If you are living and breathing on this planet your body is affected by inflammation in some form or another. We are all constantly juggling a balancing act of inflammatory biochemical assaults, while working hard to keep this delicate equilibrium under control. While some inflammation is beneficial in an acute setting (i.e. a swollen ankle after a sprain is important to stabilize it), chronic inflammation can have a deleterious effect on us. In fact, leading scientists are now drawing ties between inflammation to many types of chronic disease facing developed nations in pandemic proportions such as; heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune illness -- to even cancer.
Sources of inflammation are abundant in our environment and the lifestyles many of us live. What we eat, drink, breathe, think and experience every minute of every day affects our biochemistry in countless ways. On top of this, so too do the trillions upon trillions of microorganisms living in our gastrointestinal system, all of which ready to heal or harm us with whatever consistent lifestyle choices we choose. The emerging field of Epigenetics is a powerful and exciting field of medicine showing how critical a role our environment plays on our genetics. Dr.'s like Bruce Lipton (author of The Biology of Belief) have proven that stress has the direct ability to change the ways our genes are activated, thus having a huge ability to influence our health. At the very base of our entire health spectrum is how we control inflammatory processes. What we put in, on, and around our body play a major role in how we look, think and feel.
1. Step Back From The Sweets
It's fitting that the acronym for the Standard American Diet is SAD. What truly is sad about what we eat is the excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates. New research continues to attribute much of the chronic disease epidemic present in developed nations to issues with diet and lifestyle. All you have to do is look around at the ever-increasing number of fast food chains, TV commercials pushing the latest tasty treat, and what gets served at most social celebrations. A diet high in refined sugars will feed inflammatory processes in our body, spiking levels of cytokines, interleukins, interferons, and many other inflammatory signals creating the foundation for chronic disease processes to proliferate. Are you a visual learner? The reaction that occurs in our body from eating foods high in refined sugars is similar to what happens if you were to throw gasoline on a fire. A simple rule is to stick with a diet consisting of whole, non-processed foods. Be mindful if your next comes in any form of packaging - have your health antenna 'on guard' and read that label well!
2. Fats Can Heal, Fats Can Kill
"Sorry Doc, you meant to say all fat is bad, right??" If this sounds familiar, please allow me to explain why the above title is not a typo... Yes, it is true - eating some fat is imperative to prevent disease and keep an optimal level of health. In fact, we even need to eat fat to maintain a healthy metabolism. We actually have to eat fat to lose fat! We have been indoctrinated over many decades that fat is the root of all health evils, and that eating a low fat diet is good for us. In truth, nutritional science has evolved and since proven that the entire opposite is true. Of course, there are clearly some fats that are better for our body than others. The healthiest fats often generally come from nuts, seeds, algaes, and clean fish sources. Oils such as Omega 3's and 9's are essential for optimal cellular health and are the building blocks of our hormones, brain tissue, etc. Omega 6's are also very important, however we tend to get enough of these already in a regular SAD. If the omega ratio becomes too heavily weighted on 6's and not enough 3's, this creates a pro-inflammatory environment. On the flip side, be sure to avoid oils such as Canola, Vegetable, and hydrogenated oils. These too create oxidative cellular damage and initiate degenerative processes, increasing the risk of chronic disease. One of the healthiest oils to cook with is non-hydrogenated Coconut oil (not olive oil as commonly thought) as it's biochemical nature allows it to be heat stable. Add some in your next meal- bon appetite!
3. Heal Thy Gut
We've heard it before; we are indeed what we eat. More importantly, I believe it is more accurate to say WE ARE WHAT WE ABSORB. The majority of absorption occurs in the small intestine and is critical to maintaining optimal health. Sadly, our small intestine (often unbeknownst to us) is prone to irritation from food sensitivities, microbial imbalances, and nutrient deficiencies that are all capable of creating intestinal permeability -- or Leaky Gut Syndrome. Many of us experience gas, bloating, heartburn, constipation/diarrhea, etc. on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many of us assume that these symptoms are normal and are just an everyday part of life! This is not normal. These symptoms are signs of inflammation of our gastrointestinal system and can be indicative of malabsorption, opening the gateway to illness. This can be corrected by the 4 R approach. Reduce (irritating foods), Remove, (unhealthy microbial invaders), Reinoculate (with therapeutic doses of healthy bacteria), and Repair (with enterocyte healing nutrients such as l-glutamine, omega 3's, etc.).
4. Dump Your Toxic Metals
Did you know that most adults over the age of 40 are harbouring unwelcome and unwanted toxic metals in our body? Toxic what?? We have all been exposed to metals such as; mercury, lead, aluminum, cadmium, arsenic, etc. at some point from our environment. Common sources include paint & gas fumes, flames, vaccinations, fish, and dental procedures, etc. It's a matter of understanding what remains in our tissues as these pose significant increased risk for inflammatory based illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and a variety of auto-Immune illnesses. According to the world re-known Mayo Clinic, the current gold standard way to test for suspected metals is via a provocative urine challenge. While ignorance may be bliss, it is always best to identify these as early as possible. Even if elevated levels of metals are detected -- do not sweat! Toxic metals can be removed safely and effectively from your body using a tremendously safe and effective technique called chelation therapy. Chelation therapy should only be administered by a primary healthcare provider certified in functional & environmental medicine.
5. Ante-Up Your Anti-Oxidants
Our biochemistry is in a constant dance of sorts -- one that is always striving to optimize levels of free radicals and anti-oxidant levels. This occurs every second of everyday we are alive and is essential to how we feel, look, think, age, etc. We often hear how important anti-oxidants are to our health. However, it is important to state that both antioxidants free radicals are needed for optimal health and well-being. Even so, most of us are exposed to an excessive amount of free radical levels that creates oxidative damage. Cue visual learners -- this process is just like rust forming on a car or the brown color on an apple that has been left on a counter after only partially eaten. It is this oxidative stress that accelerates most disease progression and promotes cellular aging. Adding multiple servings of dark coloured fruits and vegetables to your daily regime is an excellent way to slow down inflammatory damage (blueberries and pomegranates are my favorite tasty super foods). At times supplementing with additional anti-oxidants can be helpful. Vitamins C, D, E, B12 as well as Quercetin, Glutathione, Selenium, etc. can be helpful in the right doses.
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Studies have found that people who have higher levels of vitamin D have significantly lower rates of breast, ovarian, renal, colon, pancreatic, aggressive prostate, and other cancers. Researchers have even predicted that raising vitamin D levels in the United States and Canada would prevent 58,000 people from getting breast cancer and 49,000 from getting colorectal cancer. However, Americans are woefully short on this essential nutrient. We get more than 90 per cent of vitamin D from sunshine, but people are avoiding the sun for fear of getting skin cancer, Dr. Teitelbaum says. “Avoid sunburn, not sunshine,” he says. And take a vitamin D nutritional supplement. He recommends that everyone take 1,000 to 2,000 international units of vitamin D a day, which you can find in a good multivitamin.
Curcumin has killed cancer cells in the laboratory, shrunk tumors in animals, and helped prevent several forms of cancer from developing in animal studies. “Curcumin is a pretty remarkable herb,” Teitelbaum says. There are more than 1,000 studies showing that it’s effective for cancer, he says. But if you’re not eating foods made with curry every day (because curcumin is derived from turmeric), you’re probably not getting enough for cancer protection, he says. Should everyone take a dietary supplement? It’s probably only necessary if you have a strong family history of cancer, Teitelbaum says. Be sure to find a supplement specifically designed for easy absorption, such as the product Curamin.
Some research has shown that B vitamins, including folic acid (vitamin B9), can lower the risk for some cancers, but the research hasn’t been conclusive. Observational studies have found that people who get more folic acid may be less likely to get colon cancer, especially compared to people who are deficient in folic acid, and that getting vitamin B6 may lower the likelihood of getting colorectal cancer. But researchers haven’t done large clinical trials on these vitamins. The best option is to choose a good multivitamin that includes B vitamins rather than individual supplements.
Studies done in the laboratory suggest that some compounds in antioxidant-rich green tea may help stop cancer cells from growing by cutting off their blood supply. One study from China found that people who drank green tea and did not smoke had a lower risk of getting esophageal cancer than those who didn’t drink green tea, but the results from other studies have been mixed. “It’s not the first place I reach to in terms of anti-cancer effect,” Teitelbaum says. But there are other reasons to sip: It lowers anxiety and heart attack risk, he says.
In areas of the world where the soil has high levels of selenium, there are significantly fewer deaths from cancer, including lung, breast, colon, ovarian, cervical, bladder, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers. However, clinical trials that have looked at selenium’s role in cancer prevention have been mixed. Because your body only needs a small amount of this mineral, the American Cancer Society recommends eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables rather than taking selenium in nutritional supplements. You can get selenium from Brazil nuts, seafood, whole grains, cereal, meat and poultry, kidney, and liver.
Eating garlic may lower your risk for breast, colon, esophageal, pancreatic, and stomach cancers, according to preliminary studies. When researchers looked at the results of seven population studies, they found that those with higher amounts of garlic in their diet had lower risk for stomach and colorectal cancer. But the results of clinical trials have been mixed, and researchers don’t know how much garlic you may need for protection. The World Health Organization recommends that people get about a clove of garlic a day in their diet.
Truth be told, fish oil’s strength is not cancer prevention, Teitelbaum says. Some research has shown that women who eat fish twice a week have a lower risk for endometrial cancer, but in general the research looking at cancer protection hasn’t shown much of a link. However, fish oil can do so much for your health, including helping to prevent heart disease or stroke and lowering rates of depression. There’s good reason to focus on getting fish in your diet and consider taking fish oil nutritional supplements.
Animal studies have suggested that vitamin A (which includes beta carotene) could shrink tumors, slow down the growth of tumors, and enhance cancer treatments. However, getting too much beta carotene or vitamin A can be toxic. When smokers took vitamin A dietary supplements, their risk of dying from lung cancer and heart disease increased. If you take a high dose of beta carotene, you can cause relative deficiency of other nutrients in the body, Teitelbaum says. For that reason, don’t get more than 5,000 international units of beta carotene a day.
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