In a previous article, Epigenetics and Loving Your Telomeres, I addressed the impact that stress, sleep quality and diet have on our overall health and our biological aging process. One of the key pathways to speeding up our biological clock (aging) occurs when our bodies are experiencing a constant state of inflammation.Under proper circumstances, inflammation is another brilliant way that our bodies fight off foreign invaders, such as virus and bacteria, and heal after the trauma of a sprain, bone break, or wound. Without it, healing would not occur. This is called acute inflammation, and it’s a good thing.
Then there’s chronic, low level inflammation (or silent inflammation), and that’s the beast. This type of inflammation occurs when our body wrongly perceives an internal problem and prompts an inflammatory response that is not actually needed. White blood cells answer the mistaken call to arms, and sometimes start attacking internal organs or other tissues and cells. Over time, deterioration of the heart, brain and overall immune system manifests in chronic disease.
This is long-term inflammation is a result of environmental factors we might not even know exist (pollutants, allergies) and/or habits we have formed in our diet/lifestyle. Excess weight automatically causes an inflammatory response. Poor diet, stress, smoking, drinking too much booze, not taking care of your teeth and not getting enough sleep can all contribute to the level of inflammation that your body is experiencing. Chronic, low-grade inflammation often has no symptoms. Many people that are gluten intolerant have no symptoms and are completely unaware of the damage that is being caused over time. Because the inflammatory response is part of our immune system, chronic inflammation depletes our defenses and results in increased vulnerability overall. It can affect our psychological health – studies have found links between higher levels of C-reactive proteins (which increase when the body is inflamed) with depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, anger disorders and aggressive behavior, to name a few.
Some factors are not within our control, but a lot of them are. Perhaps the most significant one is diet. I know, not everyone is ready to let go of sugar, gluten and processed foods. Can you add a few key supplements that will aid your body in lessening an inflammatory response? Absolutely, and I’m giving you my top six choices as a starting point for tackling it.
By far, in my opinion, the most important supplement you can take on a daily basis is high quality Omega-3. It is an anti-inflammatory food component found at its highest levels in deep water fish, particularly salmon. It protects the body against damage caused by inflammation by inhibiting an enzyme the produces prostaglandins. Prostaglandins trigger inflammation. Omega-3 is also crucial for brain health. Ideally there is a ratio of 1:1 for Omega 3 and 6. 1:4 is within healthy ranges. But in today’s world of processed food the ratio in many people has Omega 6 in the double digits. This is not what mother nature intended. Aim for getting this ratio as close to even as possible. Most of us can’t afford to eat wild caught salmon every day – and even if we did, we’d be consuming mercury and other pollutants that are now in the food chain in our oceans in increasing levels. Also, be aware that farm raised fish have close to no Omega 3 present due to the diet they receive. Farm raised fish may taste good and be a source of protein but that’s about it. Look for a molecularly distilled Omega 3 fish oil. Pollutants such as mercury have been extracted, and you’re get a clean dose of the lovely stuff in a soft gel. When wild caught is affordable it can just add to the goodness.
Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory found in the spice turmeric. It inhibits the activity of NF-kB, a molecule that activates multiple genes that act as triggers of inflammation. In addition, it inhibits the production of cytokines (signaling molecules) that induce inflammation. As well, it’s a very potent antioxidant that aids in the reduction of oxidative damage. Remember that oxidative damage causes telomeres to shorten, and telomeres are your biological clock (aging).
Constituents of ginger, called gingerols, have a strong anti-inflammatory effect by inhibiting biochemicals that cause inflammation. In addition to taking a supplement, I mince fresh ginger root, place it in a loose tea container and add it to cups of Chai tea. It makes the aroma and taste even more amazing and is a great way to immediately coat the stomach lining with a calming balm.
COENZYME Q 10:
Coenzyme Q 10 is both a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, particularly for the heart. CoQ10 works to produce energy in mitochondria. It’s the only antioxidant humans can synthesize. It’s important to take Ubiquinol CoQ10 as its capability to be absorbed is significantly better than other forms of CoQ10. Don’t get confused by Ubiquinone – it’s the Ubiquinol that you want!
People with low levels of B6 tend to have higher levels of C-reactive protein (remember, that’s the measure for inflammation). As well, low levels of folate (folic acid) are also associated with inflammation. High stress levels hit the B vitamins hard. Take a good supplement or make sure your multi-vitamin has a good B spectrum.
I’m going to add that if you consume a fair amount of alcohol among the most important vitamins you should be thinking about is your folate. Korsakoff’s Syndrome, a brain dementia caused by alcohol consumption is due to folic acid depletion. Everyone that parties should be taking their daily 400 mcg. No, going out on Saturday night isn’t going to give you Korsakoff’s, but lack of the appropriate amount of folate is not a good thing for your brain and over time, like everything else, it makes a difference.
Other brain dementias such as Alzheimer’s are thought now to be a result of inflammation of the brain. Our brains have no nerves. We can’t “feel” how inflamed they are. Scientists are now calling Alzheimer’s “Type 3 Diabetes”. Repeated high levels of glucose over time cause the cells in your brain to become insulin resistant and results in the formation of plaque. People with diabetes have a significantly higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. And when I say higher risk, I’m talking at least twice as likely. Diabetes doesn’t “cause” Alzheimer’s – but they have the same root cause – glucose (sugar), and the body’s inability to deal with it.
The benefits of this vitamin in proper amounts are pretty amazing. The FDA says that 60 mg. a day is enough. That is absolutely ridiculous. Ideally, to get the full benefits of vitamin C, you want to find out what your personal tolerance level is. Up to 1,000 mg. can be absorbed at one time, and I found a good dose to aim for is 1,000 mg. 3X daily. At the very least, when you take your morning multi make 1,000 mg. C part of your regime. Adding lemon juice to drinking water has great benefits as well. It’s a source of vitamin C, it aids the digestive system, and it’s a detoxifying agent.
Adding the above six supplements to high quality multi vitamin each day can start you on the right track. Obviously there are a lot more I could include, but even adding two out of the six I mentioned would be awesome (make one of them Omega 3)! Eating foods that contain anti-inflammatory properties and avoiding foods that are inflammatory is even more important. Eliminate the major offenders as the first line of defense. Sugar is very potent stuff and it’s highly inflammatory. Sugar and narcotics excite the same part of the brain. Indeed, sugar is highly addictive, it’s everywhere, and we’re introduced to it at a very, very young age. Most people respond to sugar images:Our society is built around sugar and gluten to a large extent. Do yourself a favor and be as proactive as possible in limiting them. They are not benign substances!