Anti-Inflammatory/Anti-Aging Strategies
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As of this writing, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta is strongly recommending that pregnant woman postpone travel to many countries across the world, including the popular Caribbean islands.  The CDC is taking these steps due to the possibility that these women may become are infected with a mosquito borne virus called Zika.  The World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr Margaret Chan, has said that Zika had gone “from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions” and expects the virus to spread through the Americas and affect between three million and four million people.

Eighty percent of individuals who are infected with Zika do not show symptoms.  However, when symptoms do occur, they can last up to a week or so and include fever, rash, pink eye, and joint pain. Some clinicians suggest that Zika virus infection may result in the autoimmune [against oneself] condition,  Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS).  This is rare disorder where too much inflammation damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and may lead to paralysis.

The greatest concern however right now is that health agencies “strongly suspect” that when a pregnant women is bitten by a mosquito that is carring the virus, that even if she does not experience symptoms, that her offspring may develop brain malformations.

This latest outbreak adds to concerns that infectious diseases are one of the top threats challenging our world—a major topic on the agenda of last week’s World Economic Forum world leader attendees.  Until vaccines or treatments are developed, viral infections such as Zika, Ebola, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) remain a threat to the world’s population.

Currently, there are no commercially available vaccines or treatments for Zika.  Until recently the cost to develop a successful vaccine was far greater than what the manufacturers would recoup in vaccine sales.  However, development of a vaccine for Zika will likely now escalate since Zika has spread so widely, infecting over 1.5 million individuals and its being linked to neurological problems, especially in newborns.

In addition to a lack of vaccines and treatments for a multitude of viral diseases, another significant health-care crisis we are facing is treatment of infection by anti-microbial-resistant pathogens. As Dr. Keiji Fukudaof the World Health Organization has stated:  “We really hope to pull the world back from the brink where antibiotics don’t work anymore”.

When bacteria are stressed, for example by a killer antibiotic, their genetic material may change, mutate, so that they can tolerate and become resistant to such compounds.  The bacteria can then replicate easily and outgrow bacterial strains that were not resistant to the antibiotic.

Fifty percent of antibiotic prescriptions written by U.S. physicians are of no benefit to the patient, and when used to fatten livestock and poultry it gives bacteria even more opportunity to acquire antibiotic tolerance.

It is our immune systems that identify, destroy, and remove invading pathogens.   When our body recognizes that it has been invaded by foreign agents, a strong inflammatory responses is triggered to meet the onslaught of the pathogens.  White blood cells accumulate in the area to combat the invaders.  These immune cells release cytokines and other immune messages  recruiting more white blood cells in an attempt to “burn out” the infection. Without a powerful inflammatory response, we cannot limit or survive infections.

In the absence of drugs or treatments that prevent and control the growth of viruses and other microorganism the immune system must be optimized to protect the body against them.

 

www.cdc.gov/mmwr/index.html
www.scientificamerican.com/article/who-extremely-alarmed-by-zika-cases-could-reach-4-million/?WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20160128
www.wsj.com/articles/health-threats-spur-vaccine-hunt-1453337493
ecdc.europa.eu/en/healthtopics/zika_virus_infection/factsheet-health-professionals/Pages/factsheet_health_professionals.aspx
www.vox.com/2016/1/20/10795562/zika-virus-cdc-mosquitoes-birth-defects
www.wsj.com/articles/SB105768561135341800
www.cdc.gov/features/antibioticresistancethreats/
www.cdc.gov/media/dpk/2013/images/untreatable/img2_sm.jpg
www.bbc.com/news/health-35427493

Borrelia burgdorferi, is a bacterial infection that results from an infected tick, originally from mammals or birds, biting and injecting the microorganism into a human host. Individuals treated early in infection are likely to recover completely; however, delaying treatment may result in long recovery times, or result in disease that will last for years, or for life.

Infection Affects Multiple Organ Systems
Lyme disease can affect any organ or multiple systems including, skin, joints, nervous system, muscles, and skin. Early symptoms are a red, expanding rash, erythema migrans, that often appears at the tick bite site, and flu-like symptoms such as body aches, fever, chills, headache, and fatigue.

Left untreated, unfocused severe pain may, irregular heart beat and other heart problems, chronic inflammation of the joints (especially the knees, i.e., Lyme arthritis), liver inflammation (hepatitis) and eye problems. Unremitting fatigue, memory problems, and brain “fog” may also accompany the disease.

Incomplete recovery from Lyme disease may result in significant neurological problems, including Bell’s palsy (paralysis of one side of the face), weakness or numbness of limbs, impaired muscle movement, and meningitis (inflammation of brain membranes).

Twenty to fifty percent of patients with neurological issues may continue to experience difficulties for years.

Immune Responses to Lyme Infection
The extent of recovery from Lyme disease depends on factors such as the numbers of bacteria initially injected and the types of immune responses triggered by the infection.

As with healing from most infections, recovery from Lyme disease is a highly complex process requiring the correct interplay of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines, immune regulating molecules. Successful recovery requires a homeostatic, a balanced immune attack with enough inflammation to kill the organism without damaging by-stander cells and organs.

For example, the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) stimulates inflammation but is also, depending on what the body needs, able to decrease inflammatory responses. (IL-6 is also triggers pain receptors and helps nerve cells regenerate.) Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is another cytokine that helps the body control the amount of inflammation produced in response to infection.

Another cytokine, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) is an inflammatory cytokine that stimulates certain immune cells to find, engulf, and digest invading organisms. Mice susceptible to Lyme disease are unable to manufacture enough of this factor which may account for their susceptibility.

In humans as well, patients that were recovering well had significantly higher levels of tumor necrosis factor-α compared to those with on-going disease. Once again, these responses likely reflect the powerful inflammatory response that helps the body eliminate the disease.

Additionally, recovering infected individuals had higher levels of transforming growth factor than individuals with severe symptoms. These findings suggest that transforming growth factor was successfully limiting the amount of inflammation being produced in response to infection.

Similarly, in mice with Lyme arthritis, animals that did best were those in which high TNF-α cytokine levels helped kill the bacteria, followed by an aggressive IL-6 response that dampened the inflammatory response.

In further support of these findings, patients with rashes (early infection) had high levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine, transforming growth factor, as compared to those who had more severe neurological involvement.

Conclusion:
The body uses inflammatory responses to protect itself from infection and heal itself. Inflammation helps the body destroy organisms, almost as if the body was “burning” the infection out. However, just like a forest fire, if inflammation is not well controlled the person with Lyme disease may suffer symptoms for years or for life. This is why it is essential for the body to produce a balanced, immune inflammatory response to infection.

 

Contact Dr. Hellen at: 302.265.3870 (ET), DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info, or by using the contact form: http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen.


www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lyme-disease/basics/definition/con-20019701
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1782772/
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23945160
www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuTlC_0KzGU VIDEO
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991005/

Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. As of this post, the virus has spread through many African nations, and is the worst Ebola outbreak every recorded. The virus has infected over 1200 people and abuot 60% of these individuals have died from the disease.

Health practitioners have put themselves at great risk caring for those who have become infected. According to the BBC, one hundred health workers have been affected and half of them have died. At least three high-profile physicians in the forefront of care have succumbed to the virus, and three nurses who worked in the same treatment center as one of the physicians, are believed to have died from the virus.

Two Americans working to battle Ebola in Liberia, one a physician, have tested positive for the virus and are undergoing intensive treatment and workers from Doctors without Borders and the Red Cross are “overwhelmed” for the virus that has no cure.

Depending on the type of Ebola virus, up to 90% of those infected can die a rapid and difficult death. The onset of symptoms may be characterized by a sudden spiking fever, headache, joint, muscle, and stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and in some cases, uncontrolled internal and external bleeding. Infected individuals die from failure of multiple organs in the body such as the nervous system, liver, and kidneys.

The disease is characterized by abnormal immune responses in which the Ebola viruses appear to evade attack of immune cells; dramatic immune imbalances occur in response to infection. There is evidence that the immune system responds with a “cytokine” storm during which certain immune cells “dump” large amounts of pro-inflammatory molecules, cytokines, into the body. Other biological compounds are released as well that contribute to the confused immune response.

Additionally, specialized cells produce insufficient amount of anti-viral cytokines, while at the same time, there is a significant increase in death of other types of immune cells. Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases call this “a mixed anti-inflammatory response syndrome (MARS)”, and suggest that this “catastrophic uncontrolled immunological status contributes to the development of fatal hemorrhagic fever”.

Perhaps some of the symptoms that patients experience are due to autoimmune responses against individual classes of lymphocytes. This would account for the loss of certain immune cells, such as CD4 and CD8 cells. If they were available in higher numbers, they might be able to help the body fight the infection.

Many immunological factors contribute to Ebola virus fatalities. It is my contention that if  individuals were able to achieve immune homeostasis, immune balance, they would be better equipped to mount  controlled inflammatory responses which might help control the course of the disease.

 www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/fact-sheet.pdf
www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/t0728-ebola.html
www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/
www.nasw.org/users/mslong/2010/2010_09/Ebola.htm
www.vox.com/2014/7/23/5930311/ebola-virus-disease-outbreak-africa-facts-guinea?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=voxdotcom&utm_content=Sunday
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20957152
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21987781
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC368745/

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs in some individuals that are exposed to emotionally disturbing events such as combat, rocket, and terrorist attacks. Individuals that have suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) or experienced natural disasters and sexual assault are also at higher risk of having this disorder.

Symptoms may include quality of life issues such as explosive outbursts of anger, difficulties in concentrating, being easily startled, feeling constantly “on guard”, expecting a threat to occur at any moment, depression, problems sleeping, avoiding people and circumstances that can trigger unpleasant memories or outbursts, limiting emotional relationships, and avoiding crowded locations.

Up to twenty percent of veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm), and 30% of Vietnam Veterans have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD is not only a psychiatric issue. Individuals suffering with PTSD are at higher risk of being physically ill, and at increased risk of death from a multiple of causes.

PTSD is Associated with Inflammatory Responses.
Clinical studies suggest that individuals with post-traumatic stress disorders suffer from chronic low-level inflammation. This is reflected in their greater propensity to have inflammation-associated diseases such as autoimmune, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and respiratory diseases.

A combination of high blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure, coupled with excess fat around the abdomen (abdominal visceral fat), increases the risk of individuals for stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. This cluster of symptoms, metabolic syndrome, is associated with inflammation and is found in 48% of individuals with post traumatic stress syndrome compared to 25% of controls. Such clinical issues result in patients with PTSD utilizing a greater proportion of medical services and prescription medications.

IL-6 is a cytokine, an immune messenger, which plays a major role in inflammation, helping the body heal after tissue injury, and defending the body from pathogens. C-reactive protein (CRP) is another biological marker that is strongly related to heightened levels of inflammation. Elevated levels of IL-6 and CRP are associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events that are inflammatory in nature.

Reports of increased presence of inflammatory cytokines in individuals with PTSD are inconsistent. However, the evidence suggests in military personnel with PTSD or depression, IL-6 levels are higher than found in control subjects, and that the quality of life of these soldiers is poorer as well. Similarly, individuals with PTSD are more likely to have significantly higher amounts of circulating CRP than those not diagnosed with PTSD.

Intermittent explosive disorder is one of the more troubling aspects of some individuals with post traumatic stress disorder. This condition involves repeated episodes of impulsive, angry, verbal outbursts, and violent and aggressive behavior. CRP and IL-6 levels are significantly higher in personnel with intermittent explosive disorder compared with normal or other psychiatric controls, suggesting a direct relationship between inflammation and aggression.

Summary:
Fifty percent of individuals with post traumatic stress syndrome do not seek treatment, and of those that do, only half of these persons will get “minimally adequate” treatment. Until now, the primary treatments for PSTD are psychological counseling and psychiatric medications.

Inflammation is the result of a delicate balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses, and the body constantly strives to maintain a state of “immune homeostasis”, immune balance.

As in most disease, chronic low-grade inflammation is a likely contributor to post traumatic stress syndrome. If individuals with PTSD better controlled the amount of inflammation produced by their bodies, their quality of life would improve, both emotionally and physically.

 

There is no cost to speak with Dr. Hellen. She can be reached at 1.302-265.3870 ET [USA] or contacted at: drhellen@drhellengreenblatt.info.

 

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23806967
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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.

 


diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/56/6/1517.full

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14679176
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In a previous post, I discussed the role of excessive inflamation in thalassemia,  a blood disorder in which individuals suffer from low numbers of red blood cells and hemoglobulin levels. This post focuses on another blood disorder that results in low hemoglobulin levels, sickle cell anemia.

Abnormal Red Blood Cells
Normally, blood cells are rounded, disc-shaped, and flexible enough to move easily through blood vessels.  In contrast, people with sickle cell anemia have crescent, sickle-shaped, red blood cells that are stiff and sticky, and tend to become “stuck” in various tight spots in blood vessels.  This blocks blood flow leading to pain and organ damage from inflammation in response to the blockages.  Additionally, since their hemoglobin structure is abnormal, the red blood cells are unable to carry their full complement of oxygen throughout the body, resulting in oxygen deficits.

Red blood cells typically live for about 4 months in the blood stream, but sickle cells die after only 10-20 days.  Individuals with sickle cell anemia, cannot make fresh red blood cells fast enough to replace the dying red blood cells.  The lack of oxygen leads to fatigue, feelings of weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, cold hands and feet, pale mucous membranes, and a yellowish tinge to skin or the whites of the eyes. 

Pain Crises
Perhaps the most devastating symptom that many individuals with sickle cell anemia experience is excruciating pain that lasts for hours, weeks, or months. These are called “pain crises”. Painful crises are the leading cause of emergency room visits and hospital stays for people who have sickle cell anemia.

The pain results from inflammation and damage to blood vessels by the sickled cells.  When the red blood cells block the flow of blood to limbs and organs, immune cells come into the area and release inflammatory cytokines, immune molecules that result in a vicious cycle of more inflammation and pain.

Some individuals experience these crises a few times a year,  others may more frequent episodes.  Repeated crises can damage the bones, joints, kidneys, lungs, eyes, heart, and liver.  Moreover, in children, damage to their spleen, an immune organ, can leave them more susceptible to infection.

Cascade of Inflammation
Inflammation not only plays a major role in damaging blood vessels, but the immune cells release inflammatory cytokines, molecules that trigger inflammation,  and biological compounds that cause cells to become “sticky”.  The blocked blood flow leads to pain and other health issues.

When compared to those without sickle cell disease, individuals with sickle cell anemia have different profiles of messenger cytokines.  For example IL-6,  which helps the body return to immune balance, immune homeostasis,  is at significantly higher levels in sickle cell anemia patients.

Summary
Inappropriate levels of inflammation pose major challenges for the quality of life of individuals with sickle cell disease.  A rational approach to benefiting individuals with sickle cell is to help their bodies achieve inflammatory homeostasis, immune balance.

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

http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/sickle-cell-disease
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8746787
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gene/3569
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24383847
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24589266
http://arthritis-research.com/content/8/S2/S3
 

Over the last 18 months, at least 25 children have been affected in the California area by a “polio-like” illness resulting in partial paralysis of five of the children.  As of this week, two out of five of these children have tested positive for enterovirus.  According to the news media, Australia and Asia have also report similar cases.

A commonly found virus, enteroviruses typically result in only mild symptoms such as runny nose, coughing, muscle aches, and sneezing. However, there are 60 different varieties of enteroviruses, and infection with certain types of these viruses results in spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, and congenital anomalies.  Infection with other varieties of enteroviruses can lead to damage of various tissues including skin, muscles, brain, spine, nerve cells, liver, and heart.

Some enteroviruses appear to specifically target the brain and the nervous system, leading to short- or long-term paralysis affecting mobility. So for example, polio enteroviruses attack the nervous system triggering an inflammatory response to destroy the viruses.  The resulting inflammation may lead to mild paralysis, or to an individual becoming completely paralyzed within hours.

Some persistent enteroviruses survive in the body for a prolonged time with continued inflammation and damage to tissues.   So for example, polio patients that initially recover from their disease may continue to experience damage of nerve and muscle cells by inflammatory processes.  This resurgence of symptoms can result in a post-polio syndrome (PPS) years after their original exposure to the virus.

Individuals with post-polio syndrome have high levels of inflammatory cytokines, immune factors, in the spinal fluids between the thin layers of tissues that protect the spinal cord.  Other conditions resulting from enterovirus infection are often associated with the production of inflammatory molecules. Even patients with relatively mild symptoms and no nervous system complications may show increased blood levels of inflammatory immune factors.  This suggests that excessive inflammatory responses are occurring throughout the body.

A delicate balance exists between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses of the body.  The immune system is always on alert defending itself against infection.  However, once the process is triggered, the inflammation must be a measured, controlled response that does not destroy healthy tissue.

www.decodedscience.com/polio-like-virus-california-enterovirus-68-paralyzing-kids/43034
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18219253
www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/post_polio/detail_post_polio.htm
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24367714
www.enterovirusfoundation.org/associations.shtml
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22776106
 

Blood disorders are diseases that affect blood components: 1) red blood cells, 2) white blood cells, and/or 3) platelets.

 Red blood cells are disc-shaped cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to all the cells in the body White blood cells are immune cells that help the body heal, and protect itself from infections and cancerous cells that might grow into tumors or cancers of the blood.  Platelets are blood elements that stick to the lining of blood vessels and help the blood to clot when  bleeding from a wound.

 Some common blood disorders are  anemia, thalassemia, sickle cell anemia,  idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP),pernicious anemia,  hemolytic anemia, and aplastic anemia.

 All of these disorders have a single commonality, mainly that individuals with these types of conditions have low numbers of red cells, white blood cells, and/or platelets.

 Inflammation is necessary for our survival. Invasion by pathogens initiates inflammatory processes that attack these organisms. However, too often the “forest fire” gets out of control, and healthy cells, tissues, and organs are damaged.  When the body attacks its own cells, the condition is called an autoimmune, against -oneself, response.

 Thalassemia is an inherited disease in which people have abnormally low numbers of red blood cells and low hemoglobin. The hemoglobulin molecule is faulty and unable to carry its typical complement of oxygen.  [Hemoglobin is a protein that  helps  transport oxygen throughout the body.  Red blood cells also carry waste gases like carbon dioxide  to the lungs where it is released and then exhaled.]

 Individuals with thalassemia often suffer from inflamed blood vessels and slower blood flow in their blood vessels.  Both problems put individuals at greater risk of suffering from thromboembolism.  In this condition, a blood clot, an embolus, partially or totally blocks blood vessels deep in the body (deep vein thrombosis) or a clot is released that suddenly interferes with blood flow within a lung artery (pulmonary embolism), which can be fatal.

As blood clots form, an inflammatory response is triggerred to break up the clots.  More inflammation results in the production of more cytokines, immune messages that affect blood clotting.  Individuals with thalassemia, as with other blood disorders, typically have higher levels of inflammatory cytokines than individuals without such conditions.

It never ceases to amaze me how many health practitioners ignore the contribution of inflammatory process to diseases such as thalassemia.  In blood disorders, as with most other diseases, achieving and maintaining immune inflammatory homeostasis, balance, is essential.

 Being in homeostasis means that there are enough immune factors, pro-inflammatory cytokines to initiate a proper inflammatory response, and corresponding anti-inflammatory factors to limit inflammation and the damage it may cause.  A delicate balance of these messages are essential.

 What does one lose by moderating excessive inflammatory responses?  Control inappropriate levels of inflammation, and improve the quality of life of those with blood disorders, and most other diseases.

 [Please look for future posts on other blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia, pernicious anemia, and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)].

 There is no cost to readers of these posts to speak with Dr. Hellen.  She can be reached at 1.302-265.3870 [USA] or contacted at:  drhellen@drhellengreenblatt.info .

 

www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/blood/
www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pe/
www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1079979609001387
bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/content/87/12/5051.full.pdf

 

 

We humans exist in sea of microorganisms. According to the American Society for Microbiology, there are 10 fold the number of bacteria living in and on our bodies as cells that make up our bodies. Wherever our bodies are exposed to the outside world, for example our digestive tracts, skin, mouth, vagina, etc. we find specific varieties of bacteria and other organisms.

The totality of all the bacteria and other microorganisms that populate our bodies is called the microbiome. The microbiome is highly individualized, with the spectrum of bacteria differing from one person to another; much like an individual’s fingerprints. All people display wide variations in the kinds of bacteria that inhabit them. The types and numbers of bacteria in and on our bodies differ depending on our genetic makeup, our diet, and environmental factors.

Immune cells are found throughout the body where they are always on alert defending the body against infection. Inflammation is the primary way that the immune system controls infections and healing, but overactive immune responses can lead to debilitating inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and bowel disorders.

There is considerable “cross-talk” between the microbiome and the immune cells. Microorganisms influence the responses of the immune system, and the immune system in turn affects the populations of the organisms that inhabit us. For example, evidence suggests that certain bacteria in the gut can decrease inflammation in the gut and decrease chronic disease. [Whether the organisms themselves are producing these molecules, or whether they are triggering immune cells to release anti-inflammatory compounds is not clear.]

Celiac Disease and Diabetes:
Individuals with celiac disease are highly sensitive to foods containing gluten, a protein found in barley, rye, and wheat. People with celiac disease have significant quality of life issues such as bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation.

When the immune cells of celiacs see gluten, they mount an inflammatory response to try to eliminate the gluten from the intestines. The immune cells produce antibodies that attach to the inner surface of the gut and through inflammatory responses cause direct damage of the gut lining. Inflammatory responses against the body’s own tissues lead to autoimmune (against oneself) disease.

Diabetes is also the result of an autoimmune condition. Inflammatory immune cells destroy specialized cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone needed to control blood sugar.

Individuals with celiac disease have more than digestive issues, since they have almost 2.5 times a greater chance of developing diabetes than those without intestinal problems. Such conditions are associated with antibodies directed against the insulin-producing cells. When Individuals with celiac disease go on a strict gluten-free diet, they produce fewer anti-insulin-antibodies, suggesting that they are producing less of an inflammatory response.

Gluten intake changes the kinds of bacteria found in the gut. Diabetic-prone mice that eat regular mouse chow containing gluten are more likely to get diabetes than diabetic-prone mice on gluten-free chow. In addition, when the gut bacteria are analyzed, the diabetic-prone mice on gluten have the type of bacteria more often associated with inflammation, than the mice not on gluten. Thus, diet affects the responses of the immune cells and the microbiome.

As followers of this blog are aware, in the face of constantly changing external and internal challenges, the immune system of a healthy person makes adjustments to maintain immune balance, immune homeostasis.

One would expect that if inflammatory and autoimmune responses were better controlled by the body, that individuals with celiac disease and diabetes would experience a far better 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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