inflammation and disease

Chronic Inflammation: Could you be at risk?

We ultimately take medicine to get a result, right?–decreased pain, decreased inflammation, improve digestion because we’re taking medicine to decrease our pain and inflammation….you get the idea.

Over medicated and under nourished–it’s the world we live in. Don’t get me wrong, some medicines have stepped in and stopped epidemics and if I was faced with Ebola, I would definitely take the meds.

But the medicines that were designed in labs were created to step in at crucial pathways in the body to inhibit pain and inflammation. And they actually mimic natural dietary source, meaning they have an effect on the very same enzymatic pathways and genetic transcription.  So why not just start there……

I’m following a pathway into integrative nutrition that began when I entered into the Professional Yoga Therapy Studies and has been re-sprouted through my own recent experience (see recent post). I just took a course by Dr Mike Lara, called: Chronic Inflammation: Special Focus, Nutritional Interventions. I have also just embarked in a distance learning with the Integrative Pelvic Health Institute, which is an evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle training program for pelvic pain.  I want to share the information I have acquired so far, because I think it so valuable in helping us feel the best that we can, so we can take on the many challenges of each day.

So, where to begin?  Let’s start with why chronic inflammation is an issue and how the inflammatory process works. And I know it’s tempting to skip onto the “what can I do” parts, but it’s important to understand the “why.” So stick with me….

The “How & Why” Of Inflammation

  • Chronic system inflammation is an underlying cause of many seemingly unrelated, age-related diseases.
  • Many risk factors for chronic inflammation are modifiable—genetic factors play a modest role. This means, just because your mom had inflammatory arthritis, does not mean that is your fate too.
  • Diseases associated with chronic inflammation:
    • Cancer
    • Diabetes
    • Neurologic disease
    • Autoimmune disease
    • Arthritis
    • Pulmonary disease
    • Alzheimer’s disease
    • Cardiovascular disease

Inflammation is a normal occurrence in the body, so when does it become chronic?

  • Acute Inflammation:
    • Otherwise known as Adaptive Immune Response to tissue injury or infection
    • This inflammatory response is essential to the healing process.
    • Cardinal signs: redness, pain (sometimes), heat, swelling
    • Prevents the spread of infection and damage to nearby tissues; removes damaged tissue and pathogens and assists with the body’s repair processes.
    • Time frame is less than 2 weeks
  • Chronic Inflammation:
    • After 2 weeks, acute inflammation become chronic.
    • Symptoms may be silent (meaning none of the cardinal signs)
    • Why is chronic inflammation such an issue?  See the above section for diseases associated with it.  Inflammatory markers, in persistence, can cause cell death and set off your immune system to even start destroying your own tissues.

So what are these inflammatory markers that I keep talking about?

  • Markers and Mediators of Inflammation:
    • Cytokines
      • Interleukins (ie, IL-1, IL-6, IL-8, etc) (means “between the white things” or literally between the white blood cells)
      • Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a)
    • C-Reactive Protein (CRP)—produced by the liver
    • NF-kb—turns on the genes in inflammatory pathway
    • Eicosanoids (thromboxanes, leukotrienes, prostaglandins)—produced by fatty acids
    • Resolvins and Protecins—derived from eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—shut down/mediate the inflammatory process. EPA and DHA are your fish oils.

Just a little bit more science to make the rest of the details more useful…..I like knowing why I’m taking something and not just taking it because someone said to.

So what is the pathway to inflammation from an acute attack?

Every cell has a membrane around it made up of fatty acids (membrane lipid in image below). When you get injured, the process below (see image) begins to happen. Once arachidonic acid has formed, it can take two pathways–that of coxygenase (COX1/COX2) or that of lipoxygenase (5LOX).  Further transformation of COX1 leads to protective prostaglandins for the stomach and kidney. COX2 leads to prostaglandins that cause inflammation. And 5LOX leads to an allergic response.

arachidonic acid3 pathway

Arachidonic Acid Pathway

Inflammatory Inhibition

There are medications that have been designed to block these certain pathways to inhibit inflammation. And there are also dietary nutrients that can also affect the same pathways.  See below for more:

  • COX-1, COX-2 pathways blocked by:
    • COX1 blockers: NSAIDs (Aspirin, Ibruprofen, Naproxen, Alleve, Piroxicam, Relafen, Motrin)
    • COX2 blocker: Celebrex
    • EPA, DHA
    • Cocoa, green tea, curcumin, wintergreen
    • Because COX-1 also produces protective prostaglandins for the stomach and kidney—blocking it is undesirable, which is why Celebrex was created
    • NSAIDs take out the COX1 protection and leave stomach and kidney susceptible to damage
  • 5-LOX blocked by:
    • Sulfasalazine
    • EPA, Vit E, Quercetin
    • Green tea, curcumin, cocoa, onion, garlic, boswelia
  • Phospholipase-2 blocked by:
    • Corticosteroids (dexamethasone, prednisone, hydrocortisone)-
      • Side effects: depression, fluid retention, HTN, muscle wasting, hyperglycemia, insulin-resistance, osteoporosis, vulnerability to opportunistic infection (it is used as an immunosuppressant)
    • Vit E, Quercitin
    • Licorice, curcumin, green tea
    • This blocks out both pathways of COX and 5LOX.

Also important to note is a protein (NF-kb) that allows for DNA transcription and is involved in cellular responses to stress, cytokines and free radicals.  So mediating this protein can also allow for decreased inflammation.

  • NF-kb= regulator of inflammation
    • Allows for gene transcription in a cell –activating inflammatory process (interleukins, COX, prostaglandins)
    • Inhibited by:
      • NSAIDS, Corticosteroids, Sulfasalazine
      • Vit C, Vit E, Vit D (Vit D is potent, however those that can’t process it effectively are those with cholitis, kidney issues, larger BMI)
      • EPA, DHA
      • Cocoa, curcumin, licorice root, capsaicin, ginger, garlic, green tea (potent), rosemary, grape seed extract

Whew, that’s a lot for now!  But hopefully you are starting to understand a little bit more about how inflammation forms, that’s it’s necessary, but if it persists after the acute stages, it can lead to other disease processes.  Medications can help in the process, but you can see how dietary nutrients can feed into those same pathways.

In Part II, we’ll get into more details on what you can do (or not do) to help you to sleep better, have a healthy brain and stay happy and healthy all by addressing diet and exercise!  Stay tuned.

I welcome your feedback and hope that if you find this helpful, you will share with your colleagues and your friends. Contact Tianna to see how she can assist you with learning how inflammation might be affecting your life, and what you can do about it. 

Living: Inflammation Free eBook

I usually reserve this for clients only, but I wanted to share it with you too. I know information and books can be expensive, so this one is FREE.  Do you have lasting pain? Are you feeling sad and don’t know why? Wondering if those medications are really helping decrease your inflammation? Or are their side effects wreaking havoc on your body?

Find out why you should be concerned about chronic inflammation, how it causes lasting pain, perhaps depression and how you can make positive changes just by changing a few things in your life. Hint: it’s not the same for everyone! Anti-inflammatory Shopping list and Recipes included.

anti-inflammatory ebook

Help reduce my pain and feel vibrant again


1. Chronic Inflammation: Special Focus, Nutritional Interventions; by Dr Mike Lara, MD, Berkeley, CA; October 2, 2014, Sponsored by Institute for Brain Potential

**The contents of this website, such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained on the website (“Content”) are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.