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Controlling Inflammation: Five Natural Ways to Put Out the Fire

Posted By Administration, Friday, February 25, 2011
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014

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by Nalini Chilkov, LAC, OMD

The relationship between cancer and inflammation is well established. There is a strong association between chronic, ongoing inflammation in the body and the occurrence of cancer. It is most obviously demonstrated with the increased chance (five to seven times higher than the general population) for people with chronic inflammatory diseases.

For example chronic acid reflux and heartburn which inflames the stomach and esophagus increases risk of stomach and esophageal cancer.  Acid reflux may be caused by infection with H. Pyolori which can be treated with antibiotics as well as natural medicines.

  • Chronic infection of the liver with Hepatitis virus B and C increases risk of liver cancer. 
  • Chronic autoimmune inflammation of the colon or lower intestine, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease, increases risk for colon cancer.
  • Chronic inflammation of the lungs due to exposure to  inhaled chemical irritants including chemicals found in cigarette smoke  or volatile inhaled chemicals from resins and varnishes or  inhaled particles such as asbestos increase risk of lung cancer.
  • Chronic inflammation of the skin due to repeated sunburns increases risk of skin cancer.

Inflammation fuels cancer in several ways: 

  • Inflammatory chemicals release free radicals or free roving electrons that damage cells and may initiate damage to the genetic material in our cells, our DNA thus leading to cellular mutations, loss of normal cell functions and cancer.
  • Inflammatory chemicals stimulate the production of new capillaries, tiny blood vessels that feed cancerous growths.
  • Many cancer cells will spread and metastasize in clumps that contain both  inflammatory white blood cells of the activated immune system, called lymphocytes and  sticky  blood cells called platelets, which allow the cells to attach to new organs and tissues. This allows cancer cells spread by travelling to and establishing growth in new locations.

Common Triggers of Inflammation:

  • chronic bacterial, viral or parasitic infections
  • chemical irritants such as formaldehyde or toluene found in many cosmetics or benzene found in oven cleaners,  detergents, furniture polishes and nail polish removers
  • Inhaled particles  from fiberglass, silica or asbestos found in building materials and insulation
  • Ionizing radiation from sun exposure or frequent medical scans and xrays

Once the immune system has become activated and inflammation unfolds, the inflamed cells are further damaged by oxidative stress... the presence of roving free electrons that can damage cellular genetic material, our DNA. Damaged DNA is a primary cause of cancer as the expression of genes becomes altered.  Protecting cells from this damage is crucial in preventing and controlling cancer.

Recognizing that inflammation is occurring and is ongoing and poorly managed is the first step.  The second step is to take action

Here are Five Ways to Reduce Inflammation Naturally

1/Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
An anti-inflammatory diet is organic and free of chemical additives and artificial colorings and flavorings and preservatives.  Eat whole, fresh, unprocessed foods that are not charred or deep fried. Eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.  Eat healthy fats and oils, emphasizing Omega 3 fats found in cold water fish such as salmon and cod and sardines. Include other healthy oils such as walnuts, almonds,  avocadoes, olives and flax seeds.  Eat animal products from grass fed rather than grain fed (conventionally raised) animals.  Emphasize a plant based diet over a diet derived primarily from animal products. Avoid refined sugars and flours and corn syrup.  Eat plenty of fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables and beans.  Drink plenty of fluids everyday.

2/Use Anti-Inflammatory Herbs to Manage Inflammation
Common Herbs which reduce inflammation by lowering inflammatory and damaging molecules such COX2 and LOX5 in our cells include: Tumeric, Ginger root, Boswellia, Resveratrol, Milk Thistle and Cat’s Claw.

3/Avoid chemical exposures:  Eat an organic, chemical free diet as noted above.  Drink filtered water.  Use only cosmetics that are free of irritating and carcinogenic additives.  Identify chemical exposures in the home (cleaning supplies, garden supplies) and the workplace (chemical exposures, fumes, inhalants, radiation).

4/Identify and Treat Chronic Infections: Do you have persistent heartburn?  Do you have chronic loose stool or diarrhea or gas and bloating?  Have you been exposed to hepatitis or parasites while travelling internationally? Do you have a chronic post nasal drip or cough?  See your health care provider to determine the cause and get proper treatment and follow up. Once the infection is resolved take measures to boost your immunity to prevent future infections. Eat fermented foods or use probiotic supplements which contain healthy organisms that are part of natural immunity in our digestive tract and intestines.

5/Keep your body lean.  Keep your weight under control. Reduce your Body Fat.  Build Muscle. Excess body fat is a factory for inflammatory molecules.  All overweight and over fat people have much higher levels of inflammation than people who are lean.  Eat a balanced diet, get regular cardiovascular and weight bearing exercise.  Get enough sleep and manage your stress.  All of these factors will contribute to normal body weight, reduced fat and increased lean muscle.

References:
Ed Friedlander, “Inflammation and Repair,” www.pathguy.com/lectures/inflamma.htm (accessed fall 2006).
Emily Shacter and Sigmund A. Weitzman, ”Chronic Inflammation and Cancer,” Oncology 16, no. 2 (February 2002). www.cancernetwork.com/journals/oncology/o0202d.htm (accessed fall 2006).
National Cancer Institute Division of Cancer Biology, “Executive Summary of Inflammation and Cancer Think Tank.” http://dcb.nci.nih.gov/thinktank/Executive_Summary_of_Inflammation_and_
Cancer_Think_Tank.cfm (accessed fall 2006).
Haiyan Xu et al., “Chronic inflammation in fat plays a crucial role in the development of obesity-related insulin resistance,” J. Clin. Invest. 112 (2003): 1821-30. Also available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.
gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=14679177 (accessed fall 2006).
American Heart Association, Inc., “Inflammation, Heart Disease and Stroke: The Role of
Schindler, Thomas, et al. 2006. Relationship Between Increasing Body Weight, Insulin Resistance, Inflammation, Adipocytokine Leptin, and Coronary Circulatory Function. JACC 47:1188-95.

Tags:  inflammation 

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Curbing Inflammation May Reduce Heart Disease Risk

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 21, 2010
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014

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by Zina Kroner, DO

It has been established in prior studies that if one has an inflammatory condition such as psoriasis, for example, the risk of heart disease increases substantially.  A pro-inflammatory agent called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) tends to be elevated in patients with many  inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Prior studies have shown us that when patients took medication that act again TNF, the risk of heart disease decreased (J Am Acad Dermatol 2005; 52:262).

A recent study in Norway looked at patients with 3 different inflammatory conditions: rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriatic arthritis.  Patients were treated with TNF antagonists and aortic stiffness was assessed as a marker of heart disease.  It was found that those receiving anti-TNF agents as compared to placebo had statistically significant decreases in aortic stiffness and C-reactive protein levels (a marker for heart diseaes).  Although the study was of small sample size and of short duration, it can be concluded that TNF-antagonists may potentially decrease heart disease risk. 

Medications that are TNF antagonists have a wide and potentially detrimental side effect profile and need to be prescribed judiciously. There are an array of natural treatments that can be catered to one's condition that can potentially lower TNF and cardio-CRP levels as well. 

This is an important study in that it substantiates the fact that decreasing inflammation in our bodies will help reduce cardiovascular risk.  This can be done via a number of fronts depending on one's unique inflammatory condition. 


Source: Angel K et al. Tumor necrosis factor-{alpha} antagonists improve aortic stiffness in patient with inflammatory arthropathies: A controlled study. Hypertension 2010 Feb; 55:333.

Tags:  heart disease  inflammation 

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How Poor Gut Health Fuels Inflammation and Fatigue

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 25, 2009
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014
 
 

Recently I was speaking with a group of physicians at a meeting for the North Carolina Integrative Medicine Society.  At one point, one of my colleagues listed the 25 most commonly reported problems that had been seen at the Carolina Center for Integrative Medicine over the past decade. Two conditions topping the list were fatigue and digestive problems such as diarrhea, malabsorption, and leaky gut—a condition whereby the intestinal tissues become damaged (often through a combination of poor diet and stress), allowing toxins to trickle into the bloodstream and compromise one’s health. 

It turns out that a leaky gut can be closely linked to the top medical complaint of all time, fatigue.  How these two are related, as explained in a report published in the 29 December 2008 issue of Neuro Endocrinology Letters, is that leaky gut sets the stage for whole-body inflammation and oxidative stress (an excess of toxic free radicals), and this in turn promotes fatigue.  Chronic, low-level inflammation is also what underlies fibromyalgia and other medically unexplained conditions.  It also plays a key role in the genesis of cancer, heart disease, and many other common disorders. 

In this recent study—designed to confirm findings from a 2007 study of the same issue—Martine Maes and his colleagues at the Clinical Research Center for Mental Health in Belgium, measured blood levels of certain antibodies against LPS, a toxin linked with “bad bugs” or disease-causing microbes in the intestines.  The researchers measured levels of LPS antibodies before and after receiving a combination of supplements that help control inflammation and oxidative stress—namely glutamine, N-acetyl cysteine and zinc—in conjunction with a “leaky gut diet” (gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free) over the course of 10 to 14 months. The diet and supplement regimen resulted in a significant reduction in the LPS antibody levels, and this in turn was associated with a reduction in chronic fatigue. 

The results support the view that leaky gut, along with the systemic inflammation it generates, may be key factors in the chronic fatigue syndrome.  By patching up the leaky gut—something that can be accomplished with glutamine and other supplements—and reducing the oxidative and inflammatory stress, one can have a major impact on this condition. 

Why is this such a significant study?  Millions of Americans have an overgrowth of "bad bugs" in the gut, which in turn contributes to the leaky gut and low-level chronic inflammation described above.  These types of problems have been a major focus of my medical practice since I opened the doors at the Carolina Center 15 years ago.  Based on our records, we estimate that at least 75% of patients who come here are suffering from varying degrees of this problem—an imbalance in intestinal bacteria, which very often perpetuates leaky gut and fatigue.

A Success Story:  Jenny Rawlings

 

I’ve just explained how, by adhering to a diet and supplement plan that helps heal the gut, you can often recover a high level of energy and vitality.  Let me now share a story of one of my patients who was able to benefit from this approach. 

Jenny Rawlings is a 45-year-old woman who first came to see me two years ago for chronic fatigue and an achy bodily condition known as fibromyalgia.  Prior to her first visit at the Carolina Center, she had gone to numerous physicians for help.  After two years of declining health, none of the eight specialists she had seen could tell her what was wrong with her.  “I couldn't sleep, I was in constant pain, my limbs would go numb periodically,” Jenny recalls.  She was also suffering from stroke-like episodes. “When I couldn't say what was in my brain or the words would come out all jumbled. I knew I had Fibromyalgia, but I believed there was something else wrong as well.” 

I explained to Jenny that Fibromyalgia was a chronic, whole-body inflammatory condition that often coincided with gut-based problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and chronic intestinal infections.  When I evaluated her at the Carolina Center, I found that she had an extremely severe yeast infection, leaky gut, low hormone levels (including thyroid hormone and progesterone), deficits in certain vitamins and minerals, and very high levels of heavy metals.  All of those factors had combined to give Jenny a severly compromised immune system, making her vulnerable to a host of microbes. 

“My body couldn't fight off anything,” Jenny says.  “The testing that was performed by Dr. Pittman gave me a much clearer indication of what was wrong with me.  Those tests, which were blood and urine tests, were very simple, and yet the problems they identified seemed profoundly important.  It frustrated me no end that none of the eight doctors I'd seen previously asked for such a comprehensive panel.” 

Jenny then received several courses of intravenous vitamins to quickly build up her nutritional reserves and help reboot her immune system.  She also started a regimen of anti-fungal treatments, thyroid medication and progesterone, and she adjusted her pain and sleeping medications.  The recommended supplements included probiotics, Krebs magnesium, and vitamins B, C, D, and E.  I recommended that she try to follow a gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free diet to starve the yeast in her body.  She also started a colon cleanse and began colon hydrotherapy, because her colon had become a source of tremendous toxicity.  After her yeast infection was under control, she underwent chelation therapy to remove the heavy metals.  Lastly, she worked with a personal trainer to build strength and help compensate for her Fibromyalgia. 

Jenny says she started feeling better immediately after receiving the intravenous vitamins, and then noticed a huge shift in her energy and well-being within a month of starting treatment.  Nevertheless, it wasn’t all fun and game.  The yeast die-off reaction from the anti-fungal medications was severe, causing her to feel disoriented for a short period of time.  “Once that was behind me, and once I was completely on the special diet, I immediately began feeling much better,” she recalls. “My brain fog started to clear up and some of my energy returned.  I lost fifteen pounds that I had gained from adverse reactions to Lyrica.  It was like I had entered into a totally new body, a new experience of life.” 

Jenny improved steadily over the course of nine months.  Today her fibromyalgia episodes are less frequent and much shorter in duration.  The yeast infection is gone, and her immune system is greatly improved.  This winter, everyone else in Jenny’s family has had severe colds and flus, and yet she never came down with a single ailment, even though she was taking care of her family members.  “The old me would have been sick for months,” she says, smiling. 

Jenny’s recovery was by no means a "quick fix”.  It took a tremendous amount of commitment on her part, along with plenty of support from the Carolina Center’s dedicated staff.  But she says all the work has paid off in many more ways than one, and she is deeply grateful for this new lease on life.  “Last year, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to work again,” she says.  “This year, I’m starting my own business. I’m not only better but much more educated about my health, my body, and what it takes to be healthy and strong in today’s world.” 

To reach Dr. Pittman, or to obtain more information on his integrative approach to digestive health, contact the Carolina Center for Integrative Medicine in Raleigh, NC at 919-571-4391, or visit the website at carolinacenter.com.

Tags:  fatigue  gut health  inflammation 

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