The Biochemistry of Inflammation

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

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 or at your favorite library or bookstore.

The Biochemistry of Inflammation
Much of the body’s inflammatory response is regulated by two enzymes: cyclooxygenase (“COX” for short) and lipoxygenase (abbreviated as “LO”). The COX enzyme can be further divided into COX-1 and COX-2. Often, COX-1 is referred to as being the “good” form, because it protects the stomach and kidneys. COX-2, however, is labeled the “bad” form of the enzyme, because it is responsible for creating inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins from a dietary and cellular fat called arachidonic acid. Two other related LO (lipoxygenase) enzymes are also involved in the inflammation process: “5-LO” and “12-LO.” Both work a little differently to convert arachidonic acid into highly inflammatory compounds known as thromboxanes and eicosanoids. It makes a lot of sense, therefore, to control COXs and LOs at the same time.

Dozens of natural options allow you to control COX-2 and 5-LO and 12-LO, while leaving COX-1 alone to continue protecting your gut—but zero drugs can do all this. Why? Mostly, because a multinational drug company can’t make a billion dollars a year in profits by selling natural extracts of leaves or roots. Instead, it can create its own “better” synthetic version of nature, patent it, and sell it at high profits with the blessing of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Natural products, on the other hand, can work just as well (and in some cases better) as many synthetic drugs, can work in ways that the drugs can’t, and can deliver benefits without the side effects that are all too common with the growing array of drugs entering the market each year.

In the early 1990s, the drug companies figured that if they could create a molecule that was capable of stopping only the COX-2 enzyme while leaving COX-1 alone, then they might be able to control pain and inflammation without the nasty side effects associated with such drugs as ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin. Each of these drugs can get rid of your headache, but they can also destroy your stomach lining and your kidneys, because they all interfere with COX-1 and COX-2. The idea of creating a selective COX-2 inhibitor was a good one (“on paper,” as they say)—except for the fact that even after drug companies learned these drugs were causing heart attacks and strokes, they insisted on continuing to sell them at huge profits.

As drug companies will often do, they looked first to nature to see whether any plants, herbs, or other natural products contained any clues to the inhibition of the COX enzyme. Lo and behold! They found hundreds of plants and herbs with powerful anti-inflammatory and pain-controlling effects (such as ginger, turmeric, and others)—some via the COX enzymes, some via the 5-LO enzyme, and others through completely novel biochemical mechanisms.

Also, as drug companies will always do, they took this knowledge and turned their backs on nature, arrogantly believing that they could “do better” by synthetically creating a new-to-the-world molecule that more powerfully interfered with the inflammatory enzymes. The result was Celebrex, which inhibits COX-2 about four hundred times more powerfully than it does COX-1; and Vioxx, which inhibits COX-2 about one thousand times more powerfully than COX-1 (and which has subsequently been pulled off the market).

These drugs are marvels of synthetic chemical engineering to be sure, but they are also prime examples of science run amok in the pursuit of profits. You’ve probably heard your mother say something like, “You’d cut off your own nose to spite your face,” when you were being unreasonable as a child. Well, the “COX-2” class of drugs was exactly the same scenario, with drug companies encouraging consumers to gulp drugs that controlled inflamed and achy knees but destroyed hearts and blood vessels.

It is a sad state of affairs when average Americans are being told that they only have two choices for controlling inflammation and pain: First, take the older painkillers (NSAIDs, which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) that temporarily relieve inflammation and pain but also wreck their stomachs; or secondly, take the newer painkillers (COX-2 inhibitors) that temporarily relieve pain but wreck their hearts. Better options do exist. (And you’ll learn about a few of those options at the end of this chapter in the section titled “Control Inflammation—Naturally—For More Vigor.”)

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Solve the 3 Main Sleep Problems
and Improve Your Sleep Quality
without Drugs or Synthetic Melatonin