On February 23rd, 2004 Time Magazine released the magazine cover entitled “The Secret Killer.” The story linked to this cover is about inflammation and how it can affect everything that happens in our body from Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancer, heart attacks right down to aging.
An excerpt from the article explains “Suddenly, inflammation has become one of the hottest areas of medical research. Hardly a week goes by without the publication of yet another study uncovering a new way that chronic inflammation does harm to the body. It destabilizes cholesterol deposits in the coronary arteries, leading to heart attacks and potentially even strokes. It chews up nerve cells in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims. It may even foster the proliferation of abnormal cells and facilitate their transformation into cancer. In other words, chronic inflammation may be the engine that drives many of the most feared illnesses of middle and old age. This concept is so intriguing because it suggests a new and possibly much simpler way of warding off disease. Instead of different treatments for, say, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and colon cancer, there might be a single, inflammation-reducing remedy that would prevent all three.”
Inflammation controls our lives. Have you or a loved one dealt with pain, obesity, ADD/ADHD, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, or cancer?
If you answered yes to any of these disorders you are dealing with inflammation.
Sadly, most of us are suffering from one or more of these disorders but have no idea how to eliminate inflammation. Most doctors are utilizing pharmaceuticals in lieu of getting to the root cause.
It often seems extremely foreign to most people when they realize the majority of inflammatory diseases start in the gut with an autoimmune reaction which progresses into systemic inflammation. To truly be effective at managing or hopefully overcome a disease it needs to be addressed on all levels. Taking a look at where this process starts is the key.
Where Does Inflammation Begin?
Your gut is made of an incredibly large and intricate semi-permeable lining. The surface area of your gut can cover two tennis courts when stretched out flat.
Its degree of permeability fluctuates in response to a variety of chemically mediated conditions. For example when your cortisol is elevated due to the stress of an argument or your thyroid hormone levels fluctuate due to burning the midnight oil your intestinal lining becomes more permeable in real time.
Then you sit down to eat and partially undigested food, toxins, viruses, yeast, and bacteria have the opportunity to pass through the intestine and access the bloodstream, this is known as leaky gut syndrome, or LGS.
When the intestinal lining is repeatedly damaged due to reoccurring leaky gut syndrome, damaged cells called microvilli become unable to do their job properly. They become unable to process and utilize the nutrients and enzymes that are vital to proper digestion. Eventually, digestion is impaired and absorption of nutrients is negatively affected. As more exposure occurs, your body initiates an attack on these foreign invaders. It responds with inflammation, allergic reactions, and other symptoms we relate to a variety of diseases.
So you might ask, what’s the harm of inflammation and ongoing allergic reactions?
It may sound relatively harmless, but this situation can and often does lead to numerous serious and debilitating diseases. Since your immune system can become overburdened, these inflammatory triggers are cycled continuously through your blood where they affect nerves, organs, connective tissues, joints, and muscles. You can probably begin to see how diseases develop.
Inflammation Triggers the Symptoms of Disease
The presence of inflammation is what makes most disease perceptible to an individual. It can and often does occur for years before it exists at levels sufficient to be apparent or clinically significant. How long it has been smoldering really determines the degree of severity of a disease and often the prognosis assuming the inflammation can be controlled. One could also argue that without inflammation most disease would not even exist. Take a look at this list of diseases and their relationship with inflammation:
|Allergy||4 Immune Mediated Types + Sensitivities, all of which cause inflammation|
|Alzheimer’s||Chronic inflammation destroys brain cells|
|Anemia||Inflammatory cytokines attack erythropoietin production|
|Ankylosing Spondylitis||Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against joint surfaces|
|Asthma||Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against airway lining|
|Autism||Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions in the brain arresting right hemisphere development|
|Arthritis||Inflammatory cytokines destroy joint cartilage and synovial fluid|
|Carpal Tunnel Syndrome||Chronic inflammation causes excessive muscle tension shortening tendons in the forearm and wrist compressing the nerves.|
|Celiac||Chronic immune mediated inflammation damages intestinal lining|
|Crohn’s Disease||Chronic immune mediated inflammation damages intestinal lining|
|Congestive heart failure||Chronic inflammation contributes to heart muscle wasting|
|Eczema||Chronic inflammation of the gut and liver with poor detoxification and often antibodies against Transglutaminase-3.|
|Fibromyalgia||Inflamed connective tissue often food allergy related and exacerbated by secondary nutritional and neurological imbalances.|
|Fibrosis||Inflammatory cytokines attack traumatized tissue|
|Gall Bladder Disease||Inflammation of the bile duct or excess cholesterol produced in response to gut inflammation|
|GERD||Inflammation of the esophagus and digestive tract nearly always food sensitivity and pH driven|
|Guillain-Barre||Autoimmune attack of the nervous system often triggered by autoimmune response to external stressors such as vaccinations.|
|Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis||Autoimmune reaction originating in the gut triggered by antibodies against thyroid enzymes and proteins|
|Heart attack||Chronic inflammation contributes to coronary atherosclerosis|
|Kidney failure||Inflammatory cytokines restrict circulation and damage nephrons and tubules in the kidneys|
|Lupus||Inflammatory cytokines induce an autoimmune attack against connective tissue|
|Multiple Sclerosis||Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against myelin|
|Neuropathy||Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against myelin and vascular and connective tissues which irritate nerves.|
|Pancreatitis||Inflammatory cytokines induce pancreatic cell injury|
|Psoriasis||Chronic inflammation of the gut and liver with poor detoxification|
|Polymyalgia Rheumatica||Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against muscles and connective tissue|
|Rheumatoid Arthritis||Inflammatory cytokines induce autoimmune reactions against joints|
|Scleroderma||Inflammatory cytokines induce an autoimmune attack against connective tissue|
|Stroke||Chronic inflammation promoted thromboembolic events|
|Surgical complications||Inflammatory cytokines (often pre-dating the surgery) slow or prevent healing|
The fact that your immune system drives the inflammatory process in disease is well established. Unfortunately Western medicine offers little in the way of actual answers as to managing or overcoming the Autoimmune process. The typical approach to therapy is generally to suppress the immune response with Immune suppressive agents or sometimes steroids. Both approaches are designed to reduce inflammation but neither stops the underlying disease processes or allows for damaged tissues to regenerate.
Unless you turn off the actual cause of fire (inflammation), all you have done is postponed the inevitable and potentially destroyed more of the building (your body) in the process, by allowing the fire to smolder in a subclinical fashion.
Every day on TV you can see professional athletes and others acting as spokespeople for Methotrexate, Orencia, Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, and other drugs which largely are designed to mask inflammation or suppress the immune response. None of these drugs actually have the capacity to correct the underlying condition and yet the imagery the ads leave the viewer with is that you will have your life back.
The term inflammation rarely elicits a truly accurate image in the mind of someone unless they are experiencing it. Then it begins to make sense because of the pain and dysfunction associated with inflammation. The ability to be inflamed is absolutely necessary for normal repair processes to occur. It is when the regulation of inflammation is not tempered or controlled that we begin to have a problem with inflammation.
It has been shown that many of the inflammatory diseases we suffer from are gut mediated but not presenting as gut issues. Dr. Maios Hadjivassiliou of the United Kingdom, a world authority on gluten sensitivity, has reported in The Lancet, that “gluten sensitivity can be primarily and at times, exclusively a neurological disease.” This means that people show gluten sensitivity by having problems with brain function despite having no gastrointestinal problems whatsoever. Dr. Hadjivassiliou indicates that the antibodies that a person has when they are gluten sensitive can be directly and uniquely toxic to the brain. For this there are specialty tests that have been developed.
Another author, published in a recent issue of Pediatrics, stated, “This study suggests that the variability of neurologic disorders that occur in celiac disease is broader than previously reported and includes softer and more common neurologic disorders including chronic headache, developmental delay, hypotonia and learning disorders or ADHD.” Clearly we have to broaden our evaluation criteria and perhaps definition of disease when a patient presents with complaints that do not fit into a typical clinical box.
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|Illustration fromwww.TxFibro.com – a private online neuro-metabolic physician study group|