Cooling Chronic Inflammation: Dietary Solutions Counter Disease
Feb 29, 2012 03:46PM
By Linda Sechrist
It’s important to note that wounds and infections would never heal without the presence of acute inflammation, the body’s normal biological response to harmful pathogens, damaged cells and irritants. Although this protective measure to initiate the body’s natural healing response is often misrepresented as being synonymous with infection, it is not; even when the inflammation is caused by infection.
Dr. Vijay Jain, an expert in ayurvedic medicine, explains how the system normally works: “An infection brings about an acute inflammatory response and also summons the aid of immune system cells such as lymphocytes—thymus cells (T cells), bursaderived cells (B cells) and natural killer (NK) cells—as well as monocytes (a type of white blood cell). These then migrate through the bloodstream to eliminate specific pathogens or pathogen-infected cells.”
In contrast, chronic inflammation occurs when the immune response stays activated, rather than naturally abating, and the body’s defense system consequently turns against itself. Today, a number of leading physician scientists including Jain are drawing attention to an epidemic of cases of such chronic inflammation.
With 35 years of experience in general surgery and 15 years of focused study in integrative medicine, Jain bases his concern on extensive study and research. He currently serves as the medical director of Amrit Ayurveda for Total Well Being, at the Amrit Yoga Institute, in Salt Springs, Florida.
Floyd H. Chilton, Ph.D., author of Inflammation Nation, and professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is on the same wavelength. Trained as a physician and specialist in infectious disease and inflammation at Harvard Medical School, Chilton’s 20 years of research have likewise led him, along with pioneers like Dr. Andrew Weil, to conclude that chronic, systemic inflammation is the root cause of many diseases.
The condition has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Furthermore, in 2000, The New England Journal of Medicine published several studies showing that blood indicators of inflammation (such as homocysteine, fibrinogen and Creactive protein) are strong predictive factors for a heart attack.
These experts all point to the standard American diet as a primary culprit for setting chronic inflammation in motion, and cite an anti-inflammatory diet as helpful in counteracting the problem.
Kathy Bero, founder of at NuGensis Farm, Inc., in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, attests that an anti-inflammatory diet containing many angiogenesis-inhibiting foods was a major factor in the remission of three aggressive forms of cancer that threatened her life six years ago. “Many of the diseases linked to chronic systemic inflammation also share a dependence on inappropriate blood vessel growth, which either nourishes the disease or hinders the body’s fight against it,” Bero explains. “Angiogenesis-inhibiting foods are known to assist the body in controlling the healthy growth of blood vessels.”
The nonprofit NuGenesis Farm supports 35 acres dedicated to growing anti-inflammatory and angiogenesis-balancing foods with the strongest disease prevention properties, using sustainable organic agriculture practices. It offers a “food as medicine” model for global communities seeking alternative methods for naturally preventing disease.
An anti-inflammatory diet recommended by family physician and nutritionist Ann Kulze, author of Dr. Ann’s 10-Step Diet, includes colorful, fresh fruits; green, leafy vegetables; low-glycemic foods such as whole grains, sweet potatoes and winter squashes; fruits such as berries, cherries, apples and pears; high-quality protein in omega-3-rich fish such as wild salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel; seeds and nuts such as walnuts; and green tea. It also calls for the vegetable-based protein found in soy foods, beans, lentils and other legumes. Ginger and turmeric, dried or fresh, rank among recommended spices.
In addition to maintaining a healthy and correct balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, an anti-inflammatory diet eliminates consumption of margarine, vegetable shortening and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, all of which promote inflammation.
“Anti-aging researchers believe that chronic inflammation shortens our lifespan,” remarks Jain, who recommends a prophylactic diet specific to the constitutional makeup of any of the three ayurvedic doshas—vata, pitta or kapha—as well as the annual panchakarma detoxification program. He further emphasizes that food should be freshly prepared with fresh ingredients and loving intention.
“Proper economic studies would increase our understanding of the true cost benefit of growing food for the purpose of disease prevention,” says Bero. “Many believe that incorporating anti-inflammatory and angiogenesisinhibiting foods into our daily diet will not only improve both overall health and the outcome of treatment, it will also go a long way in reducing immediate and long-term health care costs.”
Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings magazines.