This is Part 3 of a 3-Part series.
Three important determinants of an anti-inflammatory diet include the edible oils that you choose and your level of consumption of both fish and refined carbohydrates.
An important step is to drop the solvent-extracted, partially hydrogenated omega-6 oils (like canola, sunflower and safflower oils) in favour of healthier oils like cold pressed olive oil, avocado oil and macadamia oil. These oils are rich in oleic acid, an omega-9 fat that reduces the activity of “adhesion molecules”, which promote inflammation. Flaxseed oil contains 57% omega-3 and is the ideal salad oil to help you reclaim your EFA balance. However, it can never be used for cooking as fragile omega-3 oils are so easily oxidized. Coconut oil and red palm oil are the best cooking oils, as they have high smoke points and are very stable. These are plant-based saturated fats that are extremely healthy and they do not sponsor weight gain. Red palm oil contains exceptional levels of all eight forms of vitamin E. It actually contains the highest known levels of all four tocotrienals, which appear to be up to forty times more potent as antioxidants than the tocopherols. Red palm oil also contains the highest levels of carotenes of any food and includes the well researched Lycopene. There are a huge range of benefits and if you search these oils on the internet you may be surprised.
Most of us should probably eat more fish as fish oil contains the powerful protectants, EPA and DHA. The ability of the human body to convert alpha linolenic acid into EPA and DHA varies, so it is great to source it in a ready-to-use form from fish. Cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines contain the highest levels of oil. Welsh researcher, Dr Bruce Caterson, discovered the fact that omega-3 fish oils inhibited “aggrecanases”, a family of enzymes that breaks down cartilage. The fish oils are also Cox 2 inhibitors without the side effects.
Excess insulin is very inflammatory so cut back on refined carbohydrates. These include sugars (sucrose, fructose etc), refined grains (white bread, pasta and white rice) and starchy vegetables like potatoes as they raise insulin levels, which boosts CRP levels. The empty calories in high carb food sponsor weight gains, which leads to higher levels of CRP and IL-6. Eating by the glycemic index is the proven way to lose weight and reduce insulin levels while avoiding pancreatic exhaustion.
The Top Ten Inflammation Fighters
Fish Oil tops the list because it supplies good levels of EPA and DHA and sidesteps issues related to conversion from alpha linolenic acid. This is important considering the fact that trans fatty acids found in so many of our supermarket foods interfere with the enzymes involved in making DHA and EPA.
Therapeutic dose – 5 grams per day (5 caps).
Gamma Linolenic Acid – GLA is an important link in balancing pro and anti-inflammatory factors. GLA lifts levels of prostaglandin E1, which reduces inflammation, caused by prostaglandin E2. Evening primrose, Borage, Blackcurrant and Hemp oils are the best sources.
Therapeutic Dose – 2 grams per day.
Vitamin C, Glucosamine and Chondroiton – vitamin C is required for the formation of collagen and it is a powerhouse antioxidant while glucosamine and chondroiton are used to reduce pain and rebuild joint cartilage.
Therapeutic dose – 1000 mg of each.
Flavonoids – over 5000 of these plant chemicals have been identified to date. They were manufactured by plants, for plants but they just happen to also work for us. Many of these phytochemicals are anti-inflammatory but the most powerful are quercetin, procyanidins (found in grape seed and pine bark) and rutin (buckwheat is the best source).
Therapeutic dose – 300 to 500 mgs of quercetin, 150 to 300 mgs of grapeseed or pinebark extract and 1000 mgs to 3000 mgs of rutin.
Boswellia – also called Indian frankincense, this herb has been used for inflammation in ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Recent research shows it can switch off cytokines in the inflammatory cascade.
Ginger – the world’s most popular herb is known for its anti-nausea benefits but it also a powerful anti-inflammatory. It suppresses pro-inflammatory prostaglandins just like NSAIDs without side effects. Shagaol, a biochemical found in ginger can kill the cold virus at 1 ppm (one tablespoon of grated ginger).
Turmeric – this Asian herb contains cucurmin, which has been described as the most powerful anti-inflammatory compound ever studied. This phytochemical is also a Cox-2 inhibitor and it affects the activation of inflammation-regulating genes.
B6, B12 and Folic Acid – this is the trio that fights homocysteine, the destructive free radical linked to heart disease and neurological problems. SAMe is another methyl donor which neutralises homocysteine and it also has anti-inflammatory qualities in its own right.
Therapeutic dose – 1000 mcg of folic acid and B12, 100mg of B6 per day.
MSM – methylsulfonylmethane is a source of biological sulfur that helps hold tissues together and relieves the pain of joint inflammation.
Therapeutic dose – 1000 mg per day.
Vitamin E – this fat-soluble vitamin is better known for its antioxidant capacity but there is a growing realisation that it is also an important anti-inflammatory nutrient.
Therapeutic Dose – 400 to 800 IU daily.
The Hidden Value of Vitamin E
In 1995, Dr Kenny Jialal, and his team at the University of Texas, discovered that LDL was only a problem if it was oxidised. LDL actually serves an important purpose. It carries fat-soluble anti-oxidants, like beta-carotene and vitamin E, through the blood but this small particle is easily oxidised in their absence. The oxidised LDL triggers an immune response where white blood cells attack and blood vessel inflammation is the result. During the subsequent immune response the body also excretes the inflammatory substances interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP). Dr Jialal conducted research where 1200 IU’s of natural vitamin E supplemented for 3 months resulted in a 30% reduction in CRP and a 50% reduction in IL-6, CRP’s parent molecule. NZ researcher, Dr Jane Uprichard, reported in “The Journal of Diabetes Care” that subjects given 800 IU’s of vitamin E a day reduced CRP by 50% in just 4 weeks. Vitamin E is also a mild Cox-2 inhibitor and it inhibits various adhesion molecules that promote inflammation. Vitamin E also appears to switch off some of the genetic activity leading to inflammation. English researcher, Dr Andrew Fogarty, in his paper published in “Lancet”, reported that higher vitamin E was linked to lower levels of IgE, a marker of allergic reactions.
Seeking The Elusive Source
If you suffer inflammation of any kind then the goal becomes to discover the root cause of the problem to escape a lifetime of medication. We have discussed several of the key possibilities but here are seven other contenders:
Sleep is medicinal – sleep is an inflammation antidote if we get between 7 to 9 hours each night. In September 2009, researchers at the UCLA Cousins Centre published a paper in a journal called,” Biological Psychiatry”, showing that even a single night of disrupted sleep can trigger tissue-damaging inflammation. Healthy sleep habits could play a role in a host of diseases with an inflammatory link. However, it is all about getting it “just right” as too much sleep is also a problem!
Lose the gut - adipose tissue (gut fat) acts almost as if it were an organ except it does nothing good. Abdominal fat cells produce bio-chemicals and hormones most of which are detrimental to our health. For example, the hormone resistin, implicated in type 2 diabetes, is produced by these cells. Similarly, these cells produce aramotase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. Excess estrogen feeds prostate and breast cancer via increased cell proliferation. In July 2006, researchers at the University of Texas showed for the first time that fat cells could produce the inflammatory protein, CRP.
In 2007, Dr Elizabeth Selvin and friends conducted a large sale, systematic review of existing research and concluded that weight loss consistently lowers CRP.
Stress fans the flames – 90% of the US food budget (110 billion dollars) is spent on processed food. The diet-related increase in inflammatory chemicals correlates with a massive increase in stress related disease because they are inextricably intertwined.
The body responds to increased food-related inflammation by releasing the anti-inflammatory, stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol elevates stress levels, which drives a craving for sugar and salt, which further increases inflammation and so goes the downward spiral. In February 2009, US researchers also linked Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to inflammation and increased mortality rates.
Type A Personalities are known to have more heart attacks but new research reveals that men who tend toward anger, hostility and depression have increased systemic inflammation, which is linked to a host of diseases.
Recent published papers have shown that loneliness and job stress also drive inflammation.
On the upside, researchers at Emory University in Atlanta have found that eight weeks of yoga was found to significantly reduce inflammation markers and increase quality of life for patients with heart failure.
New research suggests that high temperature cooking is a major player in inflammation. This strengthens the argument for increasing raw food intake and suggests that we throw out our microwaves and stop scrambling eggs (scrambling eggs for more than 60 seconds oxidises the LDL cholesterol content).
Stop smoking – smoking is regarded as the mother of all free radical generators producing 1 billion oxidants per lung-full. Free radicals invoke an inflammatory response, which compromises the mouth, throat, lungs, heart and brain.
Exercise – 30 minutes of brisk walking, five times per week can reduce age-related inflammation. Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that cardiovascular fitness is directly related to CRP levels.
EMFs – Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS) is an increasingly prevalent disorder characterised by fatigue, headaches, chest pain, heartbeat irregularities, skin rashes, muscle ache, confusion and poor concentration. We live amidst a storm of electromagnetic radiation coming from mobile phone towers, power lines, satellites, radar dishes and wireless internet and this appears to be compromising our own bio-electrical system.
Leading EMF researcher, Dr Dietrich Klinghardt, cites a study, which showed that when microbial pathogens are exposed to EMF’s, they respond as if they are under attack and they increase the virility of their toxins. Dr Klinghardt believes that some 50% of chronic infections are caused by, or aggravated by, EMF’s, leading to disorders like Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia.
Dr Yoshiaki Omura claims that heavy metal contamination (particularly mercury) makes the body a virtual antenna that concentrates radiation. The theory is that mercury stored in the brain magnifies EMF’s which in turn increase microbial response in a vicious cycle that can result in the sensitivity disorder (EHS).
Exciting Anti-inflammatory Enzyme
Serrapeptase is a proteolytic enzyme originally derived from bacteria found in silkworms.
This powerhouse protector digests non-living tissue, cysts, arterial plaque, blood clots, internal scar tissue and can eradicate varicose veins. Serrapeptase has been used clinically in Europe and Asia for over 30 years and was used by renowned German physician, Dr Hans Neiper, as a treatment for arterial blockage in his coronary patients. Serrapeptase is reportedly more effective than EDTA chelation in the removal of plaque from clogged arteries, thereby removing the source of arterial inflammation. It does so without interfering with cholesterol or inhibiting prostaglandins. It appears to be a viable alternative to NSAID’s with no dangerous gastro-intestinal side effects. Serrapeptase has been successfully used to treat a huge range of inflammatory disorders ranging from arthritis, diabetes and MS to cardiovascular disease, sports injuries and enlarged prostate.
Conventional treatment of the many “itis” diseases is piecemeal and uncoordinated but incredibly lucrative for the drug companies, as the ongoing treatment invariably has no completion date. Inflammation can lurk behind many disorders and there is a great deal we can do to address the problem without resorting to the chemical solution. It may not be easy to identify the root cause of your inflammation but the end result will be infinitely more rewarding.
Disclaimer: Any advice provided is for information purposes only. You should seek professional medical advice before supplementing your diet.