Advertisements

Health Pillar 4—Balance Stress Hormones

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Health Pillar 4—Balance Stress Hormones
From the very first chapter of this book, you have been learning about the effects of chronic stress, which is the main enemy of vigor. At this point, we’re ready to explore the ways in which stress leads to disruptions in biochemical balance in the other three of the Four Pillars of Health (oxidation, inflammation, and glycation). Those disruptions can result in low vigor and poor health if you aren’t careful to control either your exposure to stress or the way in which your body responds to stress. Before looking at what happens on the biochemical level, let’s briefly review the basics of chronic stress.

Human beings were simply not meant to “carry around” constant disturbances in their stress response to the point that this response reaches the state called “chronic stress.” Humans were built to respond to stress quickly and then to have stress hormones dissipate immediately. That is the “acute-stress” response or, as discussed in Chapter 1, “temporary” stress. When the body is exposed to wave after wave of chronic stress from the modern lifestyle, it begins to break down. Animals don’t normally harbor chronic stress the way humans do, but when they do (during stress experiments, starvation, injury, etc.), they get sick just like humans do.

In study after study, it quickly becomes obvious that the stress response, although helpful in certain situations, turns negative when the body begins to perceive everyday events as “stressful” events. Over time, stress-related diseases result from either an overexaggerated stress response (too much response to what should have been a small stressor) or an underexaggerated ability to shut down the stress response (which causes levels of the stress hormone cortisol to remain elevated and biochemical balance to fall apart).

Because the modern world rarely requires the evolutionary fight-or-flight response to stress, people deny their bodies their natural physical reaction to stress. Unfortunately, the brain still registers stress in the same way as it always has. But because people no longer react to that stress with vigorous physical activity (fighting or running away), the body “stores” the stress response and continues to churn out high levels of stress hormones. Before you know it, you find yourself suffering from feeling “tired/stressed/depressed” or “burnout” and feeling as if you have no control over the many stressors in your life.

In one of the more ironic twists visited upon humans as “higher” animals, the brain is so “well developed” that the body has learned to respond to psychological stress with the same hormonal cascade that occurs with exposure to a physical stressor. This means that just by thinking about a stressful event, even if that event is highly unlikely to actually occur, you cause your endocrine system to get into an uproar that interferes with your biochemical balance—leading you toward burnout.

Advertisements

Glucose Pillars in Action (Acne, Belly Fat, and Mental Focus)

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Pillar Points to Remember…
The next chapter explores the links between stress-hormone exposure and the other Pillars of Health; however, because cortisol (one of the primary stress hormones) has direct and indirect effects on glucose levels, it makes sense to outline a few of those effects in this chapter. Cortisol exposure stimulates a rapid increase in blood-glucose levels via several mechanisms, including stimulating the release of glucose stored in the liver, interfering with insulin’s action to stimulate cells to absorb glucose from the blood, and stimulating the appetite with specific cravings for sweets.

Adding to the connection between cortisol and insulin resistance are a series of studies showing that inadequate sleep causes insulin resistance. This is particularly interesting because of the well-known link between sleep deprivation and elevated cortisol levels. Sleep researchers from the University of Chicago and several other universities have shown that inadequate sleep leads to a cascade of events, starting with increased cortisol levels, which induces insulin resistance, leading to higher blood-sugar (glucose) levels, causing increased measures of oxidative and inflammatory damage, stimulating appetite, and eventually leading to abdominal fat gain.

The research team compared “normal” sleepers (averaging eight hours of sleep per night) to “short” sleepers (averaging six hours or less of sleep per night). They found that the “short” sleepers secreted 50 percent more cortisol and insulin and were 40 percent less sensitive to the effects of insulin than the “normal” sleepers. The researchers also suggested that sleep deprivation plays a significant role in the current epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

These research results are a concern for anyone who wants to balance their blood-sugar levels—especially in light of statistics from the National Sleep Foundation, which show a steady decline in the number of hours that Americans sleep each night. In 1910 the average American slept about nine hours per night, whereas today people average only about seven hours of sleep per night—and many get far less than that—much to the detriment of vigor.

Pillars in Action (Acne, Belly Fat, and Mental Focus)
Tricia was a nurse and single mother of two teenage girls who Stabilized Glucose to enhance her mental function and reduce her belly fat. As a nurse, Tricia worked long, stressful hours and often pulled double shifts to earn extra money to support her daughters. As a single mom, Tricia had very little “downtime,” and she especially had trouble finding the time to prepare healthy meals. As a result, she and her daughters frequently ate fast food and other prepared packaged foods (low in fiber and high in refined carbohydrates). Tricia knew that she and her daughters should be eating better and that doing so could also help her lose some of the belly fat that she had gained over the last few years, but all the “diets” she read about had complicated recipes or long lists of “banned” foods—neither of which would work in a household with two picky teenagers.

By incorporating a few simple Vigor Improvement Practices related to healthy nutrition choices, Tricia was able to stabilize glucose for herself and her daughters. As a family, Tricia and her daughters agreed to give up soda (full-sugar and artificially sweetened) as a first step toward stabilizing glucose, and they also switched from refined-grain bread to whole-grain bread. They set a goal of preparing at least three “nonpackaged” meals each week, meaning no microwave or heat-and-eat dinners. They found that their meals didn’t take very much time to prepare if they planned ahead and had fresh vegetables and lean-protein choices already on hand in the refrigerator. In addition to replacing soda and refined carbs with a better balance of whole grains, vegetables, and protein, Tricia and her daughters also added a daily licorice-root supplement (containing glabridin) to help further stabilize glucose levels.

After one month, Tricia’s daughters found that their acne cleared up and their ability to concentrate on homework and exams was improved. Tricia herself reported a noticeable lifting of the “brain fog” that she’d been under for many months and a significant drop in her belly fat—so much so that she had to buy a smaller size of nursing scrubs.

To Improve Vigor—Stabilize Glucose

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

To Improve Vigor—Stabilize Glucose
There are numerous ways to stabilize glucose and reduce your development of AGEs—some of which might seem quite obvious, as you’ll see in the short list below. You’ll also learn more about all of these recommendations in Part III, which details Vigor Improvement Practices.

Tips for Stabilizing Glucose
* Consume fewer high-sugar foods (soda, baked goods, refined carbs).
* Consume more low-sugar foods (vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats).
* Consume fewer fried foods (high-temperature cooking creates AGEs in the foods).
* Maintain healthy blood-sugar levels (80–100mg/dL) by:
– getting regular (intense) exercise
– getting eight hours of sleep each night
– incorporating stress-reduction practices into your daily life
– supplementing with specific glucose-controlling dietary supplements

The Metabolic Memory

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

The Metabolic Memory
One of the biggest problems with the glycated proteins called AGEs, as indicated above, is that they persist in tissues for a long time after their initial creation. This allows AGE-damaged cells and tissues to continue causing damage to surrounding tissues—even long after you take steps to stabilize glucose. This effect is sometimes referred to as “metabolic memory,” because it appears as if the individual tissues that have been influenced by AGEs will “remember” the damaging effects of elevated glucose and continue to send oxidative and inflammatory signals to surrounding tissues and throughout the body.

Studies have shown that the longer that glucose levels remain uncontrolled (elevated), the more AGEs are created—and the longer that oxidative and inflammatory signals will persist even after glucose levels are lowered. Furthermore, the faster that glucose levels are returned to normal levels, the faster those damaging oxidative/inflammatory signals dissipate as well.

Combining antioxidant/anti-inflammatory agents with glucose-lowering interventions has been shown to almost completely interrupt AGE-related tissue dysfunction (particularly in endothelial tissues, such as blood vessels). Glucose-lowering interventions can range from reducing your dietary intake of highly refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, to combining whole-grain carbohydrates with healthy fats and fiber to using specific glucose-control dietary supplements.

Glycation and the Glycemic Index

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Glycation and the Glycemic Index
Lab researchers have assigned many foods with a rating known as the glycemic index (GI), which refers to the degree by which the food increases blood-sugar levels. For example, white bread has a GI of 69 and grapefruit has a GI of 26. Not everyone agrees on the GI of every food (more on that issue below).

A food with a high GI will rapidly increase blood-sugar levels, while a food with a low GI will have a less-pronounced effect on blood-sugar levels. The glycemic index has doubtless helped nutrition researchers gain a greater understanding of the metabolic and health properties associated with many foods. For example, several good studies show that long-term consumption of a diet with a high glycemic load (GL, which is an index of GI and total carbohydrate content of the diet) is a significant predictor of systemic inflammation and eventual weight gain, as well as a significant risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, the GI and the GL represent only portions of a very complicated metabolic story. To understand this “story,” you might think of the GI and GL as representing a “glycation potential” that must be manifested via changes in oxidative balance and inflammatory balance.

Perhaps the biggest “problem” with the GI and the GL is that they are calculated for isolated foods. Nobody is (or should be) sitting down to a meal composed solely of white bread, puffed rice, or plain macaroni. These are all foods with high GIs and are therefore “banned” by some popular diets. From a purely practical point of view, even trying to determine the GI or GL value of a particular food is nearly impossible outside of a metabolic lab.

For example, something as simple and apparently straightforward as a bowl of rice shows a huge range of measured GI values, which may be due to the different varieties of rice that are available (long grain versus short grain), their fiber content (white versus brown), and even the cooking method used to prepare the rice (boiling versus steaming versus frying). Another example is carrots. Published GI values place carrots into either a “high” GI category of 92 or a “low” GI category of 32.

In addition, the GI and GL values of particular foods are significantly affected by factors that have nothing to do with the actual food, such as cooking methods (longer cooking tends to increase the GI of pasta, rice, and other foods), processing levels (smaller particle sizes tend to increase the GI of flours and other grains), and the levels of fiber, fat, and protein contained in the overall meal (higher levels of each of these components tend to reduce the GI).

Many other factors can significantly influence the GI or GL of a particular food, including the following:
* the ripeness of fruit (riper = a higher GI, due to a higher sugar content)
* the physical form of the food (for example, applesauce has a 25 percent higher GI than a whole apple)
* the proportion of different carbohydrate types in a single food (for example, rice and potatoes can have different levels of amylose, a slowly digested carbohydrate, versus amylopectin, a rapidly digested carbohydrate)
* the shape of the food (for instance, different forms of pasta can range from a GI value of 68 for macaroni to 45 for spaghetti; even linguine has a GI of 68 for thick noodles but scores a GI of 87 for thin noodles)
* processing methods (foods that are “more” processed tend to increase blood-sugar levels faster than those that are “less” processed, but it is exceedingly difficult to know the exact processes of grinding, rolling, and pressing that a product like muffin mix undergoes before it arrives on grocer’s shelves)
* preparation methods (for example, the amount of heat and water used in cooking, the time of cooking, and even the size into which the food particles are chopped prior to cooking)

The problems with the GI have led many dieticians and nutritionists to simplify their recommendations by educating their clients to eat “complex” carbohydrates (starches) instead of “simple” ones (sugars) to help control blood-sugar levels. But this approach does not necessarily ensure consumption of the right foods. For example, white bread, mashed potatoes, and chocolate cake would be a poor example of a meal consisting of “complex” carbohydrates.

In general terms, refined-grain products (“complex” or not) and potatoes tend to rapidly increase blood-sugar levels, unless they are combined with appropriate amounts of protein, fat, and fiber. Nuts, beans, legumes, and minimally processed grains (which may sometimes be labeled as “whole,” even though they have actually been processed) tend to have only a moderate effect on blood-sugar levels. Most fruits and vegetables have a small effect on blood-sugar levels, but even these foods still need to be combined with appropriate metabolic regulators in the form of added protein/fat for optimal glucose control.

Sugars + Proteins = Glycation

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Sugars + Proteins = Glycation
Glycation is a process by which a sugar molecule (typically glucose or fructose) becomes bonded to a protein or lipid. Most often, glycation occurs in the body when glucose or fructose in the blood remains too high for too long and becomes bonded to cell-surface proteins. A related biochemical process called glycosylation is a very precise enzyme-controlled bonding of specific sugars to specific proteins at defined cellular sites (to help control metabolism). But compared to this precise process, glycation is actually a haphazard process that randomly adds sugars to proteins, impairing normal function and interfering with healthy cell-to-cell communication. A glycated protein—referred to as an “AGE” (advanced glycation end product)—can be highly reactive and set off a chain reaction of oxidative and inflammatory damage in whatever tissues they occur. AGEs also tend to be “cleared” from the body very slowly, so they have the potential to stimulate these chain reactions for prolonged periods of time.

Some of the main dietary offenders that lead to AGE accumulation and upset biochemical balance are high-sugar foods (such as soda, ice cream, donuts, cookies, or sugary breakfast cereals) and other foods that quickly convert to sugar or glucose in the bloodstream (like highly processed grains, such as white bread, rolls, or instant rice). Sugar can be toxic to many tissues by permanently attaching to proteins through the glycation process. Wherever sugar attaches, it triggers cellular microdamage that creates inflammation. The inflammation, in turn, produces enzymes that break down protein, thus resulting in damage to surrounding tissues.

To make matters worse, glycation also leads to cross-linking of proteins, changing healthy tissues from soft, supple, and flexible to stiff, brittle, and painful. These stiffened sugar-protein bonds form in every type of tissue, including joint cartilage, muscle tendons, brain neurons, blood vessels, skin, and even immune-system cells, which is why scientists are finding links between glycation and the chronic diseases of “aging,” such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis.

We know from Chapter 4 that inflammation in any tissue can be caused by excessive exposure to free radicals and can lead to accelerated “aging” and generalized tissue breakdown. AGEs demonstrate a “direct” problem with cell-to-cell signaling that is compromised by sugar-coated proteins. “Indirect” damage is also caused by an AGE-stimulated increase in oxidation and inflammation. Stress hormones, which we’ll discuss in the next chapter, stimulate the creation of AGEs through an increase in blood-sugar levels.

People with diabetes are obviously at high risk for developing AGEs in a wide range of tissues because of their problems regulating blood-sugar levels. The extreme development of AGEs in diabetics is a key reason for their high rates of oxidative and inflammatory diseases, including nephropathy (kidney damage) and circulatory problems (due to blood-vessel damage).

Health Pillar 3—Stabilize Glucose

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Health Pillar 3—Stabilize Glucose
There are many reasons to keep a tight control of glucose levels. Glucose, which you may often hear called “blood sugar,” is the preferred source of energy for the brain, and glucose helps you fully metabolize calories from fat. Blood-sugar levels that drop too low may stimulate hunger and cravings, while glucose levels that rise too high will slow your ability to burn fat.

A key intermediary in the interrelationships between blood glucose, oxidation, inflammation, and stress hormones (covered in the next chapter) is the hormone insulin. Most people associate insulin problems with diabetes because of its primary role in regulating blood-sugar levels, but insulin has many additional functions in the body. Not only does insulin regulate blood-sugar levels within an extremely narrow range, but it is also responsible for getting fat stored in the fat cells (adipose tissue), getting sugar stored in the liver and muscle cells (as glycogen), and getting amino acids directed toward protein synthesis (to build muscle). Due to these varied actions, insulin is sometimes thought of as a “storage hormone,” because it helps the body put all these sources of energy away in their respective “storage depots” for use later.

Because insulin stimulates fat synthesis and promotes fat storage, there is a widespread misbelief that insulin circulating in the body “induces” weight gain. This misconception has led to a variety of diets that promote the idea that weight loss can be achieved by avoiding certain foods, such as carbohydrates, that stimulate insulin secretion. Unfortunately, this simplistic view of energy metabolism is only partly correct. Proponents of these diets fail to distinguish between a normal insulin response to meals (in which temporarily elevated blood levels of insulin quickly return to normal levels after meals) and an abnormal insulin response (in which insulin levels stay elevated for prolonged periods following meals). When you eat appropriately (covered in Part III), your levels of insulin and leptin will rise appropriately following meals, providing you with appetite-controlling benefits. But they will also fall appropriately, keeping oxidation, inflammation, and other biochemical processes from getting out of control.

The abnormal insulin metabolism described above—known as insulin resistance—leads to a reduction in the body’s cellular response to insulin. That reaction, in turn, interferes with regulation of blood sugar, increases appetite, and blocks the body’s ability to burn fat due primarily to direct “blocking” of insulin function by cortisol, as well as indirect interference with insulin activity by oxidative free radicals and inflammatory cytokines. When insulin resistance is combined with a poor diet (high in fat and/or refined carbohydrates), the result is the metabolic condition known as Syndrome X, a disorder that can have an impact on virtually every disease process in the body.

The Pillars in Action (CRP, Low-Back Pain, and Depression) – Inflammation

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

The Pillars in Action (CRP, Low-Back Pain, and Depression) – Inflammation
Ralph was a successful real estate executive who controlled inflammation to alleviate his depression, rid himself of low-back pain, and reduce his CRP levels.

If you looked up the definition of the words “busy” and “driven” in the dictionary, you would see a picture of Ralph staring back at you. As a recipient of his agency’s “top-seller” award for ten years running, Ralph had no interest in “slowing down”—he loved the fast-paced world of real estate, and his business had been thriving even with the tough economy.

Unfortunately, the chronic stress of being “on” 24/7 for work was starting to affect Ralph’s personal and family life. Despite his financial success, Ralph never really felt “good”—he had trouble enjoying happy occasions in his nonwork life, and on more days than not, his lower back was tight and painful. The real eye-opener for Ralph was his annual executive physical exam, during which his doctor told him that his high level of inflammation (CRP) made him a “heart attack waiting to happen” and wrote him prescriptions for an antidepressant (for his low mood) and a painkiller (for his back pain).

Through a combination of Vigor Improvement Practices, including a three-times weekly Interval Walking program (less than thirty minutes per session) and daily consumption of a turmeric supplement, Ralph saw his CRP levels drop from extremely high (11 mg) to very low (almost undetectable, at 0.3 mg). As a result of controlling his inflammation, Ralph was able to avoid having to start the prescription antidepressant and painkiller that his doctor had prescribed.

Ralph is still the top producer in his real estate firm, but he also feels great again, experiencing less pain, better moods, and prospects for an overall healthier future.

Pillar Points to Remember…(Inflammation)

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Pillar Points to Remember…(Inflammation)
As indicated in Chapter 3, the biochemical processes of oxidation and inflammation are inextricably linked—they go hand-in-hand through common immune system pathways. The immune system responds to and creates oxidative “free radicals” and responds to and creates inflammatory cytokines. (In case you’ve forgotten, cytokines are a class of hormonelike signaling proteins that play a role in the immune response and inflammatory levels throughout the body.)

“Normal” inflammation exists to protect us from invading pathogens (viruses, bacteria, and even uncontrolled cell growth that could lead to cancerous tumors). Sometimes, however, the walling-off and destroying process of the immune system’s inflammatory response doesn’t shut off the way it is supposed to. Immune-system cells, such as macrophages (which fight bacteria), neutrophils (which fight viruses), and natural killer cells (which fight tumors), respond to free radicals as if they were toxins.

A small amount of free radical signaling is a “good thing” for immune cells, keeping them vigilant to defend us against “real” pathogens. However, when free radical exposure becomes excessive, immune cells release a wide array of proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukins (IL-1, IL-6, TNF-alpha), to “wall off” tissues from further free radical damage. And that can lead to chronic inflammation as well as a cascade of diseases, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers.

Unfortunately, the Western lifestyle is a perfect recipe for increasing chronic inflammation, with its high intake of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats. That diet, combined with low levels of fiber, infrequent exercise, and sleep deprivation, make it more likely that inflammation becomes too high—and stays that way.

To sum up: The walling-off aspect of the inflammatory process is an ideal response to keep viruses or bacteria from moving into other parts of your body, but free radical–generated inflammation encourages immune cells to fight “yourself” in a vicious cycle of oxidation/inflammation, which ends up creating more problems and eventually leading to a lower state of vigor.

Control Inflammation—Naturally—for More Vigor

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Control Inflammation—Naturally—for More Vigor
If the inflammation process is a multifaceted chain reaction of biochemical events, then shouldn’t your approach to controlling inflammation also be multifaceted? Of course it should! This is one of the many ways in which synthetic single-action pharmaceutical drugs fail miserably. Drugs are a single molecule—a single chemical entity—that work on one biochemical mechanism, albeit it in a very powerful way—sometimes too powerfully, leading to serious side effects. If the recent history of medicine has demonstrated anything, it is that these single-action, modern pharmaceutical drugs, these synthetic silver bullets previously unknown in nature, can have serious adverse consequences.

Among adults, nearly 10 percent of those who use NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, will require hospitalization due to serious gastrointestinal toxicity (such as ulcers and stomach bleeding). In a 1998 study published in the American Journal of Medicine, researchers reported that more than 107,000 people are admitted each year to hospitals—and another 17,000 die each year—as a direct result of complications due to the use of NSAIDs. This is a problem.

Popping a pill, such as an aspirin, ibuprofen, or one of the newer prescription drugs, to control your pain is certainly not the answer. Although these drugs may be able to offer a short-term reduction in sensations of pain, they do nothing to address the root of the problem, which is to get the inflammation process into balance. In fact, by strongly inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme and related inflammatory pathways, such as prostaglandin production, these drugs can actually reduce tissue repair (especially for joint cartilage) and lead to severe damage in other tissues, such as kidneys, liver, heart, and the entire gastrointestinal system (potentially leading to gastric ulcers, stomach bleeding, and even death).

As discussed earlier in the section entitled, “The Biochemistry of Inflammation,” the term “COX-2 inhibitor” generally refers to synthetic pharmaceutical drugs that interfere with the key enzyme involved with increasing inflammation and pain in the body. And, as you may recall, those drugs include Vioxx and Celebrex (the first has been forced off the market for causing heart attacks, and the second is still under investigation for the same heart risks). What you may not know, however, is that thousands of years ago, ancient herbal practitioners were prescribing all-natural, herbal COX-2 inhibitors for controlling pain and inflammation. What these traditional healers did not realize at the time, but what we know now thanks to advances in nutritional biochemistry, is that these natural anti-inflammatory nutrients were effective at controlling inflammation in many ways, simultaneously. This balanced approach is associated not only with a greater degree of overall effectiveness but also with a restoration of normal tissue function and fewer side effects. As is so often the case, however, the drug industry has tried to synthetically copy the extraordinary healing properties and powers of natural medicine—only to cause even more suffering, injury, and death. Fortunately, those herbs and natural products cannot be “owned” by the drug companies, keeping them widely available to anyone who wants to enjoy the safe and effective benefits of controlling pain and inflammation naturally.

When it comes to selecting a natural option for inflammatory balance and pain relief ,the obvious dilemma is that you want something that is safe, natural, fast-acting, and long-lasting. It is a tall order to get all four “wants” into a single item—but a growing number of products offer a suitable range of options (mostly by combining the most effective ingredients into a single, multifaceted product solution).

Now that I’ve presented the idea that herbs and natural products can combat inflammation and pain, you may now be wondering what, exactly, you need to ingest to address these health issues. Let me stop you right there for a moment. To obtain the real benefits from natural products and traditional healing wisdom, you have to break out of the mind-set that tells you taking one pill or one drug will cure your ills with a “quick fix.” That mind-set is pervasive in modern society, and countless ads and commercials constantly reinforce it. So before considering specific natural strategies for controlling inflammation, the first thing you need to do is to be willing to change the mind-set that says you can take a pill and forget the problem. You may also need to change your lifestyle and recognize the importance of being an active participant in developing your health and wellness, not a passive recipient of a prescription from a physician. Many of you are no doubt aware of the benefits of changing your mind-set and lifestyle to embrace a view of health that is more comprehensive and multifaceted than the typical Western medical approach. Nevertheless, it bears repeating, because even people who appreciate traditional medicine can fall back into thinking that one “superfood” or one “special” herb will solve a health problem as quickly and efficiently as a pill from the pharmacist.

Having said all that, here are a few specific, natural options that you can pursue to control inflammation and pain:

* Exercise—Numerous studies confirm that moderate exercise reduces inflammation as well as the production of C-reactive protein, which plays a role in heart disease. One study from researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta that was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2002) found that the more frequently you exercise, the lower your overall level of inflammation. The study looked at nearly four thousand U.S. adults ages forty and older and found that exercising approximately five times per week was associated with almost a 40 percent reduction in overall inflammation. (See Chapter 9 for more details on exercise.)

* Sleep—Sleep is crucial to your health and vigor in countless ways, including helping corral chronic inflammation. In one study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2006), researchers from the UCLA School of Medicine found that even a single night of disrupted sleep increases levels of inflammation throughout the body by two to three times compared to a normal night’s sleep. You’ll learn more about getting better sleep in Chapter 7.

* Herbs and Supplements—As noted earlier in this chapter, ginger, turmeric, bromelain, papain, and many other natural options are effective dietary supplements for reducing inflammation naturally. Many other herbs and dietary supplements also help control inflammation. For instance, the sap or resin of the boswellia plant has long been used in traditional Indian medicine to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Chapter 10 includes much more information on using supplements to address inflammation, as well as the other biochemical processes outlined in the Four Pillars of Health.

If you are one of the twenty-five million Americans living with chronic low-back pain and the almost forty million suffering from arthritis, getting rid of that pain is obviously an important consideration. Natural options found in dietary supplements and other approaches may not offer a “quick fix,” and they should be viewed not only as simple pain relievers but also as agents to enhance the body’s healing response and restore biochemical balance to the entire inflammatory process. Most OTC (over-the-counter) analgesics (painkillers) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are safe and effective for short-term usage (two to three days at a time). NSAIDs do a great job of beating back the pounding from that headache, but they don’t do a thing to help promote healing of your aching knee. In fact, in some important ways, these drugs may actually inhibit tissue healing, especially in the case of cartilage repair. There is also little doubt that NSAID therapy can lead to gastroduodenal ulcers, primarily due to their inhibition of prostaglandin production in the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract (no mucus = no protection of stomach/intestinal lining = you digest yourself).

Coming chapters discuss more natural options for controlling inflammation and strengthening the other Pillars of Health to improve mobility and flexibility and actually rebuild damaged tissues for long-term well-being. The next chapter explores the effects that inflammatory cytokines (produced in many cells of the body, including immune cells, liver cells, and fat cells) have directly and indirectly on insulin function and blood-sugar control and how these effects, when unbalanced, drive people toward diabetes, weight gain, and further inflammation.

Advertisements