Anti-Inflammatory Strategies–Achieving Homeostasis
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Back pain is one of the most common health complaints among adults in the US. From 75-80% of individuals will suffer from lower back pain sometime in their lives.

Symptoms of back pain include shooting or stabbing pains in the back, limited mobility, and/or pain that radiates down the leg.

The majority of individuals experiencing back pain will become more comfortable within days or weeks without medical treatment. Some people however may experience chronic pain lasting 2-3 months or more.  Nonetheless, all low back pain results in major economic and social repercussions for both sufferers and society.

 

DrHellen 2018 (c)

There is no known cause of the pain in approximately 90% of patients; it is what is termed “idiopathic”.  However, sitting too long or doing a physical task incorrectly may trigger back problems.  The lack of physical activity, excess weight, genetics and the physical demands of a job also contribute to lower back pain. Sedentary lifestyles are associated with 1.41 times greater risk of developing back pain. Individuals that are not physically active, are 1.23 times more likely to develop lower back pain.

Individuals with back pain frequently have the same anatomically “abnormalities” as people without back complaints. Patients with occupation-related back pain who had magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of their back were 8 times more likely to get surgery as those who had just x-rays. Since symptoms do not correlate with imaging testing, many practitioners will not recommend imaging testing within the first six weeks of pain (unless there is a strong suspicion of other underlying conditions)..

Inflammation in the body is tightly regulated, involving signals that initiate and maintain inflammation and others that turn inflammation off. Imbalances between the two, lead to unchecked inflammation.

Inflammation causes pain, and pain causes more inflammation.  When the body hurts, inflammatory cytokines, immune molecules, are triggered that initiate the healing process. The release in the spinal cord of certain cytokines is associated with inflamed nerves and pain.

CRP (C-reactive protein) is a biological marker of inflammation. Individuals with the most severe lower back pain have nearly twice the amount of CRP levels as those with less pain.

Back surgery may relieve some causes of back pain, but it’s rarely necessary. Most back pain resolves on its own. There are a number of treatments that are used to reduce inflammation and pain: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), epidural steroid injections, topically applied creams or sprays, and for some, hot and cold packs.

One of the best approaches to relieving lower back pain is exercise, especially McKenzie exercises [find the exercise best for you on YouTube].  Individuals that do back exercises find significant relief and if practiced consistently will find that their backs will be strengthened and they will have less discomfort.

[As previous posts have suggested, backed by clinical trials, exercise increases naturally-occurring anti-inflammatory cytokines and can provide significant and faster relief to those suffering with lower back pain.]

Summary:

The key to healing is a balanced immune response.  The body needs the right amount of inflammation to heal, but too much inflammation results in illness.

If you want to change how you feel, contact Dr. Hellen. No fee is charged for the first 30 minutes of consultation. Dr. Hellen may be  contacted by using this form or calling:  302.265.3870 (ET-USA).
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this flu season is an unusually severe outbreak with wide-spread instances of disease in 49 States with many schools being closed. The season started earlier than usual, which is never a good sign.   CDC Deputy Director Anne Schuchat has said “This year’s influenza season is proving particularly difficult”. Hospitals do not have enough beds and the prevalence of the flu has led to shortages of anti-viral medications that if prescribed in the first 48 hours may shorten symptoms by a day or so.

This season’s primary virus strain is H3N2, a deadly type of influenza A that tends to result in more severe illness and higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths than other strains. H3N2 is especially dangerous for the frail elderly and children, although people between the ages of 50 and 64 are being hospitalized at alarming rates, second only to the elderly.  As of this post, almost 100 children have already died from the flu.

Since vaccination may lessen the severity of the illness and there are  few other options, the CDC recommends people be vaccinated with the current flu vaccine, even though it may only be 30% -40% effective. [Antibiotics are useless against viruses since they only kill bacteria.]

Although some people view the flu as “merely” annoying and inconvenient, those suffering from influenza along with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, emphysema, diabetes and other pre-existing conditions are at a higher risk of hospitalization or death, especially if they contract a secondary bacterial infection.

The influenza virus is difficult for the body to protect itself from, because it is able to mutate rapidly and frequently. This forces the immune system to constantly change its tactics to combat the latest version of the flu.

Infection by influenza triggers an intense immune inflammatory response in the lungs in the body’s attempt to stop the virus from multiplying. The lungs’ immune cells release cytokines, small molecules that signal and recruit other cells into the lungs to increase or decrease their immune and inflammatory responses.

Lisa Brown JPEG

But such a response can be a double edged sword. Too much inflammation causes lung damage on top of the damage already caused by the virus and secondary bacterial infections such as pneumonia. Additionally, although rare, if the balance of cytokines is significantly upset, the normal level of inflammatory cytokines may become too high, resulting in a cytokine storm (or cytokine cascade) that can kill a previously healthy individual in hours.

A properly balanced immune system, one in homeostasis, is more fully prepared to defend us against invasion by foreign agents, and is ready to help us combat an infection if we get one.

Following the following steps will help keep your immune system functioning at optimum levels:

  1. Eat healthful meals with an emphasis on whole grains and plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits.
  2. Be physical active to help keep the immune system in balance; incorporate it into your daily life.
  3. Get adequate amounts of rest and avoid fatigue.
  4. Drink plenty of fluids to keep membranes moist and more resistant to invasion.
  5. Wash your hands frequently and try to keep them away from your face.
  6. Stop, or at least cut down, on your smoking—your lungs are struggling enough.
  7. Consume a superior immune support supplement to help your immune system balance.
Dr. Hellen’s passion is helping people have a better quality of life. Contact her by using this form, drhellen@drhellengreenblatt.info, or calling at: 302.265.3870 (ET, USA).
www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm
www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/summary.htm
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www.businessinsider.com/baby-boomers-hospitalized-with-the-flu-what-is-imprinting-2018-1

From the time of the ancient Greeks, it has been clear that the mind-gut-body connection influences one’s health; however, only during the last century have we begun to understand why this is the case.

With new tools, scientists can show that there is cross-talk between the brain, the gut and the immune system.  Immune molecules from white blood cells send messages to the brain and the gut and in turn, these organs signal back to the immune system, up-regulating (increase) or down-regulating (decrease) inflammation.

 Image stress stomach immune system brain

©2017 Dr. H. C. Greenblatt

Chronic, long-term stress, affects immune cells by changing their gene activity.  This prepares them to fight infection or trauma and increases inflammation. More immune cells are then enlisted for the fight, resulting in increased inflammation.

Inflammation is necessary for survival, but too much inflammation is linked to heart and autoimmune disease, diabetes, depression, and cancer.  This is why it is essential to maintain the right balance of signals.

Stress responses are part of a vicious cycle in which stress triggers inflammation and inflammation triggers additional stress.

In stressed mice, there are four times the numbers of immune cells than found in non-stressed mice.  Additionally in mice that are stressed 1100 genes are responsible for increasing (up-regulating) inflammation.  These genes in non-stressed mice are not activated.

Similar outcomes are seen in humans under chronic stress. For weeks and months following natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes,  individuals, especially those who have suffered great personal loss, have imbalances of the immune system that affects them both physically and emotionally.

The immune system and its inflammatory responses are in exquisite balance (homeostasis).  The body expands much of its energy maintaining its balance in a steady state.  This may be the reason that people who are stressed out tend to be “tired a lot of the time”.

Let us say that your immune system consists of 30 billion cells and that 15 billion of these cells are in the attack mode with excessive inflammation (up-regulation).  Let us propose that another 15 billion cells are trying to limit the inflammatory response (down-regulation).

A total of 30 billion cells expending a “trivial” amount of energy is a great deal of wasted energy. No wonder people become exhausted when they are not in homeostasis, balance.

CONCLUSION:

The key to reducing stress  is to help the immune system return to homeostasis, to its natural balance.

To better manage stress especially during the holidays:  incorporate an immune support supplement into your daily diet, be physically active 2-2.5 hours/week, spend time outdoors, eat smart, stay within healthy weight limits and remember that you are only one person—be kind to yourself; give yourself a break.

Achieving immune homeostasis will make all the difference in the quality of your emotional and physical well-being. 

Contact Dr. Hellen at: DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info, use the form or give her a call at 302.265.3870 (ET, USA) at no charge to you. 



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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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The second leading cause of death for people under the age of 44 years is suicide. Overall, it is the the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, with veterans comprising 22.2% of this statistic.  Women are three times more likely to attempt suicide, but for every woman who takes her own life, four men will die from their attempt.

Although older adults make up only 12% of the population in the States, they account for 18% of all suicides. These fatal events in the elderly are probably under-reported by 40% with “silent suicides”, dehydration, “accidents”, medication over doses, etc. ending in death.  Additionally, double suicides involving spouses or partners occur most frequently in this population. Since the elderly are the fastest growing segment of the population, these later-life deaths are predicted to result in suicide becoming a major public health issue in the too-near future.

Inflammation and Suicide

C-reactive protein (CRP) is associated with high levels of inflammation found in people with inflammatory disorders, burn and trauma victims, in obese individuals, in people with infections or with cardiovascular disease. People with suicidal thoughts (known as suicidal ideation) or attempts, also exhibit high levels of C-reactive protein compared to people without such behaviors.

Inflammatory factors are triggered during stress and are associated with depression.

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When compared to patients being treated for psychiatric disorders who are not suicidal, individuals who have contemplated or attempted suicide have increased levels of inflammatory cytokines, immune cell molecules in their blood and/or brain.

The ratio of inflammatory molecules to anti-inflammatory molecules in the body either promotes inflammation or limits it.  A healthy immune system constantly strives to maintain these factors in a delicate balance, in immune homeostasis. 

Importance of Balancing Immune Factors

Imbalances in immune regulators are harmful and lead to disease. Taking the following steps should make a major difference in helping the body and mind return to homeostasis, to its natural, healthy balance:

  • Engage in physical activity at least 30 minutes a day 5 days/week.
  • Add one or more daily servings of a superior immune support supplement to your diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
  • Spend some time outdoors.

For decades I have helped people enhance their quality of life.  I can be contacted at: DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info, use this form or give me a call at 302.265.3870 (ET USA) and let us talk. Your first 30 minutes are on me!  You’ve tried everyone and everything else, let me help you feel good again, you deserve it!

 
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An article in a recent trade publication opened with the following: “Charles couldn’t believe the intensity of the pain – and he had been shot during a tour in Iraq with the Marines. “I was lying in my sleeper and my big toe just went on fire. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. I thought I was going to pass out from the pain,” Charles explained. “My big toe was red, swollen and when I touched it, even a little, it hurt like hell”. Charles’ problem is that he suffers from gout.

 Gout is a type of arthritis that seems to run in families and results from the presence of crystals that form in the body. For example, during digestion and metabolism, the body produces uric acid which is eliminated via urine. Any uric acid that the body cannot excrete accumulates in the blood. For reasons not understood, about 30% of people with high levels of uric acid in their blood form needle-like, sharp urate crystals that end up in their joints and/or other parts of the body.

 Herbert Baraf, MD, Chevy Chase, MD, has a great analogy: “Imagine pouring packets of sugar into a glass of tea; can only hold so much in solution. And sooner or later, the sugar is going to start accumulating on the bottom of the glass.

 People with gout may go weeks or months without an attack, but when it flares up it can be excruciating and last for days. Over time, repeated attacks can eat into bone and cartilage, causing permanent damage to affected joints.

Inflammation

The presence of crystals triggers an intense inflammatory response and painful swelling the result of the body’s attempt to break down the crystals. Typically the crystals end up in joint cartilage, and for unknown reasons, especially the big toe.

gouty toe

In others, crystals settle in kidneys or the urinary tract, impairing their function or forming stones. White blood cells migrate into the joint spaces and fluids and the lubricating membranes that line the joints, the synovial membranes trying to eliminate the crystals. The immune cells attracted to the area release biological factors, cytokines and chemokines, into the surrounding area. This attracts more inflammatory cells with a result of redness, swelling and debilitating pain.

Certain immune factors are typically only in small amount in normal uninflamed joint fluids, but in individuals undergoing a gout attack (flare) the levels of the factors are significantly increased.

 Since inflammation is associated with many diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular health, it is not surprising to find that patients with gout are at higher risk of these diseases when compared to the general population.

 Summary:

Gout is caused by an overactive immune system using inflammation unsuccessfully to get rid of the crystals that are causing the discomfort.

Returning the immune system to balance, immune homeostasis, can result in a higher level of quality of life (QOL) for people with gout.

For years I have helped people promote  joint, digestive, energy and overall health.   Feel free to contact me DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info, use the form, or give me a call at 302.265.3870 (ET) and let us talk. Let me help you help yourself, it is  time!

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Without the ability to produce inflammation we die.  The inflammatory response is the main weapon that the immune system uses to protect us from infection, keep cancer cells from growing out of control, and help tissues heal when they are damaged.

However, one has to have the right balance of inflammation to be healthy.  We need enough inflammation to protect us, but  too much of an inflammatory response leads to increased risk of developing diseases such as irritable bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, lupus, and diabetes.

The mind as well as the body is negatively affected by run-away inflammation. Emotional problems such as depression, spikes of high or low moods (bipolar disorders), or schizophrenia are accompanied by uncontrolled inflammation.

Genes control the amount of inflammation that the body produces. When “inflammatory” genes are turned on, up-regulated, immune cells produce cytokines, inflammatory immune messengers, along with biological compounds such as C-reactive protein (CRP).

LONELINESS AND ANHEDONIA

Loneliness and feelings of isolation are linked to an increased risk of chronic disease and death and are associated with increased levels of inflammation.

Some depressed individuals experience anhedonia, a condition in which they   lack motivation and do not enjoy  life.  These people find no joy in food,   spending time with their family or friends, concerts, or activities that others find pleasurable.

Individuals with anhedonia experience persistent brain inflammation, among other biological events and typical treatments for depression are often not helpful.

BRAIN REGIONS COMMUNICATE WITH ONE ANOTHER

Different parts of the brain communicate with one another as they control a person’s response to pleasure and rewards such as social interactions, food and sex.  Reacting positively to these stimuli motivates one to repeat them in the future.  The ability of these regions to communicate with one another is called “connectivity”.

Individuals with low connectivity have increased inflammation and deeper feelings of anhedonia.  High CRP (an inflammatory marker) levels were also correlated with the inability to experience pleasure.

One of the medications used for individuals suffering with anhedonia is infliximab.  This medication is prescribed for patients with inflammatory conditions such as bowel disease and arthritis.  Additionally, administrating cytokines, immune messengers of inflammation, changes the reward-related regions of the brain.

DOPAMINE
style=”text-align: justify;”>Dopamine, which is produced brain cells, is strongly associated with the brain’s pleasure/reward regions. Dopamine helps us feel enjoyment and motivates us to participate in or continue to engage in activities that give us pleasure.

Decreased production of dopamine is associated with heighted inflammation and decreased connectivity between the pleasure centers of the brain. Administering inflammatory cytokines over a long period of time may lead to decreases in dopamine production.

THE LINK BETWEEN PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND DEPRESSION

Every time muscles contract, they release anti-inflammatory molecules that help the body balance the amount of inflammation it produces.  Additionally, exercise activates the brain’s pleasure centers. The evidence shows that there is a strong link between physical activity and mental and physical health.

Regular physical activity decreases one’s risk of depression.  Researchers tracked individuals that experienced their first heart attack and had been physically active for 10 years prior to the event. Heart attack survivors who exercised for years prior to the event had a 20% lower risk of developing depression compared to individuals that had not been physically active.

Also, people who had become physically active before their first heart attack had a better protection against depression compared to those who had been active at one time,  but then became inactive.

SUMMARY

Increased inflammation has been associated with depression and other negative emotional states.  Maintaining the body’s balance of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses helps support healthy emotional responses.

Dr. Hellen’s major passion in life is helping people to enjoy life at its fullest. She may be contacted by using this form, at  drhellen@drhellengreenblatt.info, or at:  302.265.3870 (ET, USA).

 

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Asthma: An Inflammatory Syndrome

Posted on Wednesday, October, 28th, 2015 by Dr. Hellen in Allergies | Chronic Disease | Inflammation

Asthma is an inflammatory condition which affects the lungs in negative ways. It is not a single disease, but a group of symptoms that arise from the abnormal immune responses to environmental triggers.

Asthmatics suffer from limited air flow, difficulties in breathing, heightened sensitivity to particles or toxins in the air, wheezing, coughing, and tightness of the throat and chest.

Asthma can be triggered by allergens, air-borne pollutants, upper respiratory infections (like a cold or the flu), exercise, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as acetaminophen.

The cells that line the airways, the epithelium, are the first point of contact when particles are inhaled. Until recently, scientists were unaware that these cells contribute to inflammatory responses within the lungs.

Scientists are busily trying to clarify the role of over 50 different cytokines that are involved in regulating the amount of lung inflammation that asthmatics experience. When challenged with antigens, lung cells produce great numbers of inflammatory cytokines, immune messages. These immune factors regulate the activity of genes that result in inflammation and the body’s efforts to control inflammation.  Inflammatory cytokines increase the levels of inflammation to help the body remove the antigens, while other cytokines dampen excessive immune responses, trying to bring inflammatory responses back to balance.

Structural changes in the airways result from the actions of different classes of inflammatory cells and their immune proteins and biologically active molecules. Lung cells can also release molecules that cause the muscles and blood vessels in the airways to become stiff and narrow.

The lungs become overly sensitive to environmental stimuli triggering the production of excessive levels of mucus, perhaps to help dilute and wash antigens out. These fluids can clog the airways of the lungs making it even more difficult to breathe. The hypersensitivity of the lungs results in a vicious cycle of over-active immune reactions, inflammation, and more mucus production.

10.28.15 Ashma PNG grpahic

 

As always the key to healthy immune support is balance. The body needs to produce enough inflammation to help us heal and protect us from external and internal challenges, but the inflammatory response must be well balanced and controlled.

Dr. Hellen’s major passion in life is helping people get more energy, become more productive, and enjoy life at its fullest. She may be contacted by using this form, drhellen@drhellengreenblatt.info, or at: 302.265.3870 (ET, USA).

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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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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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