Saturday, May 4, 2013

Chronic inflammation: An American Epidemic



Did you know that chronic inflammation is the main contributing factor in all of the chronic degenerative diseases facing Americans today?  Consider the following statistics:
·       One in three adult suffers from arthritis, nearly twice as many only two decades ago.
·       More than 20 million Americans have asthma.
·       More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. This number has doubled in the past twenty years.
·       There are 25.8 million people with diabetes, 79 million are pre-diabetic, and 1.9 million new cases were diagnosed in 2010. By the year 2030 it is predicted that 1 in 3 people will have diabetes.
·       Over one million Americans have inflammatory bowel disease.
·       By the year 2105, the CDC predicts 75% of Americans will be overweight or obese.

Unfortunately many people immediately reach for medication when they have inflammatory symptoms.  This band-aid approach of dealing with the symptoms of disease has become pervasive in how chronic conditions are treated in America. The most common inflammatory reducing medications include the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Cox-2 inhibitors, and corticosteroids.  Unfortunately ALL these medications have side effects. The NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. NSAIDs irritate the stomach lining, which may cause digestive upset such as heartburn, indigestion, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain, peptic ulcer, GI bleeds, fluid retention, kidney disorders, and increased risk for stroke, heart attack, and blood clots. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has implicated acetaminophen as a problem in liver injury. http://www.fda.gov/AdvisoryCommittees/Calendar/ucm143083.htm.
The Cox-2 inhibitors include Celebrex and Vioxx.  These side effects include heart attack, blood clots, stroke, Stevens - Johnson syndrome (SJS), and severe inflammation of the skin and internal mucous membranes. Many of the beneficial effects reported on these drugs turned out to be falsified results conducted by Scott Reuben, MD, who was on the payroll for both Pfizer (Bextra) and Merck (Vioxx). http://www.naturalnews.com/025852_pain_studies_surgery.html. The corticosteroids (prednisone) have numerous adverse effects which include increased appetite and weight, water retention, swelling, high blood pressure, slow wound healing, osteoporosis, diabetes, and adrenal suppression.

Instead of the Band-Aid approach to reducing inflammation wouldn’t a healthier solution be to learn what causes chronic inflammation in the first place. The answer is less complex than we may think. The key is at the end of our fork. It is true, “you are what you eat”.  Therefore it is important to learn which foods are inflammatory and which are anti-inflammatory.

Inflammatory foods include:
·       Sugar and corn syrup
·       Processed foods and refined carbohydrates made with wheat flour, such as pasta, bread, bagels, pretzels, and cereals. This includes most desserts and packaged snacks.
·       Partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats found in margarine, deep fried foods, and most packaged foods.
·       Corn oil
·       Meat, dairy, and eggs from grain fed animals. Animals (including fish) that are fed a corn based diet become problematic because the ratio of omega 3 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory) to omega 6 fatty acids (inflammatory) changes with an increase in the proinflammatory omega 6 fatty acids.

Anti-inflammatory foods include:
·       Fruits
·       Vegetables
·       Nuts
·       Wild caught fish
·       Organic free range meat, chicken, bison, elk, lamb, and dairy
·       Increasing omega 3 fats (the good/anti-inflammatory fats)

Other beneficial guidelines include:
·       Minimize large fish such as tuna, shark, and swordfish because of high levels of mercury and other contaminants
·       For cooking use olive or coconut oil
·       Use sources of omega 3 fats which include flax seeds and oil, walnuts, sardines, and wild caught salmon. Take a daily supplement of 1-4 grams of high EPA/DHA fish oil daily. 
·       Use dry roasted or raw nuts and seeds
·       Eliminate foods with artificial colorings and “diet” sugars especially aspartame
·       Avoid foods with MSG, nitrites, and nitrates
·       Eat organic (if possible) cruciferous vegetables daily (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and brussel sprouts) to help detoxify.
·       Eat a variety of colorful organic (if possible) fruits and vegetables. 
·       Include the anti-inflammatory spices: ginger, turmeric, basil, cinnamon, cloves, and rosemary
·       When thirsty drink water or organic green or white tea

Eating anti-inflammatory need not be complicated or confusing.  Most meals can be prepared the same way as always.  Keep in mind a few key points: Keep sugar, wheat products, and refined carbohydrates to a minimum, have more fruits and vegetables, increase foods high in omega 3 fatty acids, decrease foods  high in saturated and trans fat,  and eat high quality proteins (preferably organic free range).
Although lifestyle and stress are absolutely factors in chronic inflammation, research has implicated an inflammatory diet as the number one culprit in inflammatory pain and its consequent complications.  Try making these dietary changes for one month and you will quickly notice pain and inflammation decrease while your energy increases.       
 

  Additional References:
http://www.mercola.com/beef/health_benefits.htm
http://www.mnwelldir.org/docs/terrain/chronic_inflammation.htm
http://www.deflame.com/
Pelton, R. & Lavalle, J. (2004). The Nutritional Cost of Drugs (2nd ed.). Englewood, CO: Morton  
     Publishing Company.