Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Inflammation – Friend or Foe?

A vast majority of medical care is aimed at reducing inflammation. It’s not just the anti-inflammatory drugs like cortisone, Aleve, and Advil. Pain killers, anti-histamines, like Benadryl, and even some chemotherapy drugs all target inflammation. Inflammation has five characteristics – pain, swelling, heat, redness of the overlying skin, and loss of motion. Reducing inflammation will improve some or all of these symptoms.

Inflammation is the body’s first response to injury. It is protective in nature, brings attention to the injury and forces you to support the healing process. Without inflammation, damage would continue unabated as evidenced by the progressive damage in leprosy. Lepers are unaware of minor injuries because of the infection in their nervous system (Hansen’s Bacillus). Simple cuts and bruises go unattended causing the severe damage that horribly disfigures the victims.

Today, however, inflammation runs unchecked. Our bodies are losing the basic chemistry designed to curb and control inflammation. There are six well identified inflammatory pathways in the human body. Prostaglandins (PG2) are the most common. When an injury occurs, arachadonic acid is released by the damaged cells. This produces PG2 both in the injury site and in the liver to stimulate body wide inflammation. Once the inflammation has served its purpose, the body releases other prostaglandins (PG1 and PG3) to reduce the inflammation. PG1 & 3s are made by the body from essential fatty acids, PG1 from omega 6 fatty acids and PG3 from omega 3 fatty acids. They are considered essential because we can not manufacture omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in our body. They must be in the diet. However, omega 3 fatty acids are the most common nutritional deficiency in the US today. Although we still have a lot of omega 6 fatty acids in our diet, common health issues have altered the chemistry of the body. Most of us now convert healthy omega 6 fatty acids into arachadonic acid, creating more inflammation rather than less.

The overuse of NSAIDS, like Aleve and Advil compounds this problem. NSAIDS block PG2 reducing inflammation. However, within 3 days of use, they also block the PG1 and PG3 series that control inflammation. The result – 16,500 people in the US die every year from the unbridled inflammation caused by taking NSAIDS. Most of them bleed to death internally, the rest die from liver failure or heart attack.

Red meat used to be a source of omega 3 fatty acids. But when you feed cattle grains rather than grass, they can no longer produce omega 3 fatty acids. The same thing has happened to farm raised fish. Tilapia contain little or no omega 3 fatty acids because they are raised on corn meal.

Taking 2,000mg of omega 3 fatty acids every day can be a great benefit. Avoid NSAIDS. If they must be used limit the use to three days or less and increase your omega 3 fatty acids. If you have any signs of metabolic syndrome – overweight, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, or high serum lipids, consider talking to your doctor or nutritionist about taking some sesame seed oil daily. This will block the conversion of omega 6 fatty acids into PG2 and encourage production of PG1.