Inflammation: the cause of chronic disease

Oh boy, this is like writing the aging post again; inflammation is a complex subject and can get very complicated and scientific. I’m going to try to write this so that it is concise, but not overly complicated. Inflammation is the body’s response to any harmful invader. Usually, in a trauma case or injury, the body responds with inflammation and once the healing process begins, than the inflammation vanishes and the body resumes its normal functioning. It is necessary, but chronic and silent inflammation, is where we go astray. All pain is ultimately due to inflammation (most often inflammation is identified as joint or tissue swelling). Chronic inflammation can damage arteries, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. It destroys nerve cells in the brain, which can lead to Alzheimer’s. It can suppress the immune system and help promote the formation of cancerous tumors. Silent inflammation is even worse, because it falls below the pain threshold, so that you’re unaware that you are even inflammed. This kind of inflammation, could be the dark force responsible for most of the feared diseases of the middle and old age. What’s worse is that most American’s lifestyles are leading them down a path to silent inflammation. There are 3 underlying hormonal changes that are linked to silent inflammation, which sets the stage for chronic disease:

  • pro-inflammatory eicosanoids
  • insulin
  • cortisol

A key aspect to discussing inflammation is eicosanoids. These are hormones that ultimately control the entire inflammatory process. There are 2 kinds of eicosanoids. There are the ones that promote inflammation and tissue destruction (pro-inflammatory-duh) and then there are the ones that stop inflammation and promote healing (anti-inflammatory). Both need to be in balance for wellness. Eicosanoids allow for specialized inflammation cells to mobilize and squeeze between the linings of blood vessels in order to get the needed site. These special cells then destroy the invaders. Eicosanoids, also, cause the release of inflammatory proteins, cytokines, which signal for backup. Controlling body weight is essential, because obesity increases risk of silent inflammation and the excess fat causes problems, as well. Arachidonic Acid-AA (found especially in grocery fatty meats-like red-that are laden with omega-6 fatty acids), is the building block for all pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Fat cells (especially those in the belly area) tend to sequester AA. As this acid builds up, eventually it will start the production of these ‘bad’ eicosanoids. The eicosanoids generate the production of pr0-inflammatory cytokines in the fat cells (like interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor). Pro-inflammatory eicosanoids cannot enter the bloodstream, but the cytokines can leave the fatty tissue and circulate in the bloodstream, causing a cascade of additional inflammatory responses throughout your body. As you gain weight, then fat cells release more and more cytokines. These cytokines make cells more resistant to insulin, so your body pumps out more and more insulin, which increases the production of still more cytokines, which ultimately results in diabetes. This is why diet and dietary control insulin (eliminating the three poisons-grains, starches, and sugars; and loading up on good sources of protein, fruits, and vegetables, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids) is so important to controlling inflammation. Hydroxytyrosol appears to be an inhibitor of the enzymes that produce pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Where can you get hydroxytyrosol? Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, usually found in the expensive brands  made in Italy, which is the really good stuff. There should be a peppery taste in the back of your throat when you have good olive oil. Now to the other aspect, that leads to silent inflammation: cortisol. All stress creates an inflammatory state, because of an overproduction of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Cortisol is sent to lower these eicosanoid levels, which is ok over a short time frame. Having persistently high levels of silent inflammation, means you will have high levels of cortisol on a permanent basis, causing consequences, like:

  • increasing insulin (makes you fatter)
  • killing nerve cells (makes you dumber)
  • depressing the entire immune system (makes you sicker)

What to keep in mind when it comes to inflammation? Silent inflammation and chronic inflammation leads to chronic disease. In order to control this; you need to balance eicosanoid level, control dietary intake of insulin, and control the levels of stress in your life. This week will be dedicated to inflammation related topics, so here’s what’s coming up:

Monday: Anti-inflammatory foods

Tuesday: Arthritis

Thursday: Free Radicals

This entry was posted in Longevity, Physiology, Stress, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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