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)