Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Inflammation, Immunity and The Body Fat Connection

We often think of pain and inflammation as a result of localised injury due to sprains, cuts and insect bites.  However, when pain and inflammation is happening internally (as in the case of immune system problems), it is not so easy to detect.  What we do know though, is that inflammation is a key driver of many chronic, degenerative conditions such as fatigue, arthritis and unexplained weight gain.

You may not even be aware that your body is inflamed.  You may think that the ongoing tiredness, digestive problems or those aches and pains that you feel when you wake up in the morning are a sign of old age. If only it were that simple!

Top 5 Causes of Inflammation

Many elements of our modern lifestyles can perpetuate and exacerbate inflammation, including:

  1. toxicity
  2. stress
  3. poor dietary habits
  4. drug and alcohol abuse
  5. low levels of physical activity

Top 5 Reasons To Lower Your Body's Inflammatory Response

1. Inflammation Triggers Increased Fat Cell Production - As a safety mechanism, toxins that cannot be eliminated are stored in fat cells. As more toxins are ingested, more fat cells are added to store them, causing weight gain. Eventually the fat cells can become unstable and toxins start leaking into the blood. This can set up an inflammatory response to clean up the ‘foreign bodies'.

2. Inflammation Causes Leptin Imbalance - Leptin is the hormone responsible for helping regulate appetite and energy production.  However, if your body is inflamed, chemicals are released by the fatty tissues to control the inflammation. Studies conducted at Harvard Medical School suggest the chemicals which help to control the inflammation can have a disrupting effect on leptin. This leads to leptin resistance which means the leptin receptors in the brain are not accepting the messages properly. Therefore the balance between energy consumed and energy used is disrupted, appetite is no longer regulated and metabolism slows.

3. Inflammation Triggers Insulin resistance - The same study showed the same effect on insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. The body's chemicals which control inflammation have a disrupting effect on insulin causing insulin resistance. This is why there is a strong correlation between being overweight and insulin resistance.

4. Inflammation Triggers Complex Hormone Imbalances -  A number of studies have shown that overweight individuals have high levels of leptin but it is no longer effective. High levels of this hormone are a problem because they further increase inflammation, interfering with the entry of glucose into the cells and with the body's insulin response. This may, in turn, lead to insulin resistance and influence the production of other hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and thyroid hormones.  All of these hormones are linked to metabolic performance.  

 5. Increased Fat Storage Triggers More Inflammation - When you have an increase in fat storage, the inflammatory response becomes heightened and so the vicious cycle continues.

Symptoms to look out for:
  • Lowered Immune System
  • Fluid retention
  • Headaches
  • Stubborn weight gain
  • Tummy fat that won't budge
  • Uncontrollable cravings
  • Aches and pains

Food Power to Produce or Reduce Inflammation

Fruits, vegetables and good fats from fish and nuts all help to reduce inflammation, whilst other foods can increase inflammation. Inflammatory foods include high sugar foods, heavily processed foods that are high in colours, flavours and other artificial ingredients and foods that are high in certain fats, such as many processed and fast foods.

Steps to overcoming chronic inflammation and eliminate toxins

  • Remove processed foods from your diet
  • Eat organic foods whenever possible
  • Eat a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Limit intake of saturated fats
  • Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Buy a water filter and drink 2 liters of filtered water a day
  • Undertake moderate physical activity

Effective natural anti-inflammatory and pain relief options

Fortunately nature has provided us with many remarkable herbs which have been used traditionally for centuries to treat acute pain and inflammation. Some of these are:

  • Turmeric has anti-inflammatory actions and has traditionally been used in herbal medicines to support digestive health,reducing toxicity and inflammation.
  • Boswellia has analgesic, anti-rheumatic and anti-inflammatory actions, for all types of pain, but specifically for arthritic or traumatic pain associated with inflammation.
  • Ginger has traditionally been used as an anti-inflammatory for arthritis.
  • Hemidesmus, Echinacea and Rehmannia to regulate the immune system

The combination of hops, rosemary, and olive leaf can also provide excellent long-term anti-inflammatory relief for chronic pain and inflammation. This combination may assist in relieving the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatism, and is safe to take long term. Modern formulations containing these ingredients can be rapid in their action, often reducing symptoms within a few days.

There are many natural herbal and homeopathic treatments to help you detoxify and overcome inflammation. These should only be undertaken with the help of a qualified practitioner who can take your individual circumstances into consideration. Some herbs may be contraindicated if taking certain pharmaceutical medications or if sensitive to salicylates. A naturopath can develop a supplement program designed to help you detoxify, overcome inflammation and lose weight naturally and safely.

Narelle Stegehuis, CEO of Mass Attack is a practicing naturopath with over 30,000 hrs of in-clinic experience. Specializing in the natural treatment of women's hormonal imbalances, she has a trained eye for hormonal weight gain. Uniquely, for patient convenience, her programs are offered via the internet. She is both an accomplished writer and recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award. To find out if hormones are making you fat, visit http://www.massattack.com.au

Current Drug Targets Inflammation and Allergy. 2005 Jun;4(3):281-6. Macrophages in inflammation. Fujiwara N, Kobayashi K.
Jane K. Howard and Jeffrey S. Flier, Attenuation of leptin and insulin signaling by SOCS proteins. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 17, Issue 9, 365-371, 1 November 2006
Obesity. Gabriel I Uwaifo, MBBS, Clinical and Research Attending, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Endocrinology, MedStar Clinical Research Center, MedStar Research Institute and Washington Hospital Center