A Natural Approach to Reducing Inflammation
by Don Colbert, MD.
Pain is causing a national health-care crisis. More than 50 million Americans suffer with some chronic form of pain; another 25 million deal with the acute (sudden) pain of injury or surgery. Since 1987, research shows pain should never be ignored. When properly managed, stress is reduced and the body heals faster. The tragedy is that most pain goes under or improperly treated.
Research shows that inflammation is frequently a component of pain. While acute pain, such as a sprained ankle, has a long association with inflammation, we now know that inflammation is present in chronic pain. It is also associated with heart disease and other chronic health conditions and understood to be the cause of the pain in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, and fibromyalgia.
Yet, the most crucial and maybe the most unexpected discovery is that inflammation can also be triggered by the foods we eat. In fact, if our digestive systems are not functioning or absorbing nutrients properly, inflammation often results.
Q. WHAT IS INFLAMMATION?
A. Most of us have experienced a sore throat or a sprain. Inflammation begins when white blood cells release chemicals in response to a virus or bacteria or to provide protection immediately after an injury. Some of the chemicals cause a leak of fluid into the affected tissues, resulting in swelling. The automatic response of increased blood flow to the area of injury or infection causes redness and warmth. These protective actions stimulate nearby nerves, which in turn causes the pain. Once the sore throat resolves or the sprain heals, both the inflammation and pain go away.
However, with chronic inflammation, the warmth, redness, swelling, and pain never fully resolve. As the inflammation persists, it actually causes damage to surrounding tissue. For reasons unknown, this is what happens in autoimmune diseases, like MS and lupus, where the body's immune response is directed against its own tissues. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the body's immune response mistakenly targets the linings of the joints. White blood cells release their chemicals and the joints become inflamed. This inflammation can then slowly destroy the joint lining and, eventually, the joint itself.
Q. CAN INFLAMMATION BE A PART OF CHRONIC PAIN AND NOT BE CAUSED BY AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE?
A. Yes. Chronic back pain is the No. 1 reason adult Americans seek help from health-care practitioners. While it can originate from an injury or trauma to the back, chronic back pain can also occur from poor posture or the presence of abdominal fat. Once back muscles become strained, inflammation results and pain persists.
Defects that develop in certain joints over time can lead to cartilage breakdown and is the root of osteoarthritis. Inflammation begins as the cartilage breakdown causing bones to rub against each other. Continual bone-on-bone friction creates significant pain, leading to deformities and loss of movement.
Q. HOW CAN THE FOODS I EAT TRIGGER INFLAMMATION?
A. Nutritional research has resulted in a much better understanding of how certain fats and oils react in our bodies. When we consume arachidonic acid from animal fats or trans fats from hydrogenated oils (unhealthy fats and oils), our bodies make "pro-inflammatory compounds." These compounds can initiate the kind of inflammation seen in autoimmune disease, chronic back pain, and osteoarthritis. Diets high in these fats promote pain and inflammation.
Q. HOW IS INFLAMMATION ASSOCIATED WITH HEART DISEASE?
A. Researchers who study heart disease have recently discovered that a specific protein, called highly sensitive c-reactive protein (hs-CRP), is an extremely reliable predictor of heart disease. Its presence indicates more heart health hazards than the other markers of cardiovascular disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high homocysteine levels. Inflammation plays a major role in atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty deposits in the lining of arteries) and heart attacks by causing the heart's blood vessels to constrict, spasm, and create clots. Researchers have also determined that hs-CRP reflects the presence of continual low-grade inflammation in other parts of the body, too, and may result in several serious health conditions.
While research into pain, inflammation, and hs-CRP is relatively recent, the study of proper digestion and assimilating protein goes back to the 1920s. Scientists have known for years that using supplemental, animal-based enzymes can result in greatly improved health, and they've known that the best results are achieved with a high-potency pancreatic enzyme complex.
Q. HOW DO PANCREATIC ENZYMES SUPPLEMENTS WORK TO IMPROVE DIGESTION AND REDUCE INFLAMMATION?
A. Before answering that, we need to first understand how the pancreas itself works. A digestive organ located behind the stomach, one of the pancreas' functions is enzyme production, where it makes many different kinds with each enzyme being responsible for breaking down different types of food into small particles suitable for absorption. When the enzymes leave the pancreas, they are secreted into the intestines where they become activated. The main pancreatic enzymes are the amylases (which digest carbohydrates), proteases (which digest protein), and lipases (which digest fats).
Pancreatic enzyme supplements can assist the work of our pancreas, improve digestion, prevent damage caused by autoimmune disorders, and reduce inflammation.
Q. CAN I TAKE PANCREATIC ENZYMES SUPPLEMENTS FOR PAIN AND INFLAMMATION THAT'S NOT CHRONIC?
A. Yes. Many people who don't take pancreatic enzyme supplements routinely find great relief from pain and inflammation that results from being a weekend warrior. Simply take the enzymes between meals until the pain and inflammation are gone.
Q. WHY BETWEEN MEALS?
A. Because enzymes taken with meals exert their activity to digest food. In the absence of food (between meals), the enzymes perform in a systemic manner, meaning they are active throughout the body, not just in the digestive tract. This allows them to perform other functions, such as combating inflammation.
So by simply taking a full-strength, uncut, undiluted pancreatic enzyme supplement daily, you could: