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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Inflammation in the body - An important consideration

“Inflammation has long been linked to both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Now, there’s emerging research that also links chronic inflammation to allergies, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, digestive disorders, heart disease, hormonal imbalances and osteoporosis. Injured tissues become inflamed and result in redness, heat, swelling, pain and loss of function.”

Acute inflammation that ebbs and flows as needed signifies a well-balanced immune system. But symptoms of inflammation that don’t recede tell you that your immune system switch is stuck on high alert — even when you aren’t in imminent danger. In some cases, what started as a healthy mechanism, like building scar tissue or swelling, just won’t shut off.

It is important that the inflammation process is fleeting so that the acute inflammation does not turn chronic, which can cause damage to the injured tissues. Inflammation can be caused by a diet high in refined carbohydrates such as sugar, white flour, white rice and potatoes (all convert to sugar in the body), by autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, by bacterial infection, trauma, ischemic events, stress, toxic exposures or allergens and chronic viral infections – all of which can activate inflammation in the body. Inflammation ages the body, from wrinkles to affecting the brain and memory. Excess acid production can also cause inflammation.

Dr. Perricone, an anti-aging expert outlines foods to avoid and foods to include:

Pro-inflammatory foods to avoid: (my comments in brackets)

* red meats from corn-fed, antibiotic/hormone laden animals (grass-fed cattle are ok, as believe it or not red meat contains more monounsaturated fats than chicken)

* saturated fats such as lard and meat fats (not sure about this one!)

* fried foods (probably better to poach meat. Fried foods often contain trans fats. If frying make sure to reduce temperatures and add water at some point, if possible, to reduce the heat. Grill barbecue steaks medium and not well-done.)

* partially hydrogenated (trans fats) found in margarines, chips, candies, cereals and baked goods (and peanut butter! Try making your own peanut butter.)

* cooking oils that are exclusively corn, safflower, sunflower or soy based (use olive oil, especially cold-pressed virgin olive oil.)

* soft drinks (both high sugar and diet varieties) (very addictive and a good thing to avoid. Dr. Atkins was against diet pop, especially aspartame drinks.)

* excess sugar (both from heavily processed sources, such as candy and from naturally occurring sources such as fruit juice)

My additions from other research: Stay away from any food that you know you are allergic to in some way. If chocolate causes migraines, for instance, try to avoid it. If you have a wheat or gluten intolerance avoid products with those ingredients in them. Apparently, cheese is an inflammatory food. Eat in moderation. Rest, get your sleep, reduce or eliminate caffeine, quit smoking if you do and reduce stress by doing something that relaxes you each day. Get adequate exercise, fresh air and sunshine each day. Vitamin D and Vitamin D3 (active form of Vitamin D) have been in the news a lot lately for their protective effects in warding off disease such as cancer, heart disease and even diabetes. Could it be that it is an anti-inflammatory supplement? I think so.

Anti-inflammatory foods and dietary supplements to include: (some of my comments in brackets)

* foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, especially cold water, wild-caught fish (or fish oil supplements)

* raw nuts and seeds (especially pecans, almonds, walnuts and flaxseeds)

* homemade soups made with poultry or meat bones (boiling the bones releases glucosamine and chondroitin into the soup which, when ingested becomes bioavailable in the body. They can reduce inflammation and helps repair cartilage)

* dark green vegetables (especially kale, broccoli and greens)

* antioxidants in supplement form (especially vitamins C and E, and quercetin) If you are allergic to too much ascorbic acid (that causes acidity in the body and inflammation as a result, be careful of taking vitamin C.

* zinc taken in supplement form which assists healing and reduces inflammation (zinc picolinate is the form that is most easily absorbed by the body)

* extra virgin organic olive oil, expeller pressed grapeseed and avocado oils

My addition to this list: ginger (try my ginger beer in More Splendid Low-Carbing), curry powder, turmeric (available in capsule form), olive oil, grapes, garlic, celery, blueberries and tea reduce inflammation.

Dr. Perricone singles out sugar and high fructose corn syrup as the worst offenders. High fructose corn syrup is processed more like fat in the body and turns into fat quite quickly.

”Did you know inflammation is a bigger threat to your heart than cholesterol? The risk of heart attack jumped 300% in women with high blood vessel inflammation, but only 40% in women with high bad-type LDL cholesterol, according to new Harvard research. Men with the worst inflammation had three times the odds of dropping dead from a heart attack as men with the least inflammation.”

What's your inflammation level?
Get a blood test that measures C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for blood vessel inflammation. The higher your CRP, the greater your inflammatory activity.

It is believed by some experts that inflammation begins with the digestive tract that is inflamed to some degree. Probiotics in yogurt or taken in capsule form promote a healthy gut and taking caprylic acid tablets from time to time keeps yeast at bay.

Coping with persistent stress takes a steady toll on one’s immune system, one’s adrenals and one’s central nervous system.

Well-documented reports prove that depression and stress in men are linked to a rise in the inflammatory markers, such as CRP, signaling an increased risk for atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease (CHD). One study showed that a depressive state increases the odds of developing CHD by 50%.

Check out Dr. Eades' blog and his thoughts on the subject of inflammation. I think he might be onto something. He thinks overeating or eating too often is a problem that could set up chronic inflammation in the body. He has mentioned that skipping meals is a good thing and even has a way of doing intermittent fasting, where one still gets to eat every day. Very interesting!

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