Anti-Inflammatory/Anti-Aging Strategies
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What is the Role of Inflammation?
When the body is injured or recognizes the presence of pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, molds, parasites or cancerous cells, its immune system is triggered to respond with inflammation to “burn” the threat out of the body.

Balance is Essential
Once the challenge has been met, a person in immune balance, homeostasis, will reduce the amount of inflammation that they are producing to “normal” levels. Uncontrolled, run-away  inflammation leads to autoimmune diseases (against oneself) in which its own tissues and organs are attacked.

Lupus
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), lupus, is a complicated autoimmune condition affecting virtually every organ in the human body. Because of the wide-range of symptoms experienced, the disease is often difficult to diagnose. Common symptoms are extreme fatigue, swollen and/or painful joints, muscle pain, low-grade fever, thinning or loss of hair, butter-fly shaped rash across the nose and cheeks, chest pain when taking a deep breath, kidney and heart problems.

Butterfly rash

“Butterfly Rash” often associated with SLE
(
emedicine.medscape.com)

 

Females make up 80-90% of people with lupus and despite treatment, many individuals will experience flares and remissions (symptoms come and go) their entire lives.

Lupus and Inflammation
The hallmark of lupus is over-activity of the immune system and inflammation. Imbalances of inflammatory immune factors, cytokines, are significantly higher in lupus patients compared to people without lupus. These immune molecules promote inflammation and damage tissues.  High levels of these inflammatory factors are associated with the severity of disease but decrease as individuals are successfully treated.

Anti-malaria medications originally used to prevent or treat malaria has been used to treat lupus.It was not understood why these medicines were somewhat effective against SLE, but a recent study suggests that these medications inhibit inflammation.

Physical Activity
Every time a muscle contracts, it releases anti-inflammatory molecules that helps the body balance the amount of overall inflammation produced.

As would be predicted, weekly physical activity improves fatigue, depression and increases the quality of life of most individuals. Even moderate exercise, 3 days a week for 20 minutes, has been shown to make a major difference in the amount of energy and feelings of well-being experienced by lupus patients.

If  You Have Lupus
Frequent physical activity, eating in a healthful manner and daily consumption of an excellent immune balancing supplement helps the body control inflammation and achieve immune homeostasis (immune balance).

Dr.Hellen is passionate about helping people enjoy life at its fullest. She may be contacted by using this form, contacting her at: drhellen@drhellengreenblatt.info or feel free to call her at:  302.265.3870 (ET, USA).
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Given all the current social, political and economic uncertainties, the holidays this year may be even more anxiety-producing and stressful than in the past. Past surveys have shown that 30-50% of people (and because of all of their responsibilities, especially women) experience heightened stresses during the holidays.

STRESS AND INFLAMMATION

Stress alters immune responses affecting our ability to fight infection and heal after injury. Inflammation is a necessary part of the immune response and is stimulated when the body is injured or exposed to pathogens or mutated cancer cells.

Short term stress stimulates the immune system by preparing it for a “flight vs. fight” response, but over a longer period of time stress results in negative imbalances of the immune system and increased inflammation. This becomes even a larger problem for people who are already in poor health or struggling with disease.

Poorly regulated  inflammation results in chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and even cancers, so it is important that the body carefully regulate the amount of inflammation produced.

Inflammation is a two-way street. Stress causes inflammation and inflammation causes stress.  And when the holidays or daily activities increase stress, the amount of inflammation produced by the body increases as well.

stress-and-inflammation

There are biological markers in the blood that track differences in immune responses.   The longer and greater the stress, the more likely the body is to switch from a healthy, controlled inflammatory response to one that affects its ability to fight disease and healing processes.

CONTROLLING INFLAMMATION AND STRESS 

The net effect of an inflammatory response is determined by the body balancing its inflammatory and its resulting anti-inflammatory responses.

Especially during the holidays, the four best ways to help the body balance are:

Be physically active for at least of 2.5 hours total per week.

  1. Incorporate a daily immune balancing supplement into your diet.
  2. Eat a smart, healthful diet.
  3. Keep your weight under control.

Remember:  The better you take care of your immune system, the better it will take care of you.

Graphic adapted from: Johanna Bendell, MD, with thanks.
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Nearly every day people tell me that their joints are swollen and stiff, they hurt all over, and that they look and feel older than their chronological age. Most of these individuals have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis is a sign of a “boosted” immune system with excessive inflammation leading to joint damage. People report pain in areas such as their backs, fingers, hands, wrists, knees, and shoulders.

Rheumatoid arthritis typically affects the joints of the body. However sometimes even before joint symptoms appear, rheumatoid arthritis can involve other parts of the body including the lungs or eyes. Long-term inflammation of the lungs leads to scarring and shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, and an on-going, chronic dry cough. If the pleura, the tissues around the lungs, become inflamed, fluid buildup may result in fever, pain when taking a breath, and difficulty in breathing.

Inflammation Is Essential for Our Survival:
Clinicians, and most lay people, focus on the harmful aspects of inflammation and try to stop the inflammatory response at all costs. Instead, all that is needed is to control the this immune response. The process of inflammation is normal, protective, and absolutely essential for our survival. Inflammation is the first step to healing after an injury or when the body is gathering its forces to stop an infection. Immune inflammation also helps the body destroy cancer cells before they grow and multiply.

When the body recognizes it has been injured or infected, the immune system releases antibodies and cytokines, smaller proteins that attract different types of immune cells into an area, to help eliminate and destroy threats to the body.

Once healing has started, the amount of inflammation that the body produces must be controlled. The genes that control inflammation have to be “turned off”, down-regulated, so that inflammatory responses are limited.

Arthritis is an Autoimmune Disorder:
Arthritis is one of many autoimmune disorders in which the body mistakenly produces autoantibodies, antibodies against its own tissues that attach to joint linings, and cartilage which acts as a shock absorber. The presence of autoantibodies may trigger immune cells to release inflammatory molecules that cause damage to the joints and other organ systems.

The Effect of Stress and Weight on Arthritis:
There are many factors that contribute to the discomfort experienced by individuals with joint issues. Two of these most recently investigated are: stress and weight.

Stress:
The body increases the amount of inflammation it produces when it is exposes to constant stress and the stress of pain. It becomes part of a vicious cycle. Stress causes inflammation, and inflammation leads to more stress. There is crosstalk between the nervous, hormonal, and immune systems. Changes in one system effects the other system.

Stressed individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis produce much higher levels of most cytokines than people without arthritis. Immunologically they respond differently to stress.

Weight Issues:
Overweight and obese patients with rheumatoid arthritis have more pain and respond less well to medication, as compared to normal weight patients. Obesity is an inflammatory disease during which fat cells, especially those concentrated around the inner organs, pump out large numbers of inflammatory molecules. Certain inflammatory proteins are found in high number in the abdominal fat tissue of overweight and obese individuals.

Importance of Immune Balance/Immune Homeostasis:
Immune inflammation is tightly regulated by the body. It consists of a) triggering and maintaining inflammatory responses, and b) producing immune messages that decrease and/or entirely stop the inflammation. Imbalances between the two phases of inflammation results in unchecked inflammation, loss of immune homeostasis, and may result in cell and tissues damage like that experienced in rheumatoid arthritis.

The key is to incorporate lifestyle changes to help the body maintain immune balance.

 Help your body return to immune balance.  Dr. Hellen may be contacted at: 302.265.3870 ET USA, or use the contact form. Thank you.

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People who are heavy and are not physically active, are at greater risk for conditions such as: increased blood sugar, higher pressures on their artery walls (high blood pressure), increased rate and workload on the heart, stroke, joint problems, sleep disorders, difficulty breathing, and even certain types of  cancer.

There are other posts on this blog relevant to the issue of being overweight or obese, but there is little question that most individuals would feel a lot better if they were only 5 or 10 pounds lighter.

When compared to leaner people, adipose tissue, the fat deposits of obese individuals, have higher numbers of, and larger, fat cells.  These cells produce cytokines, immune factors, that are inflammatory in nature and trigger numerous inflammatory conditions including many mentioned above.

Adipose tissue has “immune-like” properties.  For example, macrophages, white blood cells which alert the body to the presence of invaders, are found in high numbers in fat cell clusters.  Additionally, obese individuals have been shown to have  increased levels of proteins in the blood stream that stimulate inflammation.  Overweight or obese people do not fight infections or heal as well as individuals at more appropriate weights.

 The following hypothesis may have validity.  The immune system may “see” components of adipose tissue as “foreign material” that must be eliminated from the body.  If this scenario is correct, when the body “battles” adipose tissue an autoimmune response is triggered, a response in which the immune system destroys its own tissues, resulting in high levels of inflammation. My hypothesis is supported by the fact that obese individuals produce high levels of autoantibody, antibodies against their own tissues. Rather than resulting from inflammation, these autoantibodies may be the trigger for inflammation.

Muscle cells, like fat cells, secrete cytokines, molecules which help the body regulate inflammatory responses. In response to exercise, many different types of cytokines are produced by muscles and other cells.  Cytokine measurements taken after a marathon demonstrated 100 fold increases of certain cytokines, whereas other cytokines were produced that typically dampen an inflammatory response.

The wide spectrum of immune factors that the body produces in response to physical activity helps the body maintain a steady state of inflammation, an immune balance that helps the body defend itself against infection and helps healing, but not so much that innocent by-stander tissues are damaged.  In fact, studies have shown that individuals that are overweight, nevertheless may be healthy, if they are maintain a level of physical fitness.

The bodies of overweight and obese individuals are consistently exposed to self-generated, inappropriate levels of inflammation.  Helping the body return to a healthy balance of immune responses, a state of homeostasis, will go a long ways towards changing their quality of life.

I would be pleased to hear from you if you are interested in changing your quality of life.  I can be contacted at: drhellen@drhellengreenblatt.info or at:  302.265.3870 USA ET.

 


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Alcoholism is a condition in which individuals drink alcohol in excess despite the fact that their habit causes physical and mental health problems, and social, family, and/or job-related issues. Heavy alcohol consumption results in damage to many parts of the body including the brain, liver, digestive system, and  joints. Alcoholics also suffer with dementia, memory loss, depression, emotional instability, and are at increased risk of cancer of the colon, liver, and esophagus.

Immune System Effects

Prolonged, heavy alcohol consumption negatively affects immune cells and their production of cytokines, immune messages.  Alcoholics have significantly higher rates of bacterial and viral infections and when hospitalized remain hospitalized longer than those that do not abuse alcohol.   Alcohol not only kills key immune cells, but excess amounts of alcohol results in an increased risk of autoimmune responses in which the body’s immune cells mistakenly attack the body’s own healthy cells as foreign.

The body constantly strives to maintain immune inflammatory homeostasis; to balance the amount of inflammation it produces to protect the body from infection.  Imbalances of inflammatory responses, loss of immune homeostasis, result from excessive alcohol consumption. For example, white cells, immune cells, search out and destroy and remove pathogens from the lungs.  After alcohol consumption, fewer immune cells respond to the call for “help”.  Those cells that do enter the lungs are unable to kill microbes as effectively as cells from non-alcoholic animals.

The inefficient immune responses of alcoholics lead them to be more vulnerable to viral infections such as hepatitis C, influenza, and HIV and bacterial infections including tuberculosis and pneumonia. Especially after experiencing trauma, e.g., surgery, alcoholics are more likely than non-alcoholics to get pneumonia.

A mouse study is one of many that demonstrates the decreased ability of alcohol-imbibing animals to fend off infection.  Sixty percent of mice that were exposed to the flu after imbibing alcohol for two months died of the flu as compared to a 15% mortality rate of mice that had not been drinking alcohol prior to exposure.

Hormone Effects:

Cortisol, the “stress-response hormone” affects nervous, immune, circulatory, and metabolic systems of the body.  After surgery, chronic alcoholics have higher cortisol levels compared to non-alcoholic patients.  The increased inflammation that accompanies stress also leads to higher levels of depression, other addictions, and mood disorders.

Other hormones effected by alcohol consumption are those a)that may interfere with the a women’s menstrual cycle, b) the ability for men and women to enjoy sex, or c) control blood sugar.

Nervous System Complications:

Alcohol is neuro-toxic to brain cells interfering with the development, repair, and communication of nerve cells. Consumption of large amounts of alcohol leads to shrinkage of white matter in the brain, adding to depression, confusion, short-term memory loss, “fuzzy” thinking, and a greater risk of getting dementia.  Alcohol also directly affects the nervous system in other ways, causing numbness, tingling, and pain in hands and feet.

Additionally, too great a consumption of alcohol, especially over a long period of time, results in problems with absorption of nutrients, the lack of which can become so severe that certain forms of dementia are triggered.

Bone Loss

Alcohol damages osteoblasts, the cells needed to grow and maintain bone.  Destruction of osteoblasts results in decreased bone mass and susceptibility to fractures and other orthopedic problems.  When a bone fracture occurs,  immune cells rush in to start the healing process. They release immune signals, cytokines that start the inflammatory process that recruits more cells into the area. However, when there is too much inflammation, healing, and bone growth is delayed with the result that bones become brittle, thin, or misshapen.

Vitamin B12, vitamin D,  phosphate, and magnesium are needed to grow bone.  Excessive intake of alcohol is associated with low or subnormal levels of these elements, further inhibiting the growth of and repair of bones.

Skin and Injuries

The cells in the skin help defend the body from pathogens, and keep the skin healthy, youthful, and supple.  The immune cells in the skin interact with the microbes that live on the surface. Although the numbers of bacteria on healthy skin stays constant, the types of bacteria that exist change depending on environmental and immune interactions

Heavy use of alcohol significantly slows the movement of immune cells, upsetting the balance, the homeostasis of the skin. Alcoholics experience a greater number of severe skin infections than individuals that drink responsibly.

Almost half of all patients coming into an emergency room with an injury, trauma cases, have high levels of alcohol in their blood.  Drunken patients have more severe symptoms, and take longer to recover.  They also have higher rates of death as compared to non-intoxicated patients.

Because these patients have imbalances of inflammatory response, it takes them longer to heal, and wounds may become more severe, more quickly. Alcohol damage to the skin continues even after they stop drinking. Alcoholics experience longer hospital stays, especially if they are patients in an intensive care unit.

In a study of two groups of animals with burns, 50% of the animals that had not consumed alcohol survived, compared to 20% of the alcohol-consuming animals.

Summary:

Although not discussed in this post, moderate intake of alcohol has a beneficial effect on inflammatory markers.  However, heavy drinking results in uncontrolled amounts of inflammation leading to a myriad of health consequences.  Controlling the amount of inflammation the body produces will make a major difference in the quality of life of an individual.

Some steps abusers of alcohol can take to help their body modulate inflammation are:

  •  Limit the number of drinks consumed*
  •  Exercise 30 minutes/day for 5 days a week (150 minute minimum/week)
  •  Have smaller food portion sizes.
  •  Consume more fruits and vegetables.

*It is recommended that women limit their alcohol intake to one drink** per day, and men to two drinks/day. [Women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently from men and are more susceptible to alcohol-related organ damage and trauma than men.]

**One drink is defined as 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits, 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine (a pinot noir wine glass about 1/4 full).

Dr. Greenblatt  looks forward to assisting you in reaching your goals:   http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen or 1.302-265.3870 [USA, ET].

 

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Exposure to chronic constant emotional or physical stress triggers a vicious cycle of inflammation. The stress increases the amount of inflammation that the body generates, and the additional inflammation “feeds” more stress.

Depressed individuals report that they experience high levels of tension and anxiety, fatigue, muscle discomfort, and/or gastrointestinal problems. Often they have a feeling that “something is very wrong”, but they cannot pinpoint what is bothering them.

Individuals suffering from depression often start by visiting physicians that specialize in specific organ systems of the body. For example a neurologist (specialty in the nerves), a gastroenterologist (digestive system), or a psychiatrist (medical doctor) or a psychologist, practitioners specializing in mental disorders. Unfortunately, most of these experts tend to focus on a single part of the body.

Since the human body is a single organism, and all the organ systems are integrated, it might be useful to realize that there is substantial and constant cross talk between all the organ systems of the body. Affect one part of the body and it has a ripple effect on all the other parts of the body.

As an example, when individuals are depressed, their immune cells produce large amounts of inflammatory molecules, pro-inflammatory cytokines, which circulate throughout the body. Since cytokines act in a hormone-like fashion, they affect all parts of the body and the brain.

Treatment Resistant Depression
Over seven million individuals with depression find little or no relief that prescribed antidepressant medications. A significant number of these patients have high levels of inflammatory cytokines, immune messages that result in inflammation. These inflammatory cytokines can interfere with the actions of medications.
Lifestyle Changes.

Too many individuals are convinced that only prescription medications can make a difference in their depression and anxiety. However, there are certain life style changes that may help them, with their clinician’s approval, decrease their medication.*

(*Note: The following lifestyle changes should only be incorporated after consultation with a qualified health practitioner. If you are on prescription medications, especially for depression or anxiety, DO NOT REDUCE OR STOP ANY MEDICATIONS without consulting with the prescribing health practitioner.)

Some naturally oriented steps that one can take are:

EXERCISE:
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, found that a brisk 30-minute walk or jog three times a week may be just as effective in relieving major depression as are antidepressant prescription medications. Patients were assigned to three groups: antidepressant medications only, exercise only, or a combination of both medication and exercise. The scientists found that the exercise by itself was just as effective as medication and “was equally effective in reducing depression…” as were antidepressants.

One reason exercise may be so effective in reducing the inflammatory-depression cycle is that every time a muscle contracts, it releases anti-inflammatory immune cytokines that reduce inflammation and a help to decrease anxiety, and improve mood.
SUNSHINE AND FRESH AIR:
The amount of time subjects are exposed to sunlight is directly related to the amount of a specific inflammatory cytokine they produce, and depressed individuals show differing levels of the cytokine when exposed to light for varying amounts of time.
Moderate exposure to sunshine and fresh air may contribute greatly to feeling less depressed. This may “simply” be because when one is exposed to sunlight, vitamin D is produced by the body.

Vitamin D is more like a “hormone” than a purely nutritional element, since it affects hundreds of genes and is a powerful immune system regulator. Although still not definitively proven, individuals living in temperate areas may find that taking vitamin D3 supplements may prove helpful.

EAT SMARTER:
Increase the amount of fresh and colorful fruits and vegetables, beans, fish, and chicken. Limit non-nutritious “foods”, especially fried foods, sweets, sodas (diet or regular!), white rice, and pasta. Eating in a nutritional manner may help the body regulate its daily inflammatory responses.

CONTROL YOUR WEIGHT:
Fat cells, adipose cells, especially those around abdomen produce a wide range of inflammatory cytokines. As the size of the cells decrease, the amount of inflammation that the body produces decreases. Lowering inflammation helps an individual to return to their natural immune homeostasis, their natural immune balance.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS FROM FISH OILS:
Studies suggest that daily consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish makes a difference in depression. In a recent randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study of shift workers, supplementation with omega-3 was associated with a reduction in high sensitivity C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker) and depression. In another study of women, the highest intake of omega-3 was associated with a 49% decrease in symptoms of depression. In the latter study, investigators suggested that omega-3 was triggering the production of anti-inflammatory compounds.

RETURN THE BODY TO IMMUNE BALANCE, IMMUNE HOMEOSTASIS:
Inflammation in the body is a normal and desired process that is part of the healing cycle and it is the primary method by which the body defends itself from pathogens. The key to good health is to help the body achieve the right level of inflammation, immune homeostasis. We want the body to produce enough of an inflammatory response to defend itself from pathogens and cancerous cells, but not so much inflammation that healthy tissues are damaged.

Hyperimmune egg has been shown to help the body return to immune homeostasis, immune balance. In a university, double-blind placebo-controlled trial (the gold standard of human trials), subjects consuming hyperimmune egg reported lower levels of moodiness, anger, and hostility. [Med Sci Sports Exer 2009 5:228].

SUMMARY
Chronic inflammation, brought about by an over-expression or lack of control of the normal protective mechanisms of the body, has been linked to range of conditions including depression.
Individuals who control inflammatory responses will have a much higher emotional and physical quality of life.

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Healthcare-associated infections (HAI), nosocomial infections, are caused by a wide variety of bacteria, fungi, and viruses.  One bacterium that commonly causes illness is Clostridium difficile, or C. difficile.  Hospitalized children and elderly people are at special risk of acquiring these bacteria, infections that result in severe diarrhea.  Individuals infected with C. difficile are more likely to be admitted to short and long-term care facilities, have longer hospital stays, are more likely to require colon surgery, and are at higher risk of death.

Nosocomial infections are on the increase, probably due to the heightened use of antibiotics used in hospitalized patients.  The antibiotics kill off beneficial bacteria that might offer protection against getting infections such as C. difficile.

Intriguingly, in a recent study, patients admitted to the hospital who were on statins, medications used to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, had a 45% lower risk of getting Clostridium difficile infections compared to individuals that were not on these sorts of medications.

Other studies suggest that statins affect immune responses by down-regulating, inhibiting inflammation.  For example, statins prevent and reverse chronic and relapsing disease in an animal model similar to multiple sclerosis, reduce lung inflammation in animals that exposed to airborne particles, and have been shown to lower the risk of death of individuals suffering from 13 different types of cancers.

In atherosclerosis, primarily caused by an inflammatory response directed against the wall inside blood vessels, statin therapy reduces blood vessel inflammation and significantly reduces markers of inflammation such as hsCRP, high sensitivity C – reactive protein.

Health warnings have been issued by the FDA for statins.  These risks include:  memory loss and confusion, liver damage, heightened diabetes, and for certain statins, muscle weakness.  I am certainly NOT advocating that people use statins to limit inflammation.  Instead, I want the reader to focus on the fact that the effects of statins appear to be due, in the long run, to their ability to modulate acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) inflammation.

 As I try to emphasize in all my posts, the key to good health is to achieve immune homeostasis, the appropriate balance of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses

 Immune homeostasis is most easily achieved through a) consistent physical activity, b) controlling fat deposits around the abdominal area, c) increasing consumption of vegetables and fruits, d) moderate exposure to sunlight (or vitamin D3 supplementation when the sun is not sufficient), e) ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids from a fish source, and f) and daily consumption of hyperimmune egg.

Feel free to contact Dr. Hellen at DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info with questions or to consult with her. A message may also be left at: 1.302-265.3870 or click on: http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen/.

 

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A previous posting (1) discussed the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and inflammation. Evidence was presented, that levels and types of inflammatory cytokines, as well as other blood markers, are different for individuals suffering with sleep apnea as compared to controls.

Steven Park,MD, a renowned sleep apnea expert in NYC, has discussed the contribution of inflammation to sleep apnea and vice versa (2).

Arthritis, Sleep Apnea, and Inflammation
Recently Dr. Park discussed a Mayo Clinic study in which 50% of rheumatoid arthritis patients were diagnosed with sleep apnea, compared to 31% of the rest of the population. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of runaway inflammation affecting the joints. (Older individuals are also at greater risk of sleep apnea, and they trend towards higher levels of inflammation.)

Cancer, Sleep Apnea, and Inflammation
Dr. Park has also mentioned a study concluding that sleep issues are associated with a heightened risk of cancer. Moreover, it is known that there is substantial “cross-talk” between cancerous cells and inflammatory immune cells. Cancer patients experiencing high levels of inflammation, have reduced survival rates. Clinicians have suggested that decreasing levels of inflammation in cancer patients may improve their prognoses.

Obesity, Sleep Apnea, Asthma, and Inflammation
As Dr. Park and others have pointed out, there is a strong association between obstructive sleep apnea and obesity. Fat cells, adipocytes, not only serve as fat depots, but also produce cytokines, immune messages, that up regulate or increase, inflammatory responses.

Obesity is also associated with a higher rate and severity of asthma. Overweight individuals with asthma have increased levels of TNF-apha, an “inflammatory” cytokine than healthy controls.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms May be Reduced by Physical Activity
One of the most important steps one can take to lower inflammation, besides controlling weight, and eating a healthy diet, is consistent exercise.

This concept is supported by a recent study from Brazil suggesting that physical exercise affects the cytokine makeup of obstructive sleep apnea patients and may reduce inflammation and symptoms of their disease.

Immune Homeostasis, Immune Balance
The key to excellent health, and healthy aging, is to achieve immune homeostasis, immune balance. The immune system needs to produce enough inflammation to meet healing and infectious disease challenges, but it must be a “controlled” burn, so as not to damage innocent, by-stander cells and tissues.

Lifestyle changes are some of the simplest ways to correct immune imbalances and should be considered as part of anyone’s “preventive and treatment” protocol.

www.jrheum.org/content/36/9/1869.short
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http://drhellengreenblatt.info/2012/02/inflammation-cancer-chemotherapy-and-brain-fog/

The journal of the American Geriatrics Society, just released a study of older women suggesting  that women, and we assume men as well, add years of healthy living by staying active and increasing their consumption of fruits and vegetables. 

 Women between the ages of 70 to 79 years were followed for a five-year period.  Investigators monitored the amount of physical activity they reported, and their carotenoid blood levels.  [Carotenoids are a class of pigmented, phyto [plant] nutrients found in the yellow, orange, and plants.  Blood levels of carotenoids are associated with the quantity of vegetables and fruits consumed.  The more fruit and veggies consumed, the higher the levels of carotenoids in the bloodstream.]

In the study, women that were most physically active and consumed large amounts of fruits and vegetables, were eight times more likely to be alive after the study’s five years of follow-up, compared to women who were not active, and did not eat many fruits and vegetables.

 Exercise increases survival times

More than half of the 713 participants (53%) did no exercise, 21% were moderately active, and the 26% were very active.  The active women engaged in twice the amount of activity as did women who were not active.  Active woman reported that they walked, or were involved in strength training, bowling, dancing, household, or outdoor chores.  Physical activity resulted in active woman experiencing five-year death rates 71% lower than those of the least active women.

 Fruits and vegetable consumption increases survival times

During the five-year follow-up period, women who consumed the most fruits and vegetables, and had the highest blood levels of carotenoids, were 46 percent less likely to die than woman that ate fewer fruits and vegetables.  Blood carotenoid levels were 12% higher in the women who survived, compared to blood samples taken from women that would die earlier.

 This study supports previous results demonstrating that eating more vegetables and fruits, and consuming moderate amounts of wine products, which also contain phytonutrients,  is linked to people living longer.

 Down-regulation of inflammation:  A probable reason for the reported results.

Most scientists have only vague ideas as to why exercise, and heightened consumption of fruits and vegetables should make a difference in longevity.  However, decades of literature reviews, and successful counseling of individuals in the importance of balancing immune system inflammation, make it evident to me, that exercise and healthy food consumption helps the body limit run-away inflammatory responses, and therefore helps the body balance its natural levels of inflammation.

 Inflammation is the body’s protective response to infection, cancer cell growth, and injury.  However, when inflammatory responses are not controlled, inflammation ends up doing more harm than good, and becomes the origin of most illnesses.

 It has been documented that unhealthy aging is accompanied by excessive inflammation with increases in cytokines that cause inflammation, and inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP).

 But the body expends a great deal of energy to naturally control inflammatory responses, and return to immune homeostasis, immune balance.   So for example, moderate exercise lowers inflammation. 

Every time muscle contraction occurs, potent anti-inflammatory cytokines are released.  Therefore, as the women in this study were physically active, their bodies were naturally reducing the amount of inflammation in their bodies.

 As to the contribution of fruits and vegetables in lowering inflammation, hundreds of studies support the fact that carotenoids affect cytokines, the immune system messengers that modulate inflammation. 

 There are many ways to help the body modulate immune system-generated inflammatory responses, but simple lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, are two simple steps to consider for a healthier, longer, and more active life.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22587851

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22162208

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120530100512.htm

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 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19549997

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22483785

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22473333

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22708923

The concept of epigenetics was first introduced in the 1940s, and its implications on how we modulate inflammation through its processes are intriguing and exciting.

For most of my scientific career, we were taught that biological processes of the body were pre-determined by genes. It was said that DNA’s message was set-in-stone, and except through mutations which might result in cancer, or mutations and recombinations of genetic material that were handed down from one generation to another, the message encoded by DNA was unchanging.

Accumulating evidence suggests that altering our diet, life style, and environment, significantly influences gene expression; the way that the body translates the DNA message. We can change the affect our genes have on our physiological and emotional well-being.

It never ceases to amaze me that the medical profession writes off conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, cancer, strokes, Alzheimer’s etc. as being the result of “aging”; basically, saying to their patient, “you have to live with it because you are getting old”.

Instead, health practitioners might better focus on the fact that imbalances of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses contribute to health issues. Directing the emphasis on life style changes would enable individuals to take steps towards breaking the inflammation cycle, literally affecting the DNA message, and the resulting quality of their lives.

There are simple approaches that help maintain immune balance, immune homeostasis. Two such changes are: limiting the size of fat cells, and exercise. Fat cells, especially around our abdominal area, produce large amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines, that trigger inappropriate levels of inflammation.

Exercise is a way to neutralize these molecules since contracting our muscles releases potent anti-inflammatory cytokines.

Additionally, the daily consumption of two or more servings of hyperimmune egg can go a long way toward supporting the body’s natural immune-rebalancing attempts.

In the controversy of genes vs. nurture, we now know that it is a combination of both that makes the difference. We can help regulate what our genes “say” by how we choose to live our lives.

www.sciencemag.org/site/feature/plus/sfg/resources/res_epigenetics.xhtml

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22004920.1

target=”_blank”>articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/11/epigenetic-vs-determinism.aspx

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22428854

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20388091

 

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