Aging, Heart Health and Cancer: Inflammation Plays a Role!
What Does Inflammation have to do with Aging, Heart Health and Cancer?
. . . by Len Goldstein
We all know from past experience that we will feel the effects of inflammation in our joints, our backs and our necks. There is however, compelling research showing that the following serious and unexpected problems can also result from chronic inflammation:
* coronary health disease
What Causes Inflammation?
Inflammation is a process by which the body’s white blood cells and chemicals protect us from infection and foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses. There are times however, when body’s defense system (immune system) inappropriately triggers an inflammatory response when there are no foreign substances to fight off:
* Chronic low-grade food allergies or food sensitivities that may cause few symptoms.
* An imbalance of bacteria and fungi in your gastrointestinal tract, also known as dysbiosis. This causes your immune system to overreact to bacteria in your gut and can be without notable symptoms.
* Stress! Constant psychological, emotional or physical stress raises the level of cortisol, creating inflammation.
* Environmental toxicity from our air, water, food pollutants and toxic metals like mercury and lead all contribute to inflammation and have been linked to diseases as varied as endometriosis and cancer.
* Diet and lifestyle: too much fat, sugar, and protein in your diet, constant dehydration, consumption of too many sodas or caffeine, inactivity, and lack of sleep can all increase inflammation in your body
How can inflammation cause coronary heart disease?
In Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Heart Health, he explains that C-reactive protein (CRP) is a substance found in blood that is a marker for inflammation in the body. High levels of this protein are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and low levels with a low risk. The notion that inflammation plays a central role in heart disease is relatively new, although we've long known that CRP levels go up to signal any type of inflammation. So far, no one knows exactly what contributes to the inflammation that might trigger or worsen heart disease.
However, the link between elevated CRP levels and heart disease has been demonstrated repeatedly, and there is some evidence that CRP may be a more important indicator of heart disease risk than high LDL ("bad") cholesterol. In an eight-year study involving 27,939 women led by Paul Ridker, MD, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, more than half of the women who eventually developed heart disease had high CRP levels even though their LDL levels were not considered high. Dr. Ridker has estimated that the same may be true for 25 percent of the U.S. population.
How can inflammation cause Cancer?
In CureToday.com’s article, The Internal Flame by Karen Patterson, she explains that the role of inflammation in some cancers of the colon is well-established. For example, patients with inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, have a marked increase in cancer risk. Inflammation has also been implicated in bladder cancer, and there’s some evidence it may play a role in prostate cancer as well.
For many years, research into the origins of cancer focused on the notion of one cell unilaterally going awry and spawning a malignancy. More recently, scientists have grasped that a multiplicity of factors in the vicinity of a cell—its so-called microenvironment—can help the process along.
Robert Weinberg, PhD, director of the Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Many such causes of cancer are not well-understood. “The question is, what happens to a normal cell en route to becoming a cancer cell? It may find itself in inflamed tissue, where the biochemical conditions of inflammation encourage it to proliferate and acquire more and more genetic changes, incrementally leading it to develop into a malignant cell.”
How Can Inflammation Cause Aging?
The affect of inflammation on Aging is discussed in a Life Extension Foundation newsletter titled “Aging and Inflammation”. They open the discussion by stating that persuasive scientific evidence exists that correcting chronic inflammation will enable many of the infirmities of aging to be prevented or reversed.
In a study of almost 5,000 elderly people, scientists discovered that frail seniors were more likely to have signs of increased inflammation than their more active counterparts. This study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and showed that these frail seniors with elevated blood inflammatory markers also tended to have more clotting activity, muscle weakness, fatigue and disability than active elderly people. There is also evidence that chronic inflammation destroys brain cells which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Findings from these studies should motivate every health conscious individual to have their blood tested for the inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein. If it is elevated, then the Inflammatory Cytokine Test Panel is highly recommended.
For those of you wishing to control inflammation through the use of nutritional supplements, many options exist. Herbs such as turmeric and devil's claw are effective. Fish Oil, or omega-3 supplements can help. Many companies have products that contain combinations of natural anti-inflammatory agents. One example is Zyflamend by New Chapter. This product blends 10 potent herbal extracts, including Rosemary, Turmeric, Ginger, Holy Basil and Green Tea. It’s a patented formulation containing at least 8 phytonutrients that may safely and significantly promote a healthy inflammation response.