Eat Better - Live Better - Feel Better
Dr. Alvin H. Danenberg
The functioning of the human body is extraordinarily complex. There is no man-made machine in existence that is as intricate as our body. Science continues to try to figure it out. One dilemma we all face is that we don't know what we don't know.
Science and medicine try to come together to discover the Holy Grail for the way the body works. However, we frequently learn that some facts once proven in the past are disproven today. Some examples:
- It used to be thought that eating high cholesterol foods increased the risk of cardiovascular disease. Past research proved it as fact; then recent research disproved it.
- It used to be thought that the drug Vioxx was one of the greatest prescription medications to decrease inflammation and pain. Past research proved it as fact; then Vioxx was pulled off the market because people were dying from it.
- People were given antibiotics to kill bacteria whenever there was an inkling of infection in the body. Past research proved it; then some people over time experienced increasing gut problems because of the destruction of healthy bacteria from repeated doses of antibiotics.
How many new discoveries will be disproven in the future? There's no telling; science is ever evolving. However, here is a statement that may prove to be infallible:
Chronic, systemic inflammation appears to be involved in almost every disease known to man.
Numerous research papers from around the world have shown this statement to be true. Devastating and debilitating diseases like obesity, cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases are just a few of the diseases that chronic inflammation either causes or exacerbates. Chronic inflammation can affect joints, muscles, skin, bone, organs, and the mouth. All body systems can be damaged by chronic inflammation.
One intriguing question we might want to ask ourselves is, "Are there some simplistic but verified actions we can take to eliminate or reduce chronic inflammation?"
And, the answer is, "Yes!"
Science has shown that certain foods and lifestyles encourage chronic inflammation in the body, and certain foods and lifestyles reduce or eliminate chronic inflammation in the body. The way I see it, the Holy Grail for having a healthy body includes getting rid of the former and embracing the latter. As a matter of fact, the external influences of food and lifestyle are significantly more important for our health than any bad genes we may have inherited.
What is causing chronic inflammation?
Acute inflammation is part of the normal response of the body when it is damaged. When you get a cut, your body mobilizes an army to repair that damage through the actions of your immune system. If you have a bacterial infection, your body again mobilizes an army to gobble up the bad guys and dispose of them. The affected areas become red, swollen, warm, and painful. All of this is part of an acute inflammatory reaction. If you didn't have this mechanism, you would surely die. Even exercise can injure your muscles and stimulate an acute inflammatory response, but your body heals the injury and bounces back stronger than it was before.
But the problem begins when acute inflammation does not subside.
What would happen if you would continuously stab yourself in the same spot? What would happen if virulent bacteria unremittingly invaded your body? What would happen to your muscles if you kept exercising without allowing time for tissue to repair? When the inflammatory process continues on and on without stopping, it becomes chronic inflammation. All of the normal repair processes get out of control and start to damage tissues and organs. The repair process now has become a destructive process.
Certain foods and toxic substances that you eat everyday can change the makeup of your gut bacteria. It is estimated that you have over 35,000 different unique species living in your gut. Some are good; some are bad; some are middle-of-the-road. But, they live in a state of balance when you are healthy. However, if they were to be bombarded everyday by things that make them upset, the bad guys could get out of control and begin to function poorly and damage the gut lining. Acute inflammation becomes chronic inflammation. The biochemicals of chronic inflammation can travel through the bloodstream and affect everything in your body.
In addition to what you eat, there are other sources that could take acute inflammation to the dangerous level of chronic inflammation affecting your gut and the rest of your body. They include:
- Psychological stress (maybe from a job you hate, or financial stresses, or unhappy social interactions, or being fired from your job, or the strain of caring for a loved one with a serious disease, or sexual or physical abuse, or on and on)
- Sleep deprivation
- Excessive exercise
In Part 2 of 3, I'll discuss how chronic inflammation is damaging the body.