By Dr. Natasha Turner ND
Believe it or not inflammation isn’t just linked to swollen joints – it plays a role in everything from digestive disorders and allergies to autoimmune diseases and abdominal fat. Even more so, the very presence can greatly interfere with your fat loss goals.
The last time you suffered through a sinus infection, sprained an ankle or felt the irritating itch of a mosquito bite, you experienced the effects of inflammation first hand. Infections or injuries trigger a chain of events called the inflammatory cascade. The normal, familiar signs of inflammation such as redness, pain, swelling and fever are the first signals that our immune system is being called into combat mode. Behind the scenes, the body strives to maintain a critical balance between the signals that enable and sustain this protective response and the signals that announces the battle has been won. Eventually the inflammatory response stands down, as the body’s powerful, natural anti-inflammatory compounds move in to initiate the healing phase.
Chronic activation of our inflammatory response takes a heavy toll on the body and has recently become recognized as the root cause of most diseases associated with aging. Besides a typical inflammatory illness such as arthritis, the list of conditions spurred by inflammation includes cancer, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune disease, diabetes, stroke and even wrinkling of our skin.
Causes of Chronic Inflammation I Bet You Never Thought Of:
Widespread inflammation triggers a cascade of problems that seriously weaken the very foundations of our health and wellbeing. Some of the main causes of chronic inflammation include:
o Poor digestive health – a whopping 60% of our immune system is clustered around our digestive tract. Painful conditions such as gas, bloating, heartburn, reflux, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are all related to inflammation in the digestive system.
o Poor nutritional habits –Dr. Paresh Dandona, a professor of medicine at the State University of New York at Buffalo who specializes in the topic of metabolism and inflammatory stress, found that over-consumption of any macronutrient – protein, carbohydrate or fat – can contribute to inflammation. He and his team of researchers also identified immediate effects of specific foods on inflammation.
o Lack of exercise – exercise is excellent for cutting inflammation.
o Abdominal obesity and insulin resistance – pre-existing inflammation can also cause both of these conditions, a vicious circle indeed!
o Estrogen decline – menopause appears to be linked to an increase in inflammation, especially due to waning estrogen.
o Depression and stress – depression in obese men is significantly associated with increased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker in the blood, as shown by a 2003 German study published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. This research supports the strong link between our emotions, our hormones and inflammation. In another study conducted in 2004 and published in Archives of Internal Medicine, a similar link was found between depression and higher levels of inflammation (as denoted by CRP) in both men and women. The link, however, was stronger in men than women. In fact, the men with the most recent bouts of depression showed the highest CRP values.
Are You a Hotbed of Inflammation?
Inflammation is a health concern for everyone, but particularly for those who suffer from digestive disorders, allergies, autoimmune disease, arthritis, heart disease, asthma, eczema, acne, obesity, abdominal fat, headaches, joint stiffness, depression and sinus disorders.
Two blood tests for highly sensitive C-Reactive Protein and homocysteine are the simplest and best diagnostic tools currently available to assess inflammation. We routinely perform both of these tests on our patients at Clear Medicine. Call us to set up an appointment.
What does fat loss have to do with inflammation? Excessive or persistent inflammation leads to tissue destruction and disease …. and, you guessed it, weight gain. Reducing inflammation is an absolutely vital step in allowing the body to lose unwanted fat. Without getting into too many scientific details, something known as PPARs are the masters of the fat-burning pathways in our liver and muscle cells. They influence the interaction between our insulin sensitivity, inflammation and weight. A PPAR imbalance contributes to inflammation, obesity and insulin resistance. Because of this interaction, anti-inflammatory supplements and insulin-sensitizing lifestyle habits, which help to optimize the fat-burning capabilities of our PPARs, can be highly beneficial in the fight against obesity.
I always tell my patients this: if you are trying to lose weight in the presence of inflammation, it is like trying to drain a sink with the stopper still in. You can, however, improve your chances of success by incorporating my six suggestions to cool the fire of inflammation and ultimately shed belly fat.
1. Improve your digestive health: A whopping 60 per cent of the immune system is clustered around the digestive tract. Compromises to digestion, including food allergies, bacterial imbalance, deficiency of enzymes or acids, yeast overgrowth, parasites and stress, negatively affect not only the process of digestion but also our entire immune system. I begin the treatment of every patient by focusing on digestion first simply for these reasons. Painful conditions such as gas, bloating, heartburn, reflux, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are all related to inflammation in the digestive system. Find out how well your digestive system is working.
2. Get your immune system in check: Many experts now view inflammation as a symptom of an immune system in constant overdrive. When the body is stuck in this state, even ordinarily mild stressors such as viral infections, emotional stress or exposure to household chemicals can cause the immune system to wildly overreact. Allergies, autoimmune disease and tissue destruction can result when our immune system is working too hard to protect us. If you have thyroid antibodies for example, you can believe your immune system has gone awry. I recommend taking 200mcg selenium along with plant sterols to calm an overactive immune system – and in turn reduce inflammation. Turn down your over-active immune system or allergic symptoms with Immune Support Formula, two to three capsules on rising or before bed. It contains phytosterols that balance the immune system and olive leaf extract. To read more about keeping healthy through cold and flu season read here.
3. Nix nasty nutritional habits: Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that over consumption of any one macronutrient—protein, carbohydrate or fat—can contribute to inflammation . They also identified immediate effects of specific foods on inflammation. Orange juice, for instance, was shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Red wine was found to be neutral, whereas cream promoted inflammation. The team also discovered that overweight test subjects experienced significant changes in free radical stress indicators and inflammation just one week after starting a more nutritious diet. Considering the long-term health benefits of reducing inflammation – from bathroom scale to joint health and beyond – this rapid change is extremely encouraging.
4. Test your blood inflammatory levels: Two blood tests for highly sensitive C-reactive protein and homocysteine are the simplest and best diagnostic tools currently available to assess inflammation and can be ordered through your physician. Hs-CRP is a marker of inflammation and a risk factor for arterial disease. Levels tend to increase as body fat increases and with insulin resistance. An optimal value is less than 0.8 mg/L.
Homocysteine is an inflammatory protein that, if elevated in the blood, is a proven independent risk factor for heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. And like Hs-CRP, homocysteine has been found to increase with insulin resistance. An optimal value is less than 6.3. If you find your homocysteine is elevated, look for a combination to support methylation, that contains vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, and Tri-methylglycine and take 1 to 2 capsules per day.
5. Add in systemic enzymes: There are certain proteins in the body that stimulate and others that suppress inflammation. Under normal circumstances, your body balances the two. In the case of an inflammatory or immune response, however, your body can get out of control. Systemic enzymes support that balancing process, assisting normal inflammatory responses. Our most popular product is Anti-inflammatory Enzymes, which has shown to improve everything from thyroid antibodies, endometriosis, and joint pain to post-surgery recovery and scar tissue. Take 3-5 tablets with water 2 times a day on an empty stomach (30 minutes before eating or 2 hours after food). I find dosing on rising and before bed to be the simplest schedule to stick to. If you wanted added anti-inflammatory impact, combine this product with 1 to 2 capsules of Curcumin, twice a day.
6. Switch your fish oils or change to a plant-based formula: While for many purposes a regular extra strength fish oil is exactly what the doctor recommended, when it comes to high levels of inflammation I often have my patients switch to a fish oil with a 6:1 EPA/DHA ratio for a period of three months. EPA alters the level of a hormone called eicosanoids, which controls inflammation and pain. Fish oil that favours EPA can be helpful at breaking the inflammatory cycle. Read more about fish oils here. Alternatively, go for a fish free option, and take four to six capsules of plant-based Plant-Based Omega 3’s. Use it before your workout, and it can also help to improve oxygen transport into your cells. Just recently, I gave this product to my mother to help her broken leg heal and it also helps to build bone density.