Chronic low level inflammation may be threatening your health at this very moment, without you realising. It is responsible for 7 out of the 10 leading causes of mortality in the western world. These include heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Inflammation has been classically viewed as just a short term response to a tissue injury for example that produces characteristic symptoms and usually resolves spontaneously. However we now know that chronic (i.e. on going) inflammation has significant destructive powers. Think of it as a dripping tap, it will eventually cause damage.
Inflammation is of course part of the bodies defence mechanism. We need inflammation. When tissue is damaged cells produce chemicals that cause the blood vessels to widen as the muscular walls of vessels relax. The walls of the blood vessels become more permeable, there is a general call for help from the immune cells.
Inflammation can readily be detected from the outside. Typically redness and heat is generated, swelling is apparent and often pain and impairment of function results.
However not all inflammation is visible externally and it is now becoming well accepted that chronic low level inflammation is common throughout the body and is causing cellular stress and malfunction triggering disease and age related deterioration via numerous mechanisms.
So what’s going on?
As the body goes about producing energy and its other functions, free radicals are formed as by-products of the cells utilization of oxygen. These free radicals are molecules or atoms containing one or more lone or unpaired electron. They have a higher tendency to react with other molecules. They are in fact unstable and very reactive and can cause harm to body components. The body can deal with this internal activity and attack, but only if it is nutritionally balanced.
Free radicals have been classified into five major classes each influencing the body’s inflammation response. Each major class has an enormous variety of individual free radicals and each class preferentially attacks a different set of tissues and cells. In response we need antioxidants to be available that manage each free radical class & maintain balance. The body’s defence response can often lead to a chain reaction, particularly if nutrition is compromised and as a result yet more free radicals are generated, thus setting in motion a vicious cycle that over the years grinds our cells and tissues into a spiralling state of decreasing efficiency.
As we go through each day our body requires a wide range of nutrients to support normal activity. We should get all we need from the food we eat. In this process we will absorb and/or generate sufficient defence nutrients to combat free radicals, harmful toxins, chemical attack and environment interface.
But of course getting a balance is tricky with the state of 21st century food nutritional content. Over the past 40-50 years we have steadily seen a decrease in the nutritional quality of food. For example key nutrients like selenium are 50-60% depleted: over half the population is deficient in magnesium. We are being compromised by our own food industry.
The body will respond to inflammation in a controlled manner if it can, but only if you have the capacity to allow this to happen. It will dampen harmful free radical activity with a variety of antioxidants. Vitamins A, C & E are good examples of antioxidants none of which the body can produce on their own. Any compromise from a balanced food supply will set off problems some more serious than others.
So the question is, are you balanced with sufficient nutrients to control inflammation most of which is now understood to be happening internally. Ignoring unwanted inflammation may well have long term consequences.
Low Level Inflammation
If the inflammatory response is prolonged, it becomes part of the disease process instead of the healing process, as pain is ongoing and the afflicted area starts to deteriorate under the ongoing attack from white blood cells and heat. It is important to remember that there is a fine balance and interactivity of chemicals in the body which are associated with pro and anti-inflammatory processes.
Measuring inflammation is done using the Body’s Natural inflammation control markers. These are the chemicals released to deal with and control inflammation. They include:-
TNF – Tumour necrosis factor alpha
Nitric / Nitrous Oxide
COX-1 & 2 Cyclooxygenases
CRP C-reactive protein
Each class will respond to different areas of the body with many overlaps in their activity e.g. Interleukin will interface with Cartilage, Bone, Spinal Column, Kidney, Lung, Skin, Intestine, Thyroid.
When things go wrong conventional drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed and they can be very effective. However, blocking the pathway of one enzyme can lead to serious other issues. Eg. The COX-1 pathway produces prostaglandins that are helpful because they protect the gastric mucosa. Traditional NSAIDs block both COX-1 and COX-2 pathways, preventing the production of the helpful prostaglandins and therefore causing side effects such as gastric ulcers. Many new drugs are more selective and target specifics but many deaths per year are linked to these drugs.
Most people have no idea that their risk of developing long term serious conditions is dramatically increased, as disease-causing chemical messengers are continually released throughout the body as a result of low level inflammation.
These messengers or cytokines can be life-saving in the case of a cut or burn, but when released as a result of poor diet and lifestyle activities, cause increased body temperature, hormone disruption, and disease.
There is clearly a lot going on which needs nutritional support to enable all the defence mechanisms to operate and be in balance.
Avoiding and reducing unwanted inflammation can be achieved with some changes to diet and also by supplementation.
Some of the most essential natural anti-inflammatories and antioxidants include:-
Antioxidants – Vit A, C & E are a good start. Vit C is essential for health and act as a precursor for other nutrient. Vit E has been shown to protect against atherosclerosis.
Grape Seed Extract – Widely researched and highly effective anti-oxidant.
Pine Bark Extract – Protects against free radical damage. Anti-oxidant effect is 50 x Vit C and E.
Astaxanthin – One of the strongest natural antioxidants known to science. More effective than Beta carotene.
Vit D – Studies suggest a deficiency in Vit D promotes inflammation.
Quercetin – A bioflavonoid with anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant & anti-histamine properties.
Nettle – Anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory activity.
Magnesium – Rated as the most anti-inflammatory dietary factor in the Diet Inflam index.
Curcumin – Shown in studies to improve several inflammatory conditions including psoriasis, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis.
Zinc & Selenium – Both contain antioxidant proteins to reduce free radical damage.
Serrapeptase – Natural anti-inflammatory enzyme which has been shown to clear pain inducing amines released by inflammation.
Resveratrol -Part of the polyphenol family and natural antibiotic. Present in large quantities in red wine.
A good place to stop we think.
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