There are two basic types of inflammation… acute inflammation and chronic inflammation.
Acute inflammation is the temporary swelling that follows an injury. It is the body’s way of protecting and healing the injured or infected part. When an injury occurs blood flow increases to the injured area. Nerve endings send out signals that the injured or infected area is in need of reinforcements… white blood cells.
Chronic inflammation – also known as low grade or systemic inflammation – is a different matter. And the causes and effects of chronic inflammation are a little more puzzling.
For example, autoimmune diseases like lupus, polymyalgia rheumatic, and rheumatoid arthritis cause inflammatory responses in the body though there doesn’t seem to be a direct target for the inflammatory response.
Systemic inflammation plays a fairly clear role in Crohn’s disease and asthma. But there is a not-so-obvious connection between inflammation and the relationship between gum disease and cardiovascular disease. For example, heart disease and strokes seem to be linked to oral health.
However, even though there is much research needed concerning the relationship between inflammation and disease it is clear that…
In fact some doctors believe most or all chronic diseases are connected to, or caused by, inflammation of this kind.
A number of serious chronic diseases have been linked to low grade inflammation. These are...
Our focus is on heart health. But let that list sink in for a moment. (And the list gets longer when we unpack pulmonary diseases, autoimmune diseases, and neurological diseases.) Most of what we consider serious (and life-threatening) diseases are associated with chronic inflammation. Heart disease is no exception.
C-reactive protein (CRP) is one of several substances found in the blood that are markers for inflammation. Chronic inflammation often cannot be seen or felt. However there are certain indicators that inflammation is present. CRP is one of those.
Doctors know that when high levels of this protein are present in the blood that the patient is at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. In fact evidence suggests that CRP levels are a better indicator of heart disease risk than high LDL.
That is certainly a shift in thinking for most of us. LDL levels have long been the ‘everything’ indicator. But there is growing evidence that LDL levels alone are not a good indicator of CVD risk. Rather LDL damaged by oxidation is the real risk. And this oxidative damage is associated with chronic inflammation.
A study published in the November 14, 2002 issue the New England Journal of Medicine reported the results of an eight-year study involving 27,939 women. More than half the women involved in the study who developed heart disease had high levels of CRP while their LDL levels were not high.
A Cleveland Clinic study discovered that clogged coronary arteries did not worsen in men who lowered their CRP levels.
The link between elevated CRP and heart disease has been demonstrated repeatedly. And the fact that high levels of CRP indicate the presence of systemic inflammation is no coincidence. The connection seems to be… inflammation causes heart disease and a simultaneous rise in CRP levels.
Unfortunately it is not always clear what causes chronic inflammation. Hormonal shifts during menopause and internal changes caused by aging are two as-of-yet unclear inflammation triggers.
However, many hormonal changes have underlying causes that can be traced to the increasing toxic nature of our environment. For example a study that began in 2003 discovered that 30% of one type of male fish in the Potomac River were producing eggs. By 2010 the percentage had risen to 80%.
Hormonal stress is one key factor in increased chronic inflammation.
Many other stresses can clearly be tied to our food sources. Chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides do not wash out of the plants that we consume or the waterways that are affected by runoff.
Hormones and antibiotics injected in livestock to increase meat and milk production are still in the meat when we eat it and the milk when we drink it. Additionally, the genetically altered grains that livestock eat are essentially consumed by us. Not to mention the fact that genetically altered foods are sold to us as safe and put into many of our food products. Or we simply buy genetically altered vegetables and freely eat them. It is telling that some 3rd world countries will not eat our genetically altered crops though their people are starving.
Another layer of inflammatory stress comes to us by the processing of our food. It is not enough that manufactures start with genetically altered products, they highly process the food further removing any nutritional value and loading the food products with other inflammatory components. Do we really need to sweeten everything with highly processed corn sugar produced from genetically altered corn?
Is it possible we have been missing the dietary boat when it comes to heart health? While avoiding saturated fats (never proven to increase heart disease) we freely consume numerous products that increase inflammatory stress.
In the case of environmental toxins it is impossible to avoid all causes of chronic inflammation. The fact that chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides flow off farmlands and into waterways is an influence that we cannot completely avoid.
But what about the fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that are sprayed on our food crops or the crops livestock eat? In such cases we do have choices. Also, eating genetically altered foods or meat from livestock that is fed genetically altered products is an area where we have choices. And if you are drinking milk from cows that have received growth hormones, antibiotics, genetically altered crops… you do have a choice to stop.
As a note, the whole dairy issue is beyond the current discussion. However, it is not only the influence of hormones, antibiotics and altered feed that makes dairy consumption risky. But the pasteurization process itself – that is supposed to protect us from disease – actually makes milk a health menace. Many people who suffer from lactose intolerance (or seem to) have no problem drinking milk that is not pasteurized.
But back to the question at hand… What are some ways to reduce chronic inflammation (and therefore heart disease risk)?
Toxins are going to get in. The body works hard to remove toxins but can be overwhelmed. Detoxing can help. Detox programs focus on removing heavy metals and other toxic influences as well as strengthening the elimination organs- including the gut.
Detoxing sometimes takes the form of a stretch of several days where you change your diet, take supporting supplements, and bathe in toxin removing compounds. We know of a great 7-day cleanse program that many people love.
Not your clothes, but what you put on your skin. Did you know that toxins put on your skin can be detected in your internal organs in as little as 26 seconds? So what are these toxins? Industrial wastes or nuclear fallout? No. How about ingredients that are found in shampoo, conditioner, lotions and makeup? Even high dollar cosmetics sold from behind pretty counters are full of dyes and other toxins that are approved by the FDA even though they have not been thoroughly tested. Many of these same ingredients are outlawed in several European countries.
Many products also contain byproducts of the animal rendering industry where dead (and formerly diseased) animals are indiscriminately included in the manufacturing process.
There are some vegan-based products that contain no animal byproducts, nor do they contain the toxic dyes and other components referred to above. And in many cases these high quality products are considerably less expensive than their department store counterparts. Why spend more to put on cosmetics that contain pro-inflammatory (toxic) ingredients when safer high quality products exist? It just doesn’t make sense.
Nonsmokers simply don’t understand why people chose to smoke cigarettes with full knowledge (or at least partial knowledge) of the health risks. It is the same with food. People who understand the health risks of eating highly processed, genetically altered, hormone laced, pesticide riddled food products don’t understand why so many people ignore the dangers and eat whatever is on the store shelves.
Perhaps the comparison is not completely fair. Awareness of food borne toxins and pro-inflammatory influences is not as developed as our knowledge of the risks associated with smoking. But the knowledge base is growing.
So watch what you eat. Focus on building habits towards an anti-inflammatory diet. This will consist of both avoiding foods that cause inflammation as well as consuming more anti-inflammatory foods. Additionally you will want to include supplements that support detox as well as those that reduce inflammation.
We offer our readers a free consultation to help point them in the right direction. Whether you are concerned with finding toxin free cosmetics, or detox programs, or need help putting together an anti-inflammatory approach to eating… we can help with that. Just let us know what you want to accomplish.
A Challenge For You!
People are making great improvements in their heart health.
How... are they doing it? By challenging themselves to change the way they eat. Really!
I have a challenge for you. It is my double dog dare.