Anti-Inflammatory/Anti-Aging Strategies
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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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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.

www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/basics/definition/con-20034095
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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

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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
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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

 

 

People with serious lung problems who are unable to breathe for themselves, for example, patients in intensive care units recovering from injuries, or who have viral, or bacterial infections, like pneumonia, may be placed on mechanical ventilation.

Although these patients may require a ventilator, too often these devices make their lung conditions worse. Patients with lung injuries that require mechanical ventilation lead to more deaths annually than do breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

For years, scientists have known that when lungs are exposed to rhythmic pressure of ventilation, the production of cytokines, immune messengers, are stimulated.  This excessive production of cytokines results in “boosted”  levels of inflammation in the lungs that may damage the lungs, even after ventilation has been stopped. Excessive inflammation can lead to the destruction of formerly healthy organ systems.

It is as if the immune system sees “pressure” as a “foreign agent” an event against which the body much be protected.  The pressure appears to trigger an immune inflammatory response in the body.

This phenomenon can be seen even at the cellular level.  Exposing cells in a test tube to as few as four hours of rhythmic pressures results in increased levels of inflammatory cytokines that recruit more inflammatory immune cells into the area. Twelve (12) hours of ventilation-type treatment results in a 5-7 times increase in the levels of inflammatory cytokines.

During winter months, respiratory infections are the most frequent cause of intensive care unit hospitalizations for infants.  For some infections, Infants that are on mechanical ventilators have  significantly higher levels of lung inflammation than infants not being ventilated. However, even in healthy children, mechanical ventilation triggers an inflammatory response within hours.

 For over a decade I have tried to educate the public about the need for the body to maintain immune inflammatory homeostasis, immune balance; having enough inflammation to do the job, but not so much that it causes damage.

 Inflammation is necessary for our survival to protect us from infections, and it is the first step the body takes when it heals itself, for example, after an injury. 

But the amount of inflammation produced by the body must be tightly limited, because too much inflammation is like an uncontrollable forest fire.

One of my greatest frustrations has been trying to help medical practitioners understand that inappropriate inflammation is the foundation of most of their patients’ problems, but too often, “they just couldn’t get it”.  Now, every journal, every magazine touts the fact that “inflammation is the root cause of disease”.  They admit that it has a role in cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal, emotional problems  etc. and that inflammatory responses play a major role in cancer.

It has been my experience that when individuals have major health issues, “following the levels of inflammation” will help explain what is happening to the patient.  In cases of mechanical ventilation, other procedures  and conditions, what would be the harm in taking steps to limit uncontrolled levels of inflammation, and help return the body to immune homeostasis?

 

Dr. Greenblatt looks forward to assisting you in returning to immune balance:  She can be contacted at: http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen or 1.302-265.3870 [USA, ET]. Thank you.

 

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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.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22699609
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27169
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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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