Reducing the Risks of Chronic Inflammation
What do breast cancer, strokes, gout, sore throats, asthma, arthritis, and infection have in common? Answer: Inflammation.
Inflammation is a part of your body’s healing process, and it serves a purpose. If you cut your finger, for example, the tissue around the cut will become inflamed as the body starts healing the cut. If you have an infection, the infected area will become inflamed as the body tries to kill the bacterium causing the infection. In this regard, inflammation is a sign that the body is healing.
Risks of Chronic Inflammation
But we have to understand the difference between acute and chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation means something is distressing your body, and your body is healing. Chronic inflammation means the causes of the inflammation are not being healed, and it may produce its own health risks.
For example, strokes produce inflammation in the brain, which hinders recovery and brain functioning. Inflammation produces cytokines. In breast tissue, cytokines damage cells and make them more susceptible to estrogen, which may result in breast cancer. Inflammation in the joints is a sign of arthritis. At least one study, from the University of California, indicates that about one-third of all cancers are caused by chronic inflammation.
Inflammation can produce more inflammation. Inflammation stimulates the production of cytokines and tumor necrosis factor alpha, and these interact to produce more inflammation. The result is chronic inflammation.
Clinical thermal imaging may be the best diagnostic process for detecting inflammation. By definition, inflammation produces heat, and the infrared cameras used in thermal imaging produce images of heat.
Using thermal imaging, we see many clients experiencing chronic inflammation: of the chest and breast tissue, in the back, throughout the gut, for example. Some clients know they have inflammation, such as with arthritis, which can be painful. In most cases, however, the clients are not aware that they are inflamed, which is a real risk.
Without awareness, clients don’t know to address either the inflammation or the conditions that may be producing it. This means (1) they have underlying health issues not being addressed, and/or (2) they risk long-term health problems caused by the inflammation.
Natural Treatments for Inflammation
Ibuprofen is often recommended to deal with inflammation, but it’s a risky approach. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen) inhibit Cox-2, which promotes inflammatory compounds, such as cytokines. They also inhibit Cox-1, which helps protect your stomach lining. Some studies also suggest that your body needs Cox-2 to heal ulcers. Thousands of people each year are admitted to hospitals and other treatments for conditions caused by the NSAIDs.
What you eat may be causing, or at least contributing to, inflammation. Foods rich in lenoleic acid increase Cox-2 activity. The Cox-2 converts this acid into omega-6 fatty acids, which your body then converts into inflammation-producing cytokines. These foods include popcorn, vegetable oil, many nuts, chicken, potato and corn chips, eggs, and pasta. (This is a partial list.)
You do need omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids contribute to inflammation that your body needs to heal, and they may help lower LDL cholesterol. However, an excess in omega-6 fatty acids can create chronic inflammation. Normally, this effect is counterbalanced by foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and flaxseed. The two types of fatty acid, omega-6 and omega-3, need to be balanced. Most people, however, have a diet high in omega-6 and low in omega-3, when the opposite would be better.
Flaxseed oil, in particular, seems to be exceptional for counteracting the effects of omega-6 fatty acids and, thereby, reducing inflammation. Not only is flaxseed oil rich in omega-3s but also it contains other compounds that your body converts into omega-3 fatty acids, giving you a double benefit.
Flaxseed can be used in several ways to produce anti-inflammatory benefits. First, you can eat it. It is easy to find in health food sections. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon on your breakfast cereal or mix it in oatmeal. I have mixed it in juice, which worked as a delivery method but was not very nice to drink.
Flaxseed oil can also be used as a compress. Our board certified thermography reading doctors typically recommend compresses for women experiencing chronic inflammation in their breasts, which is a known cause of breast cancer. The oil can be soaked into gauze pads and taped to the chest overnight. One of our recent clients, a slightly older man, showed thermographic indicators for very pronounced inflammation along his chest. The area of inflammation was nearly 7 degrees centigrade hotter than skin temperature in his abdomen. After two weeks of flaxseed oil compresses, the thermal indicators were significantly reduced.
Fish oil, too, is a good source of omega-3 fatty acid, but some people are becoming shy of fish oil supplements, many of which come from the Pacific Ocean around the China/Japan coast, due to concerns about radioactivity from the Fukishima plant leak. In spite of this, even a few ounces of fatty fish, such as salmon, can provide you enough omega-3s to reach the recommended 500–1000 daily mg. An even better fish source is a favorite of mine: sardines in mustard sauce, with both ingredients good sources of omega-3s. Four ounces of sardines can provide around 2,300 mg of omega-3s. Add a portion of spinach, and you’re all set.
Of course, many common foods are now being fortified with omega-3, though the naturally occurring sources remain most popular.
Turmeric, the closest thing to a miracle food, seems to reduce COX-2 activity, among its many benefits. Unlike NSAIDs, the curcumin (the active ingredient) in turmeric can be used to reduce inflammation long term without risking damage to the stomach and intestines. For example, ongoing research at the University of Arizona shows that turmeric inhibits inflammation in the brain following a stroke. A few grams per day may be sufficient to produce the anti-inflammatory effects.
Sprinkle it on your foods or take it in capsulated forms. In capsule form as a nutritional supplement, it may have many times more of the curcumin needed to reduce inflammation.
Dealing with Root Causes
At the same time as the inflammation is being addressed, with information provided through thermographic imaging or other diagnostic techniques, the client and health care providers can begin to address the root causes producing the inflammation. For example, if the cause is excessive estrogen, the client may undergo a liver cleanse to help the liver remove the estrogen. If the inflammation is in the lymph nodes, detoxifying the body may help decrease the stress to the lymph nodes. If inflammation is in the gut, daily use of psyllium seed for a couple of weeks may help clear blockages.
The first step, of course, is to discover whether you are experiencing inflammation. Then, you can set an appropriate, informed course for improving your long-term health.