Chronic inflammation is a hallmark of degenerative disease and unhealthy aging.
The initial inflammatory response is triggered by an infectious agent or tissue damage and beneficial because it allows the body to destroy, dilute or wall of the injurious agent and injured tissues. The cardinal signs of inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function. In chronic inflammation, the inflammatory response is out of proportion to the threat is faced with or the response is directed at inappropriate targets. Some of the major chemical mediators involved in chronic inflammation are low-density lipoproteins (LDL), interleukin-6, TNF-alpha, C- reactive protein (CRP), homocysteine, and beta-amyloid protein. This article will review how these pro-inflammatory chemical mediators play a role in chronic illnesses and some of the natural treatments that can be used to reduce inflammation and improve health.
- The oxidations of LDLs cause inflammation via the immune activation of foam cells and cytokine release, resulting in vessel wall destruction. The cytokine TNF -alpha can lead to atherosclerosis, liver damage, kidney disease and brain cell distraction.
- Interleukin-6 is produced at the site of inflammation and is important in the acute and chronic stages of inflammation. The acute phase is an important part of healing; it allows more blood to the area, helps the body fight infections and remove damaged tissue. Chronic inflammation is not beneficial and can lead to chronic inflammatory diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, systemic lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease.
- C Reactive Protein (CRP) is produced in the liver; it is activated during an acute infection, immune activation or cell injury. It causes a localized inflammatory responses in the inner (“intimal’) layer of the arterial wall and is thought to be responsible for many of the aspects of intimal thickening and plaque disruption, leading to acute cardiovascular events.
- Levels of CRP are elevated in the presence of inflammation and many chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease and metastatic cancer. Elevated C-reactive protein is often associated with low levels B6, B12 and full acid. In addition, trimethylglycine, TMG also known as betaine is recommended as the need for methylation. Boswellia and curcumin art Asian herbs known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
- Homocysteine can cause inflammation of blood vessels and brain tissue. Elevated levels of homocysteine may be an indication of methylation dysfunction. Methylation is important for DNA repair. If DNA mutations are not kept in check this can lead to uncontrolled cell growth/cancer.
- Beta-amyloid is a protein associated with brain injury; it accumulates during periods of oxidative damage. If deposited in excess, it can lead to Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Addressing the cause of chronic inflammation
- Increase foods containing healthy fats: fish oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado.
- Include a minimum of 3 servings of vegetables and 1 serving of fruit in your diet every day.
- Reduce foods containing omega-6 fatty acid: saturated fats
- Eliminate/avoid all Hydrogenated and saturated fats.
The most optimal diet would be Mediterranean type diet rich in monounsaturated and omega three fatty acids and phytochemicals. Studies show
diets rich in antioxidants reverse chronic inflammation. We have a healthy, easy-to-follow Mediterranean-based diet that we recommend to our patients. It emphasizes foods that provide the healthy fats and phytonutrients rich in antioxidants (veggies and fruits). Most people who have tried this meal plan really enjoy the foods. It works for patients of all ages (including kids), you can enjoy the foods at home and eating out. It also stabilizes blood sugar, reduces cortisol levels and aids in weight loss and healthy body composition.
Astaxanthin is the pigment found in crustaceans and algae, and gives flamingos their pink color. This carotenoid has proved to be a very potent antioxidant and has the highest activity of all carotenoids. Clinically, it has been used to improve I enjoy health. Some studies also show it can modulate immune function and behavior cancer cell growth and decrease markers of DNA damage. The recommended dose for this supplement is 4 mg per day.
Pine bark extract has been studied for over 20 years and has been shown to decrease the activity of numerous pro-inflammatory mediators. The brand of Pine bark that has been most thoroughly studied is called pycnogenol; this is a standardized French maritime pine bark. The recommended dose for this supplement is 25 to 50 mg 1 to 3 times a day.
Boswellia may be useful for general inflammation; it is a great choice for people who have chronic inflammation all over their body. A recent clinical trial found that combining boswellia with zinc, curcumin and ashwagandha significantly reduced pain and stiffness and did not cause stomach irritation the way NSAIDs typically do. I have also found boswellia to be very helpful for those with gastrointestinal inflammation such as Crohn’s, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. The recommended dosage with this supplement is typically 200 to 300 mg twice a day.
Curcumin has a long history of use for many inflammatory conditions. Research shows its actions are most likely mediated through inhibition of cycloxygenase-2 and lipo-oxygenase and inducible nitric oxide synthase; enzymes are upregulated chronic inflammation. Because these enzymes promote inflammation in a nonspecific manner all over the body; curcumin is recommended for many chronic inflammatory conditions. Curcumin can lower
LDL cholesterol, is anti-neoplastic (prevents cancer), reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and can protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Dosages vary for this supplement depending on the condition; typically I recommend 1000 mg twice a day with food. One of the challenges with oral supplementation has been its poor absorption. Recent advances in delivery technologies have been able to overcome some of this by developing formulations that are more easily absorbed.
Ginger is useful in treating chronic inflammation because it partially inhibits cyclooxygenase (COX) and 5-lipoxygenase (LOX). Ginger does not cause stomach irritation; instead it helps protect and heal the gut. And because it doesn’t shut down the inflammatory process entirely, ginger may actually allow it to work properly and then turn itself off, the way it does with an injury.Other health benefits include the relief of nausea, as well and anti-viral and anti-neoplastic properites.
Preparation and Dosage
The best part of ginger to use we is not the root, as one might guess from the way it looks. It’s actually the rhizome, or underground stem. The spicy, aromatic compounds in the rhizome that impart the medicinal activity to ginger are relatively susceptible to heat and oxygen, so tread gingerly when making medicine from this herb.
To make a tea, cut a two-inch cube of rhizome into slices and simmer them in one cup of water on low heat for 10 minutes. Cover the pot while cooking to retain as many volatile constituents as possible. Remove the slices, and sip the remaining liquid before a meal. Eat the slices after drinking the tea. Drink three cups of tea per day, one before each meal.
Ginger capsules or powder are also widely available. Take at least 2,000 milligrams three times or more per day with or without food. Just be sure to use powder that has not been sitting around too long, as it can lose its potency. People often make the mistake of taking too little ginger and thus don’t gain the full benefits.