Chronic disease and inflammation

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged that chronic diseases are by far the leading cause of mortality in the world. The best way to address the health risks of chronic disease is to reduce chronic inflammation. Our lifestyle is the most influential factor in determining risk factors for Chronic inflammation and disease.

Diet

Red meat, especially if it is not pasture reared, is inflammatory. Animals that are fattened in a food lot are fed grains, which increases the amount of omega 6 fat in their muscles. If the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 is too high in our bodies, the result is inflammation. Early man had a ratio of 1:2 omegas 3:6, but now the ratio is often higher than 1:26. As a result, the incidence of chronic inflammatory diseases like eczema, asthma, allergic rhinitis, osteoarthritis, auto-immune diseases and cancer has skyrocketed.

Sugar, especially added sucrose, fructose and glucose can lead to increased levels of inflammation. Read all labels. The incidence of insulin resistance and diabetes has increased as sugar has been added to the prepared food we buy. The safest way to avoid excess sugar is to make most of the food you eat. If it has been made in a machine, it probably contains preservatives, bad fats or sugar to make it taste good.

Exercise

Try and get to at least 10 000 steps a day. This will help you to keep fit and improve circulation. Use one of the apps on your phone if you don’t have a step counter. Athletes that exercise excessively are creating massive amounts of oxidation in their bodies. Take extra anti-oxidants if you are doing more than 45 min of exercise daily. I feel that cancer patients should be very careful of over exercising.

Weight

Your BMI should be below 25. If you have breast cancer it is very important that you lose weight and get your BMI down. Fat unfortunately stores estrogen, which can switch on your tumor if you have an estrogen positive tumor. Xeno-estrogens in the water and the environment can do the same.

Stress

We have been told to reduce our stress levels to increase our longevity. The hormones that are produced when we are stressed are detrimental to our health if they are chronically elevated. High levels of adrenal hormones like cortisol in the early stages of stress, can lead to abnormalities in sugar metabolism and may eventually lead to insulin resistance. Increased adrenalin can switch on clotting factors and inflammatory cytokines that in the short term can save your life (fight or flight), but if the stress persists, these hormones can be detrimental to your health. Find a way that suits you to address the stress levels in your life. Remember that if you are not sleeping 7-8 hours a night, your stress hormones can also be elevated.

Environment

We all know that at the moment the quality of water in our country is very poor. If you are not able to purify or filter your water, make sure you boil it to kill the bugs that are in the water. If you see big particles in the water, filter it through muslin, then boil it. Some small organisms can hide in the particles and evade death when you boil the water. Personally I encourage my patients to buy a water purifier before they buy their flat screen TV or the pram for the new baby!

Treatment of inflammation

Omega 3 (not 6 and 9) at least two times daily. Check that it is pharmaceutical grade and free of heavy metals. Eat fatty fish like tuna, pilchards, sardines or salmon two times per week. If you are vegetarian, grind flax seeds and eat a tablespoon a day or eat chia seeds. Don’t drink flaxseed oil, it has been shown to be pro-inflammatory.

Curcumin supplements are fantastic, but make sure that the supplement you are using has been researched to improve absorption of the curcumin. Unfortunately, turmeric is very poorly absorbed, only 2-3% of the powdered turmeric is absorbed. I use a supplement that contains BCM 95 as the manufacturer has used the phytonutrients of the turmeric root to improve absorption. Some suppliers use piperine (black pepper) and chemicals which could be harmful to a patient with cancer, to improve absorption. Check the labels!

Some teas like Urtica Urens (stinging nettle) and Carnisol (rosemary) are also anti-inflammatory.

MSM, Glucosamine, Boswellia and Frankinsense essential oils have anti-inflammatory properties. Check that they can be used with any medication you may be taking. Remember if you are on a chemotherapy regime or having radiation, don’t take any supplements the day before, day of or day after chemo, and no antioxidants while having radiation.

Written by Dr Helen Muir.

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