inflammation, it’s important to understand the differences between the two kinds, because one is mostly good and the other is mostly bad.
Acute inflammation is the kind that happens after an injury like a cut to your hand, a bruise, or surgery. It’s not meant to be long lasting; it’s localized and it often results in rapid healing. Acute inflammation is essential for tissue remodeling, muscle growth, and healing. When you impede or stop acute inflammation by taking NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen, or Naproxen), you shut down swelling, and swelling is a healing mechanism. Not good.
TC Luoma has stated that “inflammation is a tightly choreographed offensive designed to heal the body. Without inflammation, wounds wouldn’t heal… ever. Diseases would persist for years…Inflammation uses swelling to allow superhero-like proteins, white blood cells, and antibodies to come charging into the injured area. This same swelling that allows these antimicrobial defenses to enter also makes it easier for growth factors to do their part and begin to reconstruct blood vessels and tissue.”
Chronic inflammation starts as an overreaction to a stimuli that is usually benign. The overreaction might be in response to food choices, emotional stress, unhealthy lifestyle choices, bacteria or viruses. The inflammatory response that results is described by TC Luoma as “ bringing a cannon to a pillow fight.” The body overreacts and the swelling causes chemical and/or hormonal reactions that go on indefinitely. Chronic inflammation leads to common allergies, gluten sensitivity, and many other human ailments that cause pain and misery.
Effects of Chronic Inflammation
Here is a short list.
- Insulin resistance, which leads to type II diabetes
- Interference with bone remodeling
- Anger disorders and aggressive behavior
- Brain inflammation can cause depression
- Inflammation is also the main reason dentists are so anal about gum disease. Gum bacteria can make their way to the heart or heart vessels, which can then cause inflammation and lead to a heart attack.
Leaky gut is a condition where the body develops gaps and fissures in the stomach lining that allow undue protein molecules – even microscopic bits of food – to get into the bloodstream where they’re identified as invaders and provoke an inflammatory response.
The intestinal linings of people with celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are presumably rife with these fissures, so much so that they’ve been labeled as having the aptly named “leaky gut syndrome.” However, leaky gut syndrome isn’t restricted to just these diseases, but rather it is quite likely that anyone who suffers from any type of inflammation probably has some degree of gaps and fissures.
5 Main Culprits of Leaky Gut
- Diet – alcohol, gluten, processed foods, fast food, etc.
- Medications – antibiotics, corticosteroids, antacids
- Physical stress, psychological stress, lack of sleep
- Hormonal issues such as abnormal levels of thyroid, progesterone, estradiol, and testosterone.
All of these can affect the health of your gut by limiting the population of healthy bacteria in stomach. Without a proper balance of bacteria, stress chemicals or hormones cause the intestinal lining to become more permeable, leading to systemic/chronic inflammation.
This chemical and environmental disarray can lead to SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), fungal dysbiosis (or imbalance), or parasitic infections, all of which can crawl through gaps in the intestinal lining, and result in chronic inflammation.
What to Do About It
Remember the 3 key approaches mentioned at the beginning of this article? Diet, lifestyle and targeted supplements. That’s where to find proper, sustainable treatment. There is no doubt that the human body can cure inflammation by eating well, sleeping more, exercising intelligently and reducing stress.
The most important and effective change that one can make is to lose abdominal fat, which is the mother lode of inflammation. It has been shown that in just 3 weeks of dieting, c-reactive proteins plummet.
In addition, you should do all the obvious things like getting enough sleep, re-tooling your exercise (note: long duration exercise creates lots of inflammation), keeping blood sugar stable, and eating more omega-3 fats (fish, walnuts, flax).
Also, consider eliminating inflammatory foods such as excess red meat, processed foods and omega-6 fats (vegetable oils).
Feed the Wee Beasties
It’s important to feed your gut bacteria so that they thrive. Think prebiotics and probiotics….i.e. digestive enzymes. If you are currently popping a few probiotic pills every day, you are on the right track, but do you know what’s far more effective? Food.
TC Luoma has written “all of us have different bacterial environments, populated by different microbial life. It’s like your digestive tract is metaphorically an African jungle, while the person next to you might have the metaphoric digestive tract of a South American jungle – both populated by birds, mammals, insects, and snakes, but all different species of said beasties. But of all those essentially disparate tigers, lions, and bears, oh my, there are two that we want in everyone’s jungle, and they are the lactobacilli and bifidobacilli.”
Foods that feed these bacteria include indigestible carbohydrates like inulin, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), and galactooligosaccharides (GOS). We can’t digest these carbohydrates, but the lactobacilli and bifidobacilli feed on them. Consider eating a daily serving of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchee or yogurt. Additionally, you will want to consume several of the following daily, while making sure to mix it up from day to day, week to week.
- Bananas (slightly green is best)
- Oats (gluten free)
- Cold potatoes
- Green peas
- Lima beans
- Kidney beans
Unfortunately, no matter how “good” you are with diet and lifestyle, you will get some level of inflammation. In modern life, it is nearly impossible to avoid all stress, the occasional poor sleep and some poor nutrition choices, not to mention environmental stressors like polluted air and food grown with chemicals.
As such, supplementation can help, but not by ingesting multi-vitamins, which are a waste of time and money.
The two most effective supplements, that are highly anti-inflammatory are fish oil and curcumin.
99% of cardiologists agree that that fish oil’s anti-inflammatory effect is a powerful tool in preventing heart attacks. Fish oil also plays a powerful role in combating depression. Consider that a large part of the depressed or anxiety ridden population gets no relief from anti-depressants, but when you give these same patients fish oil in addition to medication, there’s a highly significant improvement in patient mood.
Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can:
- Reduce body fat
- Enhance cardiovascular health
- Support healthy cholesterol
- Alleviate cognitive decline
- Reduce plaque levels in arteries
- Reduce risk of diabetes
Eat well, exercise intelligently, sleep well, reduce stress and take fish oil and curcumin. Embrace these and get off the NSAIDS.