Friday, July 9, 2010

Taming the Fire Within

by Marcia Zimmerman
excerpts from the original The Zimmerman File

Allergies, asthma, arthritis and arterial plaque – what do these conditions have in common other than beginning with the letter “A?”

Inflammation has often been described as the fire within because it’s usually not visible on the surface. Swollen sinuses, mucous membranes, bronchial, and alveolar tissues in your lungs may be irritated but not obviously inflamed. Arterial linings that are inflamed cause no pain initially, yet this is the first phase of cardiovascular disease and stroke.1 By contrast, swollen red joints that are painful, hot to the touch, and obviously “fiery,” cue us they are inflamed. To overcome these and many other chronic conditions, we must first tame the fire of inflammation.

Inflammation is a natural protective response to environmental, infectious, or psychological stress. The acute response is a short-term life saving event. It may become chronic – persist for long periods of time – and cause great discomfort and disability. Chronic inflammation is basically a hyperactive immune response that is heavily influenced by stress.

The Basic Anti-inflammatory Program

Large numbers of oxidative free radicals are generated as a natural by-product of an acute immune response and they are a major concern in treating inflammation.

A colorful diet will provide free-radical fighting antioxidant phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. The sooner in life a person chooses such a diet, the better. A 2009 study investigated the connection between adolescents who ate a variety of fruits and vegetables and inflammation levels. Among 285 boys and girls aged 13 to 17 years, those with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables had the lowest levels of inflammatory indicators.4 No surprise there, and it is generally accepted that adolescent overweight (a hidden inflammatory condition) and other inflammatory conditions are linked.

A Multiple vitamin supplement – An iron-free multiple vitamin with a green food base and a natural mineral combination from red algae provide basic supplements to ensure optimum antioxidant protection.

Taking an omega 3 fatty acid supplement is the most effective natural way to reduce inflammation.

Vitamin E is the primary fat soluble antioxidant. It is a combination of several forms (isoforms) including four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. While alpha tocopherol is the most potent antioxidant, gamma tocopherol is better at detoxifying certain free radicals. Gamma tocopherol, but not alpha tocopherol, possesses anti-inflammatory activity. Taking alpha tocopherol alone can deplete gamma tocopherol and reduce the balancing effects of the two isoforms. Natural dietary sources of vitamin E isoforms include nuts, seeds, and seed oils and it may be one way nuts appear to stave off cardiovascular disease. According to a new study, adding sesame seeds to salads, vegetables, lightly stir-fried items may be an important way to maintain consistent blood levels of this important antioxidant.

Vitamin C and Pycnogenol

Vitamin C stimulates synthesis of collagen, the most prevalent protein in the body. It makes up body structures and connects them together. Ascorbate prevents further damage to injured tissues, and protects macrophages, the immune fighters charged with promoting healing.

Lipoic acid shares and enhances some of the biological actions of vitamin C and it protects the vitamin C recycling process. Actions of vitamin C and lipoic acid include preventing dysfunction of endothelial cells (those lining body cavities, organs and blood vessels).

Pycnogenol® is an extract of French Maritime pine bark. Over 230 scientific studies have been published in the past twenty years on the bioavailability and effectiveness of this remarkable water soluble natural substance.15 It reduces inflammation, fights oxidative free radicals, chelates toxic metals, strengthens blood vessels, and blocks the enzymatic activity of COX-1 and COX-2. It is a non-toxic and bioactive alternative to aspirin, ibuprophen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).

Pycnogenol® doses used in human studies vary from 60 mg to 300 mg per day, depending on how quickly a response is sought. Higher doses are desirable for acute cases and initializing a response.

Chronic Inflammatory Conditions – A natural approach

Allergies and Asthma are chronic hyper-immune responses that inflame the airways and lungs. The aroused immune system recruits an array of cells and other fighters to eliminate the antigen (offending substance). Swelling, itching, burning and reduced ability to breathe are natural by products of this process. Allergies can be triggered by seasonal pollens, inhaled irritants, weather changes, foods, and some environmental contaminants. Allergic symptoms involve primarily the nose, but often include sinuses, ears, eyes, throat and skin. Gut inflammation is present in most cases.
Asthma is a more severe inflammatory airway condition that is closely related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. Long term inflammation in asthma and COPD damages lung tissue causing irreversible loss of function. Let’s consider three factors in airway inflammation, namely stress, immunity, and free radicals.

Role of stress on the central nervous system, CNS.

Neuronal cross-talk is involved in neuro-immune interactions. Wheezing, chest tightness, cough and shortness of breath, which characterize asthma stem from airway nerves going awry. Not surprisingly, scientists are looking at compounds that specifically target neuronal messengers.

Marc A. Riedl, M.D. and colleagues at UCLA found that sulforaphane found in broccoli sprouts, triggered an increase in inflammation fighting phase II enzymes in the upper airways of volunteers. Dr. Riedl says that “compounds in broccoli sprouts have a very potent effect in boosting the airway’s self-defense system against oxidative stress.”

Immune Response

Immune T-cells can either promote inflammation or suppress it. A balance between these two subtypes of immune cells is controlled by a group of so called “co-stimulatory molecules.” These molecules are a promising new avenue for treatment of severe lung diseases. Preventing loss of function by reducing oxidative stress is a viable option for those susceptible to airway disorders.

Oxidative Free Radicals

Persistent airway inflammation leads to increased formation of oxygen free radicals. Glutathione (GSH) is an important antioxidant in the fluid lining airway tissues. A new study by scientists at Emory University found that glutathione levels were significantly reduced in the bronchial tissues of asthmatic children and this presumably left them less able to stave off inflammation. Glutathione levels may be increased by supplementing with either GSH and/or lipoic acid which protects glutathione.

Arthritis and Arterial Plaque

Osteoarthritis (OA), which is expected to affect over 59 million people in the U.S. by 2020, is a degenerative joint disease that stems from mechanical stress, primarily on knee and hip joints. Over time, metabolic and structural changes occur in the cartilage, bone and articular surfaces. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the first choice for providing relief from symptoms including pain, stiffness and loss of function. However, many people experience side effects from these drugs including gastrointestinal distress, ulcer formation, and cardiovascular problems.

This has led researchers to look for alternative treatments that are better tolerated but still effective. A recent study at the University of Utah School of Medicine compared symptom relief in 1583 OA patients who were randomly divided into four treatment regimens plus a placebo group. One group took 1500 mg. of glucosamine daily, another took 1200 mg of chondroitin, a third group took a combination of the two and the fourth took 200 mg of celecoxib (Celebrex) daily for 24 weeks. Only patients with moderate to severe knee pain taking the GS/CS combination had a significant benefit. It was noted that treatment with CS alone or in combination decreased joint swelling and fluid accumulation.

Rheumatoid arthritis differs from OA in that it stems from inflammation. The cornerstone of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy is dietary modification, manipulation of dietary fats, and the use of antioxidants and proteolytic enzymes. Serrapeptase is an anti-inflammatory, proteolytic enzyme isolated from the microorganism of the Serratia species. Proteolytic enzymes enhance tissue repair, and remove cellular debris associated with injury and inflammation. Serrazimes Tocotrienols are another important CAM therapy for inflammatory conditions.

Inflamed arteries Until recently doctors regarded arterial plaque as nasty fatty deposits that reduce blood flow and trigger clot formation. Now it is known that inflammation infiltrates deeper fibrous layers of arteries and is the root of acute coronary events such as heart attack and stroke. A condition specific recommendation for prevention of cardiovascular events is Nattokinase. Fibrin is a protein involved in blood clot formation and Nattokinase is a potent fibrin busting proteolytic enzyme. Along with omega-3s, Nattokinase carries a powerful preventive tool against stroke.

No comments:

Post a Comment