Chronic inflammation has been termed ‘the silent killer” because it languishes and builds in our bodies for years before we even know it’s there. Its growth rate accelerates as we age because of declines in estrogen and testosterone, believed to have an effect on moderating the inflammation. It is associated with a host of diseases we’d rather avoid, thank you, the ones below and more. In this brief article I will outline simply how it works as I understand it and present some simple measures we can take to prevent getting sick. Most of you here are already on your way because of your healthy lifestyles, but if you or someone you know has a tendency towards any of these diseases, this article is for you.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Clinical depression
- Liver disease
- Metabolic syndrome
One important thing to understand before we begin is that most medical practitioners have not been trained to look for chronic inflammation and don’t test for it, although it’s getting better. There is now one reliable test that you actually could request, the high-sensitivity CRP test to measure blood levels of C-reactive protein (a pro-inflammatory marker) and the irritating amino acid called homocysteine. According to Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN/NP, anything above 1 mg/dL with this test is cause for concern.
Acute Inflammation vs. Chronic Inflammation
There is one major difference between acute inflammation (you have a cut on your knee after falling on dirty rocks or you catch the flu) and the chronic variety: the former has a “stop” mechanism and the latter just keeps on hanging around.
It seems that our immune systems do a great job defending us against foreign matter and disease agents that should not be in our body, and then there is a stopping mechanism signaling a return to normal. When our spinal cord hears the alarm it sends soldiers (white blood cells) to fight an invader. But if there is no invader and your brain just thought there was a danger, (you are just stressed out about a possible layoff or someone nearby is smoking); since there was no fight, there is no natural stopping mechanism. Now those white blood cells have to find something to do and they wind up attacking your internal organs or even cells the body uses to fight off diseases. They then can migrate into your bloodstream and aggravate your liver.
Your liver is vital to your digestion, your metabolism, your detoxification system, your immune system and more. Already you can see how the problem builds a nasty self-sustaining cycle towards poor health.
OK, now that you are convinced you don’t want this cycle going on in YOU, what are some things you can do?
Actually some things you can do are surprisingly simple, though they may take some discipline.
It seems that low doses (as little as 20 mg twice a day) of actual aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) in combination with liberal doses of Omega 3 fatty acids and an anti-inflammatory diet can help fend off this silent stalker.
Why aspirin? (Acetylsalicylic acid) Meet a tiny but very powerful hormone called an “eicosanoid,” not produced by a gland but by every cell in your body. Scientists are only recently discovering them and their influence on inflammation, immune function, blood clotting, and blood vessel dilation/constriction and more. Evidently our modern lifestyle is causing an OVERPRODUCTION of “the bad” form of these hormones…and aspirin’s effect on pain reduction has always been to attack those bad little warriors. You may want to consult your doctor to you discuss aspirin’s effect on your gastrointestinal system.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids (usually fish oil from cold-water deep sea fish, although there are vegan options)
Yes, the same Omega 3’s you may already be taking because you’re told they are good for your heart or your nervous system (they are.) Here’s the mind-boggler. The reason you want to take EPA and DHA Omega 3 fatty acids is because they create …wait for it…the “good’ form of eicosanoids that reduce your inflammation, regulate your blood pressure, prevent arteriosclerosis and more. Purity counts in fish oil (think mercury and other pollutants) and you should look for the words “molecularly distilled” or other description that toxins have been removed reliably. Go figure.
You’re looking for a very healthy does of these (purified) oils, 1800-4000 mg per day.
Anti-inflammatory foods– Basically, what you’re looking at is a diet with LOTS of fruits and veggies, a full rainbow of colors, no to little red meat, no to little white starches/sugars and packaged foods. There’s lots and lots written about what the diet consists of and Dr. Andrew Weil is the expert here. Here’s his anti-inflammatory diet and pyramid.
Anti-inflammatory spices – Many people do not know that certain spices in their food can act to reduce the inflammation. These seven have been known for centuries for their medicinal properties, including reducing inflammation.
Turmeric, Ginger, Cinnamon, Garlic, Cayenne, Black pepper, Cloves
In summary, chronic inflammation has been getting a lot of attention recently for its role as an underlying cause of many diseases. Unlike beneficial acute inflammation, like the redness around a skinned knee, chronic inflammation attacks your internal organs. Very low doses of aspirin, high doses of omega 3 fatty acids, an anti-inflammatory diet and certain spices can play a role in putting the brakes back on and helping you regain your health.