Inflammation – The Fire Within
March 17, 2016 | Published by Dr. Eric Bakker
The word inflammation originates from the Latin word inflammatio, which means fire. As ominous as it sounds, inflammation is not an inherent enemy. We have a tendency to see inflammation primarily as a disease process, when in fact inflammation is a necessary innate response of our body’s immune system, a process that brings the necessary resources required to a specific area to fight an infection or to heal an injury, including any injury to a blood vessel. However, an inappropriate inflammatory response can be very damaging and even destructive, and many now believe that inappropriate and out of control inflammatory responses indeed underpin most chronic disease today, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Once chronic inflammation begins in the body, especially in the absence of optimal amounts of antioxidant nutrients to quench it, the inflammation begins to feed upon itself, eventually spiraling out of control. Inflammation in the body can be painful like in fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis, but it can also be silent such as in the development of atherosclerosis (cardiovascular disease). Generally speaking, when chronic ongoing inflammation is present, multiple areas of the body may become under attack and the person may suffer from fatigue along with a host of other complaints. Chronic inflammation is now estimated to underpin more than 80 percent of all chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, cancers and diabetes.
NSAIDs and Inflammation
NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen, are Cox-2 inhibitor drugs. They inhibit the enzyme cyclooxygenase-2, a key enzyme that helps stop production of inflammatory-like hormonal compounds such as prostaglandins and various cytokines. Cox-2 helps to fight infections and heal injuries, but the chronic overproduction can lead to chronic pain and inflammation. Excessive production of Cox-2 can also stem from nutritional deficiencies, and a good multi vitamin and omega-3 supplement can help correct these minor imbalances. Drugs like Ibuprofen inhibit Cox-1 and Cox-2, and because Cox-1 helps to maintain the lining of the stomach, GI ulceration occurs in about 25% of users, hence the development of ‘selective’ Cox-2 inhibitor drugs.
If inflammation appears to be uncontrolled or excessive, then healing the digestive system as a primary measure makes sense before chemically suppressing the healing processes (inflammation) with NSAIDs. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as Voltaren and even aspirin, are multi-billion dollar industries in world-wide sales and exert huge influence on the institutions that train medical doctors, so the focus with conventional medicine when it comes to inflammation is often medication to ‘control the fire.’
Bad Fats – Fuel For the Fire
One cause of chronic inflammation is when more omega 6 oils than omega 3 oils are consumed in the diet (in a ratio much greater than 1:1). Here’s how this happens: corn, soy, safflower oils and hydrogenated fats, all commonly used in processed foods and cooking, contain linoleic acid. The body converts linoleic acid to omega 6 including arachidonic acid. The enzyme Cox-2 converts arachidonic acid to prostaglandin E2 and the cytokines IL-1 and IL-6, as well as TNF-alpha, all which are known to produce inflammation. In turn, free radical formation is promoted by these pro-inflammatory cytokines, which then further triggers the production of increasing amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
The inflammation feeds upon itself like a fire that continues to burn thanks to the constant supply of fuel. You can think of it as a small fire that has been started in the kitchen of a house that can potentially escalate and destroy the entire house, as the heat builds and consumes all in its path.
To contrast: cold water fish, venison, leafy green vegetables, flaxseed and walnuts all yield alpha linolenic acid that converts to omega 3 (which include EPA and DHA), which can help restore the balance. More on balancing omega oils
Gum Disease and Inflammation
People with gum disease have elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a substance produced by the liver in response to inflammation. A 1997 study (University of North Carolina) was the first to link elevated levels of CRP, gum disease and cardiovascular disease. The research found that those with gum disease had significantly elevated levels of bacterial inflammatory components in their bloodstream, which we now call CICs (circulating immune complexes). It has also been discovered that diuretics can lead to a decreased saliva production, which in turn increases plaque build-up with an increase in Streptococcus mutans, the main bacteria behind plaque and dental cavities. Calcium-channel blockers like Amlodipine and Diltiazem often enlarge gums, leading to bleeding, inflammation and infection. Statin drugs like Atorvastatin (Lipitor) reduce Coenzyme Q 10 levels, one of the best treatments for gum disease.
Leaky Gut Syndrome and Inflammation
The medical diagnosis of leaky gut syndrome (LGS) is controversial. However, the earliest American medical research on LGS dates back to 1929. One of the earliest tests that determined the presence of bowel toxemia and LGS was the Urine Indican Test. Also known as the Obermeyer test, it is an indicator of intestinal toxemia and overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria. Today we can more accurately assess LGS by doing a complete digestive stool analysis. A 2005 article published in the European Heart Journal linked leaky gut to chronic heart failure. Another paper published in the Acta Gastroenterol Belgium in 2010 stated that LGS contributes to heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
The Like Between Celiac Disease and Coronary Artery Disease
Recently a link has been established between those who are celiac and coronary artery disease. Celiac patients have almost a two-fold increased risk of coronary artery disease compared with the general population, according to research. The study is the first to look at the association between celiac disease and coronary artery disease, advancing the understanding of how systemic inflammation and autoimmune disease processes might influence the development of cardiovascular disease. Research involving tens of thousands of celiac patients over a three-year period has shown a higher risk of stroke as well when compared to control groups.
Low-grade inflammation of the digestive system is common in those with celiac disease, causing a continual stream of inflammatory mediators to be spilled into the bloodstream, accelerating the atherosclerosis process and causing eventual coronary artery disease. These more recent findings have now reinforced the idea that chronic inflammation related to dietary proteins can have an adverse role in coronary artery disease and heart health in general. This study again confirms what conventional medicine still believes to be ‘unproven science’, that the digestive tract’s permeability can affect the body’s immune response systemically, leading to chronic disease.
The Heart And Gut Connection
A study published in the Diabetes Journal in 2007 revealed that a conventional Western diet (high in animal fat and high in sugar) decreases the amount of bifidobacteria in the gut, promoting the intestinal uptake of bacterial cell wall antigens such as lipopolysaccharides (LPS) and peptidoglycans. These bacterial by-products then go on to create a major increase of the inflammatory response in the blood, leading to endothelial dysfunction and eventually to atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries). A diet that is low in animal proteins and contains adequate vegetables, seeds/nuts, soaked legumes, whole grains, and fruit helps to maintain the optimum balance of beneficial intestinal micro-flora, including many species of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. In addition, people with diets high in sugar and processed foods are more likely to have yeast infections, which promote inflammation.
Further reading: Is Chronic Inflammation Affecting Your Health?
About the Author: Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 27 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specializes in candida, psoriasis, as well as adrenal fatigue, thyroid and digestive disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. He has also written what may well be the most comprehensive Natural Psoriasis Treatment Program available. You can find more articles by Dr. Bakker on his blog at www.ericbakker.com.
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