The Smoldering Fire of Chronic Pain and Disease

by Dr. Greg Fors, DC – Board Certified Neurologist DIBCN Posted On: 03/15/2010

As you well know, inflammation is not necessarily the “Bad Guy”. All healing begins with the much-feared and maligned inflammatory response, a response we try to stop in the U.S. by swallowing 30 billion OTC NSAIDs each year. This of course is misdirected since the inflammatory response allows the body to fight off infections, defeat cancerous cells or heal a sprain or a muscle strain. It is easy to recognize the signs of an acute inflammatory healing response in our patients; pain, redness, swelling and heat. Generally this acute inflammatory process or healing response has a beginning, middle and end that leaves behind non-painful healthy tissue. Most tissues heal within six weeks.

Because of certain dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors this healing response can turn into a disease process of chronic systemic low-grade inflammation in tissues. This inflammation cannot be healed by taking anti-inflammatory drugs. With chronic inflammation your patients are the walking wounded unknowingly stalking the chronic disease that finally brings them down. It is so significant in cardiovascular disease that individuals are more than two times as likely to have a heart attack when they have higher levels of systemic “silent” inflammation!

More than ‘Just’ Aches and Pains

Chronic systemic inflammation is now known to be a miscommunication within your neuroimmune system and therefore it can have wide spread and multiple effects on your health. New research is being published almost daily in journals demonstrating the strong connection between this silent inflammation and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and neurological disorders such as depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Therefore all patients should be assessed for chronic inflammation and properly treated if present.

The primary causative factors in systemic inflammation are the foods that we eat and the exercise we don’t get on a daily basis; refined sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, saturated fat and trans-fatty acids in our diet, along with our sedentary lifestyles. Studies demonstrate that diets high in sugars and simple carbohydrates raise levels of chronic inflammation as evidenced by increased levels of hsCRP.(1) Research has also shown that diets high in sugar and saturated fats are inherently pro-inflammatory and associated with a higher incidence of chronic muscle and joint pain disorders(2), usually the first symptom that chronic inflammation is present. Consumption of trans-fatty acids has also been shown to raise important indicators of chronic inflammation.(3) Patient’s must carefully examine all food labels for the words trans-fatty acids, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and partially hydrogenated oils to identify these culprits. Furthermore, trans-fatty acids have been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, along with colon and breast cancer.(4)

Healing Their Pain and So Much More

Along with the removal of the simple carbohydrates and ‘bad fats’ from your patient’s diet, place them on at least 1.5 grams of EPA omega-3 fatty acids and 1 gram of DHA omega-3 fatty acids to improve their cellular anti-inflammatory prostaglandin production. To help your patients lower pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and cytokines and even assist in the treatment of depression, utilize concentrated standardized extracts of curcumin along with the omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Very recent studies have also shown the benefit of utilizing curcumin in treating depression. One study found that curcumin significantly enhanced serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitter function and provided monoamine oxidase inhibitory effects.(5) Furthermore, a 2009 study has established that elevated pro-inflammatory cytokines in chronic systemic inflammation are a causative factor in major depression.(6)

To fully identify the underlying causes of your patient’s healthcare problems consider adding a Urinary Organic Acid Profile and a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis to their blood lab work. These two tests can established if unhealthy microbes are growing in your patients’ digestive tracts, a condition known as dysbiosis. Dysbiosis or “bad bugs” in the gut can become a reservoir for endotoxins that can create systemic inflammation and lead to all the diseases and disorders connected to it. In two studies, an amazing 100% of chronic myofascial pain patients tested positive for small intestine bacterial overgrowth, or dysbiosis; strong evidence that chronic pain disorders we so commonly see can be caused and maintained by bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.(7) Furthermore, in these two studies, the greater the patient’s bacterial overgrowth and production of the endotoxins in the digestive tract, the greater the patients’ symptoms of overall chronic pain.

Other studies have shown that these absorbed bacterial endotoxins from dysbiosis can cause inflammation of your liver.(8) This leads to another problem with dysbiosis, it can overwhelm the liver’s detoxification capacity, especially now in our modern toxic drug ridden world. This makes complete sense when we understand that a healthy gastrointestinal tract is your first defense against toxic substances entering the body. Dysbiosis has been shown to be a major source of the “sick and sore all over” complaint of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue patients.

A Urinary Organic Acid Profile can also show elevated Glucarate, which is an indication of chronic toxic chemical exposure. This may also go along with an elevated blood liver enzyme called GGT. With the air we breathe and the water we drink, we bring cell-damaging pollutants into our body. Along with the approximate 1,530 pounds of yearly food and water we intake, pounds of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, food additives, chemical preservatives and industrial chemical contaminants enter our body. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has measured the actual levels of toxic chemicals in the human body as a part of the National Human Adipose Tissue Survey, or NHATS.(9) The number-one toxin found is also one of the most deadly toxins known; Dioxin, and it is found in 100% of all U.S citizens sampled. All of the chemicals found have been shown to increase chronic systemic inflammation and adversely affect our nervous system. The science is in and it is conclusive; the overwhelming truth is that we live in a very toxic world.

EPA National Human Adipose Tissue Survey (NHATS) – Measured levels of chemical toxins stored in human fat tissues-

  • 5 of the most toxic chemicals found in 100% of fat samples analyzed were: (1) OCDD-dioxin, (2) Styrene, (3) 1, 4-dichlorobenzene, (4) Xylene, (5) Ethyl phenol

  • 9 other toxic chemicals were found in 98% of the fat samples including: benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, DDE, 3 dioxins, and 1 furan

  • PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) were found in 80% of the U.S. population

The Cellular 3R Program, Remove, Restore and Repair Is there any question why we are now seeing an epidemic of chronic pain, ADHD, autism, and mood disorders? Yet these disorders are just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath are millions more individuals who unknowingly suffer with an injured nervous system and their only symptoms are chronic myofascial pain, fatigue, lack of mental clarity and feeling run-down! Utilizing a natural biomedical approach to your patients’ healing will take time, but all good things do. By changing their diet, nutrient levels, eliminating toxins, correcting any dysbiosis and removing food allergies, our patients’ are able to overcome their chronic inflammation, healing their pain and improving their mood and memory, and unlocking the full potential of their life!

Once the key factors causing chronic inflammation have been identified through a proper diagnostic workup, a patient specific program can be commenced to normalize function. Utilizing the 3R program, Remove, Restore and Repair, dietary and lifestyle factors causing chronic inflammation must be Removed, based on metabolic needs nutrient levels must be Restored and cellular damage must be Repaired. With this 3R program, your patients are able to return to a life without pain and depression and without relying on drugs to get them through their day. For an in-depth discussion on this all important subject, see my book “Why We Hurt”

Specific BIOSPEC products have been designed to assist you in this 3R Program:

  1. Liu, J. E. Manson, J. E. Buring, et al., Am J Clin Nutr 75, no. 3 (2002): 492–98.
  2. A. Aljada, P. Mohanty, H. Ghanim, et al., Am J Clin Nutr 79, no. 4 (2004): 682–89.
  3. E.Lopez-Garcia, M. B. Schulze, J. B. Meigs, et al., J Nutr 135, no. 3 (2005): 562–66.
  4. Bakke, P. van’t Veer, and P. L. Zock, EURAMIC Study Group, Int J Cancer 72, no. 4 (1997): 587–91.
  5. Bhutani MK, et. Al., Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2009 Mar;92(1):39-43.
  6. Dhabhar FS, ET. Al. J Psychiatr Res. 2009 Jul;43(11):962-9.
  7. M. Pimentel, D. Wallace, D. Hallegua, E. Chow, Y. Kong, S. Park, and H. C. Lin, Ann Rheum Dis 63, no. 4 (April 2004): 450–52.
  8. S. M. Riordan, C. J. McIver, and R. Williams, Am J Gastro 93, no. 2 (February 1998): 234–47. (This study can be reviewed at http://cfpub.epa/gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=55204.)