Chronic Inflammation: The New “Silent Killer”

Chronic Inflammation: The New “Silent Killer”

By Linsay Way, DC

Inflammation is big business, evidenced by not only the laundry lists of medications patients bring me aimed at managing inflammation, but also the never-ending stream of advertisements for anti-inflammatory supplements that constantly find their way to my desk.

With an aging population looking to live longer and function better in their later years, people are desperate for anything that might help them combat this mysterious enemy responsible for aching knees, degenerating joints, and even more serious conditions such as cancer andheart disease.

This isn’t just a concern for seniors; inflammation needs to be taken seriously no matter what your age or physical condition. In fact, though hypertension has traditionally been known as the “silent killer,” chronic inflammation deserves that reputation as well.

Unfortunately, whether by design or not, the pharmaceutical and supplement industries have made understanding inflammation incredibly confusing for the average consumer. Far too often this leads people to either get “locked on” to a minor part of the puzzle, thinking they’re taking care of inflammation while ignoring the big picture; or simply give up on preventing inflammation and reach for their NSAIDs instead.

Breaking Down Inflammation

warning - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkInflammation is the body’s emergency response to an injury caused by an infection, environmental toxin, trauma or biomechanical dysfunction. When an inflammation response is triggered, soft tissue releases chemical signaling proteins called cytokines. These chemical messengers cause dilation of local capillaries, increasing blood flow to the area (resulting in warmth and redness) and allowing leakage of blood plasma into surrounding tissues (resulting in swelling and the pain associated with increased pressure on nerve endings).

Cytokines also make capillary endothelial cells “sticky,” allowing white cells to rapidly move into the area and eliminate damaged tissue and invading pathogens. As the white blood cells work to clear out damaged tissue and/or foreign microorganisms, they release substances that cause additional pain and swelling.

Acute inflammation is a normal and necessary part of the body’s healing process. In fact, when it comes to exercise, increased cytokine activity is actually beneficial: Cytokines increase muscle glucose uptake during exercise and set off a series of events required for muscle-fiber growth and repair afterward.

Short-term inflammation is normal; it only becomes a big deal when inflammation is long-term and systemic. Chronic inflammation can cause generalized joint and muscle pain, and the longer it goes on, the more likely it will lead to more serious health problems such as insulin resistance, DJD, heart disease, obesity, cancer and dementia, all of which are driven by chronic inflammation.

Moving Beyond NSAIDs

While anti-inflammatory drugs aren’t inherently evil, they are vastly overused and can be dangerous if abused. It’s one thing to pop a few Advil once in a while to relieve soreness, but constant use can lead to trouble. NSAIDs (such as Motrin, Naproxen and Advil) inhibit muscle protein synthesis, and chronic overuse can lead to breakdown of joint cartilage. NSAIDs also interfere with the COX-1 enzyme, an important enzyme for stomach health. On the other hand, while COX-2 inhibitors (Celebrex, Vioxx, Bextra) leave the COX-1 enzyme alone, they’ve also been found to quadruple the risk of heart attack compared to traditional NSAIDs.

Simplifying Inflammation: Prevention Strategies

  • Get a proper balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fats: Prostaglandins, the lipid compounds derived from fats, can be either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. The prostaglandins produced by the breakdown of omega-6 fats are mostly pro-inflammatory, and the prostaglandins produced byomega-3 fats are mostly anti-inflammatory. Most Americans consume too much omega-6 fat and not enough omega-3 fat. The solution? Dump cooking oils made with corn, safflower and other omega-6 oils, choose grass-fed meat over grain-fed meat, and eat more cold-water fish (or take fish-oil supplements). Most adults should aim for an omega-6:omega-3 ratio of 2:1 or 3:1.
  • Avoid trans fats: Trans fats inhibit the enzymes responsible for breaking down omega-3 and omega-6 fats, crippling your body’s ability to process healthy fats normally.
  • Limit refined carbohydrates: Consuming excess refined sugars contributes to inflammation both by increasing the production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and raising insulin levels, which isn’t catastrophic by itself, but will eventually lead to increased inflammation.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Multiple studies have demonstrated that hypertrophic adipocytes (fat cells) produce inflammatory cytokines. The more excess weight you carry as fat, the more active those fat cells are and the more inflamed you’ll be.
  • Increase dietary antioxidants: Antioxidants are organic compounds found in fruits and vegetables that down-regulate the production of inflammatory cytokines. Ideally these come from diet, but supplemental vitamin A, C, E and D3 won’t hurt if you’re not getting enough.
  • Get adjusted regularly: It’s no secret that correcting joint dysfunction helps with the pain and swelling associated with local inflammation, but a 2006 study by the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College showed that chiropractic manipulation lowered systemic levels of inflammatory cytokines, suggesting regular chiropractic care can actually reduce chronic whole-body inflammation.

Ultimately, limiting chronic inflammation and preventing the health problems associated with it comes down to making sure you’re maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including diet and chiropractic care. The health care industry may have made inflammation more confusing than it should be, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take action against the “silent killer” that is chronic inflammation.

Linsay Way, DC, a 2010 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic, practices at Wellness Way Chiropractic in Milwaukee, Wisc. ( She is recognized for her work training and treating Milwaukee-area gymnasts.

Vitamin D to the Rescue

Vitamin D to the Rescue

By Editorial Staff

Are you getting enough vitamin D on a daily basis? You might think it’s easy (after all, spending a little time in direct sunlight will generate plenty), but for too many people, particularly in this day and age, deficiency is common. Why? Because with increasingly sedentary (indoor) lives and processed diets, we just aren’t getting the vitamin D our bodies deserve (and need to maintain good health).

What are the health benefits of vitamin D?

Everything from maximizing bone health to preventing type 2 diabetes to reducing the risk of developing some forms of cancer, according to mounting research, which also suggests vitamin D can lower your heart attack arthritis and multiple sclerosis risk.

vitamin d - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

What are good sources of vitamin D?

Keeping in mind that sunlight and diet are excellent ways to ensure adequate vitamin D intake (but too many people don’t take advantage), good food sources of D include dairy products, fatty fish (salmon, etc.), egg yolks, and a variety of fortified cereals, juices, etc. Supplements should also be considered if diet / sun exposure aren’t feasible.

What if I want more Information?

Talk to your doctor to learn more and search theTo Your Health online archives to learn more about the many health benefits of vitamin D.

The Link Between the Nervous System and the Immune System

The nervous system and immune system are hardwired and work together to create optimal responses for the body to adapt and heal appropriately. Neural dysfunctions due to spinal misalignments are stressful to the body and cause abnormal changes that lead to a poorly coordinated immune response.

Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to boost the coordinated responses of the nervous system and immune system. The autonomic nervous system is hardwired into the lymphoid organs such as the spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, and bone marrow that produce the body’s immune response.

Growing evidence is showing that immune function is regulated in part by the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. Subluxation is the term for misalignments of the spine that cause compression and irritation of nerve pathways affecting organ systems of the body. Subluxations are an example of physical nerve stress that affects neuronal control. According to researchers, such stressful conditions lead to altered measures of immune function & increased susceptibility to a variety of diseases.

Inflammatory based disease is influenced by both the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. Nerve stimulation directly affects the growth and function of inflammatory cells. Researchers found that dysfunction in this pathway results in the development of various inflammatory syndromes such as rheumatoid arthritis and behavioral syndromes such as depression.

Additionally, this dysfunctional neuro-endo-immune response plays a significant role in immune-compromised conditions such as chronic infections and cancer. Wellness based chiropractors analyze the spine for subluxations and give corrective adjustments to reduce the stress on the nervous system. A 1992 research group found that when a thoracic adjustment was applied to a subluxated area the white blood cell (neutrophil) count collected rose significantly.

In 1975, Ronald Pero, Ph.D., chief of cancer prevention research at New York’s Preventive Medicine Institute and professor in Environmental Health at New York University, began researching the most scientifically valid ways to estimate individual susceptibility to various chronic diseases. He has conducted a tremendous amount of research in this area that includes over 160 published reports in peer reviewed journals.

Pero and his colleagues discovered that various DNA-repairing enzymes could be significantly altered following exposure to carcinogenic chemicals. He found strong evidence that an individual’s susceptibility to cancer could be determined by these enzymes. Lack of those enzymes, Pero said, ‘definitely limits not only your lifespan, but also your ability to resist serious disease consequences.’ Pero was fascinated by the relationship cancer-inducing agents had on the endocrine system.

Since the nervous system regulates hormone balance, he hypothesized that the nervous system had to also have a strong influence on one’s susceptibility to cancer. To support this argument he found a substantial amount of literature linking various kinds of spinal cord injuries and cancer. Pero found that these injuries led to a very high rate of lymphomas and lymphatic leukemias. This understanding led Pero to consider Chiropractic care as a means of reducing the risk of immune breakdown and disease. Pero’s team measured 107 individuals who had received long-term Chiropractic care.

The chiropractic patients were shown to have a 200% greater immune competence than people who had not received chiropractic care, and a 400% greater immune competence than people with cancer or serious diseases. Interestingly, Pero found no decline with the various age groups in the study demonstrating that the DNA repairing enzymes were just as present in long-term chiropractic senior groups as they were in the younger groups. Pero concluded, ‘Chiropractic may optimize whatever genetic abilities you have so that you can fully resist serious disease…I have never seen a group other than this show a 200% increase over normal patients.’

Kent, Christopher. Models of Vertebral Subluxation: A Review. Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research. August 1996, Vol 1:1. Pg 4-5 Sternberg EM, Chrousos GP, Wilder RL, Gold PW. The stress response and the regulation of inflammatory disease. Ann Intern Med 1992; 117 (10):854 Brennan PC, Triano JJ, McGregor M, et al. Enhanced neutrophil respiratory burst as a biological marker for manipulation forces: duration of the effect and association with substance P and tumor necrosis factor. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1992; 15(2):83

About the author Dr. David Jockers owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Ga. He is a Maximized Living doctor. His expertise is in weight loss, customized nutrition & exercise, & structural corrective chiropractic care.

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