Inflammation and Declining Health: A Commonly Overlooked Mechanism
Jun 04, 2015 05:48PM
By Dr. Luke Gafken
For many Americans, good health is taken for granted and preventive measures to decrease the chance of disease later in life are rarely ever deployed. In fact, it’s not too uncommon for people to believe that they’ll be healthy for a lifetime, to follow the mindset that it won’t happen to them. Unfortunately, our country is increasingly becoming less healthy and most surprising is the age at which health problems are occurring.
Chronic, multiple health complaints are no longer something experienced predominantly by an older and aging population. The younger generation is increasingly plagued by multiple health problems. It’s not out of the ordinary for people in their 30’s or 40’s to be experiencing fatigue, depression, insomnia, declining shortterm memory, weight gain, digestive problems, fibromyalgia and hormonal imbalances, sometimes many of them simultaneously.
With so many ongoing complaints at such a young age, one can only wonder if there’s a primary source to them all—a root cause simply expressing itself as multiple symptoms. Recent research in this pursuit consistently finds inflammation to be the main culprit. This should isn’t too surprising considering the amount of inflammatory triggers that exist in our world today.
One of the most common ones that affect most people, despite one’s age, are dietary proteins like gluten and dairy. However, food sensitivities expand well beyond these two foods. For those with multiple, chronic health complaints this can be just the tip of the iceberg. Other grains such as corn, rice, potato and many other gluten-free grains can be problematic. When inflammation exists, it’s been shown to break down the gastrointestinal lining and promote a condition known as Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS).
LGS typically manifests as abdominal distention and bloating after meals, commonly leading to aches, pains and swelling, and can cause a history of diarrhea and/or constipation. Once the intestinal lining is permeable, this becomes the highway for an expanding list of food sensitivities which can, in turn, further promote inflammation.
LGS has also been shown to be the cause of Type 1 diabetes specifically, but can also be a promoting factor in rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, depression, dementia, headaches and virtually any autoimmune condition.
A “crosstalk” between the gut and the brain exists as well, each of these being affected by inflammatory signaling. It’s now well understood that inflammatory levels in the gut enter the bloodstream, travel to the brain and activate the microglia cells, well known for their immune system activity in the brain. Once the microglia become over-activated due to inflammation, one can experience brain fog, depression, a decrease in short-term memory, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic headaches and poor mental endurance.
With inflammation being at the source of so many health problems, finding a doctor that can test to find your specific level of inflammation, identify its source such as dietary proteins, leaky gut, gastrointestinal infections and be able to formulate a game plan is paramount to your success in regaining your health. Commonly known naturally occurring compounds like resveratrol and turmeric/ curcumin have been acknowledged as potent inhibitors of NF-kappaB, the main inflammatory immune-signaling agent. Other compounds such as vitamin D, fish oils and glutathione should also be considered in your plan to decrease inflammatory signaling.