Inflammation is a normal, natural and complex series of chemical and cellular activities performed by the body in response to injury or abnormal stimulation caused by a physical, chemical, or biological agent. The inflammatory response (warmth, pain, redness and swelling) is a desirable defense mechanism. The normal inflammatory response has an ON/OFF switch. When the acute injury or abnormal stimulation is controlled, the switch is turned off. In chronic inflammation (arthritis, dermatitis, thyroiditis, psoriasis and numerous other chronic health conditions), something has gone wrong with the OFF switch.
Acute inflammation prevents the spread of damaging agents, disposes of cell debris and sets the stage for tissue repair that returns the body to its original state. Chronic inflammation often leads to tissue destruction (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, chronic bronchitis) and is now thought to be the most important factor in causing heart disease, Type II diabetes, obesity, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, neurodegenerative diseases, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as all autoimmune diseases.
Inflammation can be triggered by improper diet or food choices, stress, man-made chemicals in air, food, water, cosmetics and drugs, pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungi. Conventional medicine seems to acknowledge many of these causative agents but it's overwhelming “solution” is prescription drugs. While short-term use of steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) drugs can be very effective, long-term use of any of these drugs (beyond a few weeks) can lead to life threatening side effects (hemorrhage, osteoporosis, heart disease and premature death).
On a molecular level, the damage to tissues caused by inflammation is the result of free radicals, the highly unstable atoms or molecules possessing an unpaired electron that look to steal electrons from more stable molecules. Free radicals come from pesticides, microwave damage to our food, burnt foods, fried foods, rancid foods, irradiated foods, microbe contaminated food, trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, thousands of inhaled or transdermal chemicals and preservatives.
One defense against free radicals is antioxidants, a class of substances that can neutralize free radicals before they can cause any tissue damage. They prevent damage to our DNA. Antioxidants can be found in many foods, especially colorful fruits and vegetables. They go by names like lycopene, beta-carotene and vitamins A, C, E, and bioflavonoids. In general, the foods containing these antioxidants are alkaline forming while more acid forming foods (meats, dairy, most grains, especially gluten, sugar and refined carbohydrates) are acid forming and free radical generating.
Julie Daniluk’s book, Meals That Heal Inflammation, is one of the best of the books available that not only tells you what the best foods are for healing inflammation, but also gives you many practical suggestions for meals.
All antioxidant supplements are anti-inflammatory and all anti-inflammatory supplements are antioxidants. A good anti-inflammatory protocol is listed below. The severity of the inflammation involved dictates the number and dosages for all these supplements.
- Multivitamin and Mineral: this would be the bare minimum to provide antioxidants; avoid multiples containing iron since too much iron can be pro-inflammatory).
- B Complex Vitamins: essential for numerous beneficial effects for inflammation, especially in heart disease.
- Vitamins A, C, D, K and E Complex: all demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory activity in all inflammatory conditions. Deficiencies make inflammation worse.
- Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone): a powerful antioxidant that is particularly useful for all cardiovascular problems including high blood pressure. CoQ10 is a must for anyone taking cardiac medications because most cardiac drugs destroy the body’s own production of CoQ10. CoQ10 has anti-cancer effects and is effective therapy for Parkinson’s disease.
- Serrapeptase: an enzyme derived from the silkworm appears to be one of the most potent and effective of all the anti-inflammatory enzymes. In high enough doses, serrapeptase is capable of dissolving atherosclerotic plaque. It can also dissolve a cancer cell’s protective coat thereby making virtually any chemotherapeutic remedy more effective.
- Curcumin: from the spice turmeric is a potent natural anti-inflammatory agent compared in efficacy as an anti-inflammatory agent to prescription corticosteroids. Research also indicates curcumin could be an effective natural anticancer agent.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA fractions): from fish oil are effective at suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokines without side effects. Ideally omega-3 fatty acids work best with high doses of vitamin D. EPA acts as a substrate for enzymes called cyclooxygenases and lipoxygenases. It competes with arachadonic acid (pro-inflammatory) for these enzymes. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids thus reduces inflammation because arachadonic acid derivatives (prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes) are less active. The potency of these fish oils approximates those of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) with negligible side effects.
If you wish to start an anti-inflammatory program of diet change and supplements, it’s highly recommended you see a natural health care provider to work with you on a personalized plan.