It’s another beautiful, and sunny, day here in Panama City, Florida.
It’s only supposed to be maybe 68 degrees, but for a Feb. 12, I’ll take it. Especially when we’ve supposed to have 40 degree temperatures tomorrow.
Thankfully, my teeth aren’t doing much of anything but chewing up occassional apples, bananas, turnip greens and the odd cheeseburger.
Hope you’re also healthy and feeling good.
Anyway, today let’s talk about inflammation. It’s a condition which came up a few times while I was getting help with my recent dental problems.
What Is Inflammation and What Causes It?
Weeks ago, when I saw an endodontist because of continuing pain from some bridge work my dentist did for me, the endodontist said most of the pain was being caused by inflammation.
When I questioned that, he further said something like:
…inflammation is a natural response of our immune system to help us heal. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can cause heart disease, cancer and ailments like diabetes.
Up to date heart specialists, he said, are way more concerned about inflammation than they are about things like our cholesterol levels…”
As you may know, I have heart issues.
I also have a running disagreement with my doctor about the importance of cholesterol control. He’s adamant that I take statins. I’m equally certain that statins are poison. And, I won’t take ’em.
Anyway, the endodontist’s information about inflammation as related to heart disease got my attention and aroused my curiosity.
Like you, I’ve a general idea of what inflammation is all about.
But, I long ago accepted that I don’t always know what I think I know. And, I’ve grown tired of the chagrin that comes with being ‘often wrong, but rarely in doubt’…
Thus an inflammation research project was birthed.
As expected, I found similar definitions for inflammation.
I decided that the most balanced, and maybe the clearest, was by Victoria J. Drake, Ph.D., from The Linus Pauling Institute:
Inflammation is the immune response of tissues due to bodily injury.
Clinical characteristics of acute inflammation include pain, heat, swelling, and redness at the site of the injury. Inflammation may also involve loss of function of the involved tissues.
This type of acute inflammation is normally a localized, protective response following trauma or infection.
However, if the agent causing the inflammation persists for a prolonged period of time, the inflammation becomes chronic.
Chronic inflammation can result from a viral or microbial infection, environmental antigen (e.g., pollen), autoimmune reaction, or persistent activation of inflammatory molecules…”
On the positive side, inflammation is a major factor in our body’s immune system’s response to health issues. Without it functioning, we couldn’t heal. But, when it gets outta of control, it’s suspected of causing ailments like obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
How inflammation is related to heart disease:
Plaque in coronary artery disease is linked to out of control inflammation.
Scientists from Stanford University were able to link 13 new genetic regions to coronary artery disease.
They also found that people with coronary artery disease, the leading cause of death globally, are most likely predisposed to the disease because they have gene variants linked to inflammation. Source. Warning: painful reading for us laypeople
The more I researched into the relationship between heart disease and inflammation, the more I suspected that inflammation, rather than cholesterol, was the cause for building up of the fatty deposits on the walls of the heart’s blood vessels.
Coronary artery disease is the the leading cause of death worldwide.
The plaque build up in the walls of heart vessels, a process known as coronary atherosclerosis, eventually makes them so narrow that it slows or stops the flow of essential blood and oxygen to the heart, causing chest pain and potentially lethal heart attacks…”
I’ve no formal education in medicine. And, I’ve only my life experiences and observations as reasoning tools.
Yet, I’ve always thought the hysteria surrounding cholesterol as related to heart attacks, was hyped up by drug manufacturers pimping out their products.
Some people’s genetic codes predispose them to have high cholesterol, regardless their diet, or lifestyle.
That’s true for one of my brother-in-laws. He, and his whole family, have especially high cholesterol levels. Yet, barring fatal accidents, his family members routinely live healthy, productive lives, well into their 90’s.
This is only one example, of others I personally know of. But, you get the gist…
Not that I’m doing anything more than speculating here. Please don’t make decisions based on any of my untested, and unproven, theories.
The relationship between chronic inflammation and genetics aside, our individual diets and lifestyles, are the major precursors of the role inflammation plays in our lives.
Food, and Food Additives That Cause Inflammation:
Sugar, and products with sugar, causes the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines which ramps up the inflammation.
These fats trigger something called adipose, a form of fat tissue inflammation. Pizza, cheese, red meat, full-fat dairy products, pasta dishes and grain-based desserts.
Trans fats cause systemic inflammation. Avoid foods made with hydrogenated vegetable oil, like most food from fast food joints, snack foods and most margarine. Foods With Trans Fats
Omega 6 Fatty Acid Foods:
Among other things, they’re found in vegetable oils like corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, and peanut. Also in mayonnaise and many salad dressings.
We get them from high-glycemic foods and they stimulate inflammation. Found in foods with white flour (bread, rolls and crackers).
Also in white rice, white potatoes, which includes instant mashed potatoes and french fries. Most cereals are ridden with refined carbohydrates.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG):
They’re in soy sauce and prepared Asian food. Also, in most fast foods. And, in soup mixes, salad dressings and many meats we get in delis.
Gluten and Casein:
Gluten’s in wheat, rye, barley and food made with them. Casein’s in whey protein products, and cow’s milk. What Makes You Think You’re Allergic To Gluten?
Aspartame affects our brain because it’s a neurotoxin. If we’re sensitive to aspartame, our immune system will attack it by releasing inflammation.
Ingest it often enough, it could lead to chronic inflammation.
Excessive drinking, over 3 drinks daily, tends to weakens esophagus, larynx and liver. Can trigger repeated inflammation episodes. Could cause chronic inflammation.
Also, we have to watch out for any food we’re sensitive to.
The key word here is sensitive, not allergic. Symptoms of allergic reactions to food is usually immediate and often violent.
Symptoms of food sensitivity aren’t.
We often don’t link random headaches, joint aches and weariness, to something we ate earlier. Yet, those are symptoms of conditions which can cause inflammation.
And, as you know by now, there is a threshold were beneficial inflammation crosses over to chronic inflammation, a condition thought to cause ailments ranging from heart disease to cancer.
Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids. They help balance out our Omgea 6 oils.
Matcha is made of green tea leaves. They’re a rich source of antioxidants. Powered matcha isn’t quite as powerful as whole leaf tea.
Broccoli contains sulforaphane, thought to block enzymes causing joint problems and therefore inhibits infmmation.
Whole Grain Foods:
Whole grains, especially brown grains, also lowers the risk of many chronic diseases.
Dark Leafy Greens:
Dark greens and vegetables, like spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens are high in vitamin E, which may protect us from pro-inflammatory molecules known as cytokines.
Whole nuts, especially almonds. Almonds are rich in fiber, calcium and vitamin E. Also, walnuts, which contain high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid.
“If you’re not allergic to casein, foods with calcium and vitamin D, such as yogurt and skim milk, are good for everyone…” says Karen H. Costenbader, MD, associate professor of medicine and rheumatoid arthritis doctor at Harvard Medical School.
Peppers have high quantities of antioxidant vitamins. Hot peppers, like chili and cayenne, are rich in capsaicin, used in topical creams to reduce pain and inflammation.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a free radical-fighting antioxidant. Cooking increases the amount of lycopene.
Beets and Beetroot Juice:
They contain plant pigments called betalin, proven to reduce inflammation. May also protect against oxidative stress-related disorders, and protect us against cancer and heart disease, thanks to their heavy inclusion of fiber and vitamin C.
Ginger and Turmeric:
Both ginger and turmeric have long been used for their anti-inflammatory benefits.
Garlic and Onions:
Both vegetables contain anti-inflammatory properties. They also have chemicals which produce free radical-fighting sulfenic acid.
I recommend extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil gets it’s color from oleocanthal, a compound that acts as a natural painkiller.
Especially blueberries. Berries have a compound called anthocyanins. Anthocyanis are powerful chemicals that gives them their rich color. High in antioxidants.
Tart cherries are thought to have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any other food.
In tests on lab rats, tart cherry juice reduced the inflammation in their blood vessels by up to 50%. Also, used to boost athletic performance.
Take away: In times of injury, inflammation is necessary for short-term healing.
But, too many instances of inflammation, can cause chronic inflammation. which is thought to cause heart problems, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer.
Our best defense is to increase the percentage of fruits and vegetables in our normal diet.
Make fish the main protein source and get more omega-3 fatty acids to offset an American diet that is top-heavy with Omega 6’s.
You’re aware this information is merely an overview and isn’t intended as a scholarly report.
As usual, we’ll remind you… “I don’t know anything for certain and I’ve no advice about anything. My role is reporting upon my research and sharing personal stories with you.
Still, I hope to inspire you to take personal responsibility for what’s going on in your life. And remind you that how you feel about the whole ball of wax, is also your personal responsibility.
Ideas for me, your aging related story, or comments are very welcome…