Chronic Inflammation, Pain & Disease: Combating Them Naturally (Part 2)
Whole-body inflammation refers to chronic, imperceptible, low-level inflammation. . . .[O]ver time this kind of inflammation sets the foundation for many serious, age-related diseases including heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Recent evidence indicates that whole-body inflammation may also contribute to psychological disorders, especially depression . . . .
The extent of this chronic inflammation is influenced by genetics, a sedentary lifestyle, too much stress, and exposure to environmental toxins . . . . Diet has a huge impact so much so that I believe that most people in our part of the world go through life in a pro-inflammatory state as a result of what they eat.
~ Andrew Weil, MD – drweil.com
Are you fed up with chronic pain or discomfort? What healthy steps are you willing to take to combat it and the chronic inflammation (CI) that underlies it? Part 1 of this two-part article explained how CI develops and its role in pain and chronic disease. It emphasized that preventing and reducing CI first and foremost requires (1) following an anti-inflammatory, alkalizing diet, (2) minimizing the permeability of the intestinal walls, and (3) removing excess toxins from the body on a daily basis. Below is a discussion of various dietary supplements, alphabetized for easy reference, that can begin to address the CI that is underlying your chronic health condition or disease.
Aloe Vera: This versatile plant contains 75 potentially active constituents, including vitamins (e.g, beta-carotene, C and E), enzymes, minerals, fatty acids, sugars, lignins, salicylic acids, and amino acids. Its juice and gel forms can be used internally or topically to address various types of inflammation due to the plant’s antifungal, antibacterial, analgesic, antiviral, and antioxidant properties. While some experts maintain that more clinical studies are warranted, aloe has been shown in clinical practice to aid certain conditions, such as: (1) digestive disorders (acid reflux/GERD, constipation, diarrhea, candida, peptic ulcers, NSAID damage); (2) kidney stones (anthraquinones bind calcium to reduce the growth rate of urinary crystals); (3) osteoarthritis and other non-cancer chronic pain; and (4) high blood sugar/types 1 and 2 diabetes.
Astaxanthin: Carotenes (e.g., beta-carotene, lycopene) and xanthopylls (e.g., astaxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin), the two types of antioxidant carotenoids found in plants, algae, and microorganisms, are required in the human diet. While human scientific evidence is somewhat limited, pinkish-colored astaxanthin (found in salmon and krill) is considered to have the capacity to: (1) combat inflammation, oxidative stress, and mental/physical fatigue; (2) support eye, skin, and cardiovascular health (including protection against atherosclerosis); (3) improve exercise performance and fight muscle fatigue; and (4) clean cells, preserve their membranes, and protect them from UV damage. The average daily recommended dose is 6-8mg.
Curcumin: A polyphenol extracted from turmeric, this member of the ginger family has been used in traditional Indian medicine for more than 3000 years. Studies have shown that this potent antioxidant combats inflammation, bacteria (including H. pylori), fungus/yeast, and viruses. It targets a wide range of diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer, (e.g., tumors, breast and cervical cancers). One professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics noted that curcumin “was just as potent at killing tumor cells in the lab as any experimental drug” she had seen from pharmaceutical companies.
Otherwise difficult to absorb, curcumin is best taken when incorporated into an absorption-enhancing drug delivery system. High doses of regular or 95% standardized turmeric have demonstrated in clinical practice to potentially cause diarrhea and mild nausea in those with sensitive digestive systems.
Fish Oil (EPA/DHA): High quality fish oil, in the right dose and ratio to omega-6 fatty acids, is a critical part of every nutritional supplement regimen. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition has reported that EPA and DHA, two of the key omega-3 essential fatty acids in the oil of fatty fish, “may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease, hypertension, arthritis, other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, and cancer.” In one 2016 review of research on DHA and brain development and function, the writers stated that their findings suggest “a role of DHA in cognitive decline and in relation to major psychiatric disorders.”
Flavonoids: These antioxidant plant pigments are more effective against a wider range of oxidants than vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc. With their anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic, antiviral, and anticancer properties, it is possible to select among the 8,000+ flavonoid compounds to target specific conditions. While many flavonoids provide full-body antioxidant protection (i.e., are systemic antioxidants – SAs), experts recommend in particular doses: (1) Pine Bark/Grape Seed Extract (Min 95% OPCs) – SA; especially for lungs, varicose veins, heart, and healthy blood sugar levels; 100mg/day was shown to reduce CRP in osteoarthritic study subjects; especially for those under age 50; (2) Green Tea Extract (Min 60-70% Polyphenols) – SA; as potentially the best protection against cancer and cholesterol damage; ideal as a daily detoxifier; (3) Milk Thistle Extract (Min 70% Silymarin) – especially supports the liver and skin; (4) Bilberry Extract (Min 25% Anthocyanidins) – for the eyes; (5) Hawthorn Berry Extract (Min 10% Proanthocyanidins) – for heart disease and hypertension; (6) Ginkgo Biloba (Min 24% Ginkgo Flavonglycosides) – for the brain; especially for those over age 50 who are not hypertensive.
Ginger: The anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial, and anti-aging properties of ginger can render it highly supportive for: (1) joint degeneration (osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis) and muscle pain (especially during exercise when consumed beforehand); (2) digestive ailments (indigestion/nausea/vomiting, constipation, ulcers, esophagitis); (3) diabetes; (4) cancer prevention; (5) heart disease; (6) neurodegenerative diseases; and (7) hepatitis. Some of the components determined to be particularly bioactive include gingerols, terpenes, oleoresin, sesquiterpene hydrocarbons, and shogaol.
Trans-Resveratrol: This non-flavonoid polyphenol is found in various amounts in red wine (1 mg per glass), red grape skins, grape seeds, the roots of Japanese knotweed, dark chocolate/cacao powder, peanuts, and mulberry skins. In 2011, the findings of the 2010 Resveratrol Conference in Denmark were published to examine all scientific evidence (nearly 3,700 published studies) supporting the plant chemical’s ability to prevent disease. The report’s experts identified 12 mechanisms by which resveratrol delays aging and combats five degenerative diseases that are the leading causes of death in the United States: heart disease; stroke; cancer; Alzheimer’s disease; and diabetes. More recent studies clarify and amplify their conclusions.
Although most studies have been in vitro, or have involved animal models of human disease, Julian Whitaker, MD, has maintained that “they leave no doubts about resveratrol’s therapeutic potential.” Studies have shown that resveratrol: (1) is a powerful antioxidant; (2) suppresses inflammation; (3) protects cell mitochondria; (4) suppresses fat cell formation and stimulates fat breakdown; (5) regulates cancer cell proliferation, apoptosis (programmed cell death), and angiogenesis (cancer-related blood vessel formation), and inhibits metastasis; (6) regulates DNA damage; (7) regulates foreign molecule and toxin metabolism; (8) regulates estrogenic and anti-estrogenic activity; and (10) stimulates bone formation.
While anti-inflammatory supplements can generally be used safely in a preventive regimen, it is best to seek the advice of an expert in holistic medicine when attempting to change the course of disease. Since nutritional supplements can interact with prescription drugs, advise your doctor of your desire to incorporate complementary medicine into your health program, and do your own research before mixing natural remedies with any medications prescribed.
The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to take the place of a physician’s advice.
Submitted by J. Erika Dworkin, Certified Lifestyle Educator, and Nutrition Consultant and owner of the Manchester Parkade Health Shoppe (860.646.8178, 378 Middle Turnpike West, Manchester, CT, www.cthealthshop.com), trusted since 1956. Erika is available to speak to groups.
All statements in this article are research-based and references are available upon request.