Chronic Inflammation and Chronic Diseases

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.

Chronic Inflammation and Chronic Diseases
Chronic inflammation is not only a problem that affects the way you feel on a daily basis or the level of vigor you experience. It also contributes to the development of serious health conditions, including four that we will briefly discuss in this section: heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.

Heart Disease
Researchers probably know the most about the adverse effects of chronic inflammation when it comes to heart disease. Until about ten years ago, most cardiologists and other health experts believed that heart disease was a simple “plumbing” problem, with too much cholesterol being the culprit that clogged up blood vessels and led to heart attacks.

Unfortunately, the cause of heart attacks was later determined to be a little more complicated when population studies showed that at least half of all heart attacks occurred in people with perfectly normal cholesterol levels. What scientists know now is that oxidative damage (by free radicals) is what allows cholesterol to become “sticky” in the first place and to start plugging blood-vessel linings with plaque deposits.

Chronic inflammation, therefore, seems to be the “trigger” that causes those deposits to rupture and create a blockage in the heart, leading to a heart attack. The degree of chronic inflammation throughout the body can be measured by blood levels of a protein called “C-reactive protein” (CRP).

CRP is produced in the liver, with levels rising in direct proportion to inflammatory signals in the body. During times of active infection (acute inflammation), CRP levels may rise by a factor of one thousand to fifty thousand in response to the increased production of cytokines, such as IL-6, from macrophages. A CRP value of 3.0 mg/L is associated with a tripling of heart-attack risk, while people with very low CRP levels (below 0.5 mg/L) rarely have any sign of inflammatory heart disease. You may have to push for it, but you can have your CRP levels tested the next time you’re in the doctor’s office.

Cancer
For more than one hundred years, researchers have known that cancerous tumors tend to arise and cluster at sites of chronic inflammation. Stated another way, sites of chronic inflammation seem to attract and promote the growth of cancer. Part of this effect might have to do with the fact that sites with more inflammation will also have more oxidative free-radical damage—so DNA damage and subsequent “mistakes” during repair may result in more mutations and a higher chance for cancer development. Another factor may be that a higher concentration of inflammatory cytokines attracts a greater number of immune cells, which “think” they’re being called to the site of an infection and thus create even more damage as they try to “kill” a nonexistent pathogen. So here is evidence of the ultimate conundrum: Your immune cells, which normally protect you against cancer, may actually be co-opted by excessive inflammatory signals into stimulating further cancer growth.

Obesity and Diabetes
Obesity is defined as an excess of adipose (fat) tissue, with adipose tissue producing a range of inflammatory cytokines (adipokines, adiponectin, leptin, resistin, TNF-alpha, IL-6, IL-1, and many others). Adiponectin and leptin are the most abundant adipokines and are considered key signaling compounds in regulating inflammation within fat cells and throughout the body.

Adiponectin levels are markedly decreased in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease and are thought to contribute direct anti-inflammatory effects. Leptin, on the other hand, is considered a highly proinflammatory and proatherogenic cytokine that is associated with elevated body fat levels and reduced insulin sensitivity. The ratio between adiponectin and leptin has been proposed by some researchers as a useful index of heart-disease risk in patients with obesity and diabetes. Leptin acts directly on the hypothalamus region of the brain to regulate food intake and energy expenditure. Leptin helps the body tell the brain that the body is satiated and that enough fat is stored. The amount of leptin produced is proportional to the amount of body fat stored, so when you lose body fat, your leptin levels fall and your hunger increases to drive you to eat to “replace” the lost fat. On the other hand, adiponectin increases fat oxidation and improves the activity of insulin to regulate blood-sugar levels. Through cytokines/adipokines, fat tissue can be directly influenced by the overall inflammatory state of the body, but through the action of cytokines/adipokines on the brain, fat tissue can also influence inflammation throughout the entire body.

Aside from the adipokine signaling mentioned above, another important source of chronic inflammation associated with abdominal obesity is the constant activation of the innate immune system. As they grow, changes in cell-surface proteins on adipose tissue can allow swollen abdominal fat cells to resemble bacterial cells or tumor cells in certain ways. This effect attracts cells from the innate immune system (macrophages, neutrophils, and NK cells), which attempt to destroy the “tumor” (your own fat cells) with their normal bursts of free radicals and cytokines.

Unfortunately, rather than killing off your fat (if only it were that simple!), this immune system attack merely damages your fat cells, which sets off the expected normal cycle of injury/inflammation/repair that any of your body cells would undergo. The really bad news is that the end result is yet a higher level of inflammation and oxidation—and a growth of fat stores through a variety of metabolic signals.

How Normal Inflammation Becomes Chronic

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.

How Normal Inflammation Becomes Chronic
When a tissue is damaged—whether from infection, trauma, or unbalanced turnover—it releases signaling chemicals called “cytokines.” These cytokines are like flare guns, sending up a call for help that signals surrounding cells to jump into action to stop (wall off) and repair the damage. The cytokines also call immune-system cells (white blood cells) into the area to help clean up the damaged tissue. You have no doubt experienced the blood rush that leads to the recognizable redness, warmth, and swelling common to many injuries. As the white blood cells rush in to the damaged area, they release more and more of their own inflammatory chemicals. This blast of inflammation is intended to cause even more tissue destruction as a way to either kill bacteria and viruses or to take away damaged tissue and set the stage for repair efforts to begin. As you can imagine, this part of the inflammatory process is supposed to be short term. If it were to continue without shutting down, you’d simply destroy your own tissue without ever rebuilding healthy tissue in its place. Unfortunately, this “never-shut-down” scenario precisely describes the chronic inflammation and constant state of tissue destruction with which millions of Americans live their lives every day.

A number of mechanisms are in place to shut down the process of inflammation, including the naturally short half-life of cytokines and other inflammatory molecules and the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines (with such names as TGF-beta and IL-10). Unfortunately, immune-system cells can remain in a state of chronic inflammation if the “cell-damage” signals keep coming to them as a result of free-radical damage (as discussed in Chapter 3) and from cortisol-induced tissue breakdown (covered in Chapter 6); or if signals to “shut down” the inflammatory process are not “heard” by target cells (as in the case of cells damaged by problems with glucose [blood-sugar] levels, a subject covered in the next chapter).

Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is not confined to the tissue in which it starts. Cytokines—such as those labeled IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-alpha—are able to leave the original site of inflammation. They can then travel in the blood to spread inflammatory signals through the blood vessels and into every tissue in the body (leading to metabolic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and depression, and to structural/damage diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and arthritis).

Because most of the cytokine molecules are produced by immune-system cells (specifically by macrophages, neutrophils, and NK cells of the innate immune system), numerous drug companies attempt to control chronic inflammation by suppressing immune function. The problem, of course, is that wholesale suppression of immune function also limits your body’s ability to protect you from actual pathogens—so you’re “protected” from chronic inflammation, but you may become more susceptible to infections and certain cancers. Not a great trade-off!

The Biochemistry of 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 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.”)

Chronic Inflammation—The World on Fire

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.

Chronic Inflammation—The World on Fire

It may help you to think of chronic inflammation as you would a fire in an apartment building. Let’s say you live in a twenty-story apartment building, which represents your body. Then, a fire (inflammation) breaks out on the fifteenth floor, causing destruction (tissue damage) to the entire floor. But your penthouse apartment on the twentieth floor is fine. To put out the fire, you call in the firefighters (immune cells), which may cause a bit more damage by tearing down some walls and spraying water (cytokines, a substance secreted by immune system cells), all in an effort to solve the bigger problem of putting out the fire.

Let’s now say that the fifteenth floor is a complete loss, while other floors suffer some repairable damage (water damage on the fourteenth floor and smoke damage on the sixteenth floor). The repair process begins on all three floors, with carpenters, painters, and other “builders” brought in to repair the damage. On floors fourteen and sixteen, where the damage is less severe, the repair process might be complete within a few weeks, but on the fifteenth floor, where the fire was concentrated and the damage was most severe, the repair process may take a year.

Your body also has an entire team of “builder” cells in each and every tissue. In cartilage these “builders” are called chondrocytes, in bone they are called osteoblasts, in muscles they are myocytes, in skin and some other tissues they are fibroblasts—the list goes on and on.

In your own tissues, you can have the equivalent of a raging fire and a firefighting team (tissue damage and inflammation). But if you’re not able to shut off this process—that is, if your level of inflammation is thrown off by something—then your body is in a continual state of destruction and pain. You’ll never be able to get to the rebuilding and repair stages unless you can shut off this process of chronic inflammation.

Normal Inflammation Versus Chronic 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.

Normal Inflammation Versus Chronic Inflammation
The normal process of inflammation helps dismantle and recycle older tissues that have become damaged or worn out or that simply need repair. This process is called “turnover,” or “normal inflammation,” and it occurs when older tissue is replaced with newer tissue. Before the age of thirty or so, this normal turnover process is perfectly balanced—for every bit of tissue that is damaged and removed, another similar (or greater) bit is put in its place. This means that, under ordinary circumstances, you’re always making your tissue stronger and more resilient.

After about age thirty, however, the turnover process becomes somewhat less efficient year after year. This causes a very slight loss of healthy tissue—you continue to break down and to remove some tissue, but the amount of healthy tissue added back is just a little bit less than it should be. As you age, the turnover process becomes less and less efficient, and your body’s ability to heal itself from injury is reduced. This imbalance in tissue turnover and the “normal inflammation” process is the primary cause of the loss of flexibility, vigor, and the various “-itis” diseases that people tend to encounter as they get older.

With aging, these normal repair mechanisms start to dwindle, and, ironically, the very inflammatory process that has been helping “turn over” older tissue into healthy new tissue can completely turn on you. That leads to problems with pain, mobility, and flexibility.

The same process of inflammation that naturally governs your body’s repair and protection starts to accelerate tissue breakdown and impede that repair. The end result, as you may have already started to experience, is that your tissues literally begin to fall apart. Cartilage degrades, muscles lose tone, ligaments and tendons creak, bones become brittle, energy and mood falter, and vigor is sapped.

Let’s keep in mind that not all inflammation is bad. As you’ve just learned, inflammation is part of the normal healing and turnover process for any tissue. But when you experience too much inflammation, things go awry. In this chapter, this state of “too much” inflammation is referred to as “chronic inflammation.”

With chronic inflammation, healing is suppressed, and tissue destruction is accelerated. Your body simply cannot heal itself or stop the damage when inflammation gets out of control. To illustrate this point, think about the ocean crashing against a protective seawall. The seawall represents your tissues, and the ocean is your inflammatory process. Over time, that wall will become broken and weakened by the crashing waves and will need to be repaired to return to optimal functioning. If the pace of repair fails to keep up with the pace of destruction, then the seawall fails, and the ocean comes rushing in (leading to tissue destruction and dysfunction). You need to maintain the integrity of the seawall (your tissue) by keeping up with repair and maintenance—but you can’t do that if the ocean is continually crashing down on you.

A plethora of scientific and medical evidence demonstrates how to use diet, exercise, and supplementation to “calm” the ocean (to reduce damage caused by excessive inflammation) and to accelerate tissue repair (to keep that seawall intact). It is all a question of balance. You want to maintain a normal level of inflammation so you can then maintain a normal pace of tissue turnover and thus retain healthy tissue, flexibility, and mobility.

As soon as you get too much inflammation—that is, chronic inflammation—even by a small amount, you see a little bit more tissue deterioration, leading to a little more inflammation and still more tissue breakdown. Once this vicious cycle of inflammation/damage has begun, it can be very difficult to stop—unless you have a comprehensive plan to control inflammation via multiple health practices.

Health Pillar 2—Control 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.

Health Pillar 2—Control Inflammation
The word “inflammation” is derived from the Latin “inflammare”—meaning to “set on fire”—because an injury or infection is typically red, warm, and painful. Think of pain and inflammation as different sides of the same coin (front and back or heads and tails, whichever analogy you prefer). The point is, pain and inflammation are driven by different—but related—biochemical factors. The good news is that a number of natural options are safe and effective for controlling pain and inflammation—and you’ll get a better idea of what some of those options are later in this chapter.

Pain and inflammation are normal body processes. Without them, you would literally not be able to survive for very long. Pain is a signal to your body that damage is occurring, and you need to stop doing whatever is causing that damage. Inflammation is a process controlled by the immune system that protects your body from invading bacteria and viruses, but this process also helps regulate heart function, blood flow, and many vital functions. Maintaining a normal balance of pain signals and inflammation is critical to good health and vigor.

When this balance becomes disrupted, you experience more inflammation and increased pain, along with less flexibility and reduced mobility. When you have too much inflammation, this process—which is supposed to be protecting you—actually causes more and more damage. For example, an overactive inflammatory response is known to stimulate bone breakdown (leading to osteoporosis), interfere with cartilage repair (leading to a worsening of arthritis), and accelerate muscle breakdown (leading to flare-ups in fibromyalgia).

Inflammation is also involved in emotional balance and brain function. So when your body experiences too much inflammation, you simply don’t feel happy. Instead you feel mentally exhausted and burned out—obviously, the opposite of vigor.

Your doctor may also give your unbalanced inflammation another kind of label—one that ends in “-itis.” In medical terminology, “-itis” is used to denote inflammation. Therefore, you may have arthritis (inflammation of the joint—“arthros” is Latin for joint), tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon), or fasciitis (inflammation of the fascia—the tough layer of connective tissue over muscles, tendons, and ligaments that can become inflamed following excessive exercise or with lower-back pain and fibromyalgia).

Pillar Points to Remember…

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…
Let’s recap the process of oxidation, because excessive oxidation saps vigor, and managing this process is one way to strengthen this key pillar of health.

Overexposure to free radicals—and the cellular “oxidative” damage they can cause—leads to tissue dysfunction, DNA damage, reduced mitochondrial-energy production, and the ill health that you generally recognize as aging and burnout, which represents a complete loss of vigor. Too much oxidation is bad—got it?

Free radical damage can be reduced by the balanced activity of internal antioxidant enzymes and dietary antioxidant nutrients—remember, not too few or too many. The sum of the Antioxidant Network is more effective than its individual parts. In practical terms, this means you want to consume small amounts of a variety of antioxidant nutrients every day. For example, consuming more flavonoids (found in berries, grapes, and citrus fruits) can also prevent the oxidation and loss of vitamin C and increase cellular levels of glutathione, which can switch on DNA-repair enzymes and help regulate chronic inflammation and immune function. You also want to do everything you can to promote your body’s own production of it’s internal antioxidant enzymes (an emerging area of science referred to as “nrf2-activation” that will be covered in coming sections).

Unfortunately, when building vigor, you can’t just manage oxidation and stop there, because the process of oxidation also impacts inflammation—most notably and directly via the activity of your immune system. The next chapter, “Health Pillar 2—Control Inflammation,” delves into this issue more deeply.

Pillars in Action (Vigor, Energy, and Immune Function)
Nora was a first-grade teacher who actively managed oxidation to improve her vigor. At forty-four years old, with nearly twenty years of teaching experience, Nora, like a lot of teachers, suffered from daily fatigue and a high susceptibility to catching colds. She was already taking large doses of vitamin C to try to “stimulate” her immune system, but it didn’t seem to help until she added the other components of the Antioxidant Network (vitamin E, flavonoids, thiols, carotenoids) and beta-glucan to support immune-system function (a major source of oxidation in the body). Along with these dietary supplements, Nora also incorporated Vigor Improvement Practices, including getting eight hours of sleep on most nights and writing in her gratitude journal before bed.
Within one month, Nora’s Vigor Score had improved from Low (25 points) to High (5 points). She finally had abundant energy during the day for her students and in the evenings for her family, and for the first time in many years of teaching, she used zero sick days across an entire school year.

The Antioxidant Network

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 Antioxidant Network
1. Carotenoids (including beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein)
2. Vitamin E “complex” (tocopherols/tocotrienols)
3. Vitamin C “complex” (ascorbic acid plus bioflavonoids)
4. Thiols (e.g., sulfur-containing compounds, such as alpha-lipoic acid and cysteine)
5. Flavonoids (vitamin-like phytonutrients, including polyphenols from citrus and berries, and catechins from tea)

In theory, smaller doses of these antioxidant agents, when combined, will help combat free radicals directly. Further, they could also regenerate one another following free-radical quenching, thus delivering a more-effective and safer antioxidant regimen than with higher doses of isolated antioxidant nutrients. This combined approach to antioxidant supplementation is also logical, because certain antioxidants will work primarily against certain free radicals and in specific parts of the body (for example, vitamin E against hydroxyl radicals and within cell membranes or vitamin C against superoxide and within aqueous spaces).

Thousands of studies have clearly documented the beneficial effects of dozens of antioxidant nutrients, and thousands of nutrients and phytochemicals possess significant antioxidant activity. Increased dietary intake of antioxidant nutrients—such as vitamins C and E, such minerals as selenium, and various phytonutrients, such as extracts from grape seed, pine bark, and green tea—have all been linked to reduced rates of oxidative damage. This intake of antioxidants may also help reduce the incidence of such chronic diseases as heart disease and cancer.

But megadose supplementation with antioxidants can easily become a case of “too much of a good thing” and actually begin to interfere with normal cellular metabolism. This concept of antioxidant network balance—not too few, but also not too many—requires remembering that cells need representatives from each and every one of these categories to mount the strongest antioxidant defense.

Think of it in sports terms: Even if you were the best swimmer in the world (say, Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps), you’re not going to win the Ironman triathlon without also being a strong cyclist and runner. The analogy of baseball works as well. If your team included the best homerun hitter in the world but poor pitching and fielding, then your baseball team would probably not win the World Series. The same thing holds true with your antioxidant defenses—green tea, vitamin E, or beta-carotene are all wonderful antioxidants on their own, but combining them to create a network that performs together in different parts of the body and against different types of free radicals is most effective.

Another concept regarding antioxidant nutrition involves helping the body to produce its own internal (endogenous) antioxidants such as the powerful antioxidant enzymes catalase, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase. The enzymes are many times more potent than the dietary (exogenous) antioxidants that we consume in the diet, so it makes sense to encourage your body’s natural production of such powerful protectors (in addition to eating a bright and balanced diet).

Just as with other aspects of your health and lifestyle, if you keep the concept of “balance” in mind when it comes to your antioxidant nutrition, then your body will be healthier, stronger, and more able to respond to the demands of living, working, and “playing” at the highest level possible.

Manage Oxidation to Increase 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.

Manage Oxidation to Increase Vigor
Now that you have been introduced to the concept of oxidation and learned a little about how it contributes to cellular damage, it is time to consider what you can do to manage this process to increase your level of vigor. Remember, as long as the body is not overrun by free radicals, it can generally prevent or repair normal, day-to-day oxidative damage. The trick to fighting those free radicals, as with so many other aspects of health, is to find the right balance—specifically, the right balance of antioxidants.

When it comes to antioxidant nutrition, your best approach is to eat five to ten servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables throughout the day. In general, brighter is better, with each color group representing a major class of antioxidants: Think red tomatoes (lycopene), orange carrots (beta-carotene), blueberries (flavonoids), and purple grapes (anthocyanins). Try to get a few servings of each color group every day, because, even though a particular “color” indicates a predominant family of antioxidant nutrients, each fruit or vegetable choice also contains hundreds of other antioxidant nutrients that work together to deliver balanced protection against free radicals.

If you have trouble consuming all the fruits and vegetables that you need, and you choose to supplement your diet to boost your antioxidant levels, then keep this in mind: It is the overall collection of several antioxidants that’s important, not any single “super” antioxidant. Often, you’ll see advertisements touting the single “best” or “most powerful” antioxidant nutrient. But recent research clearly shows that supplementing with too many isolated or unbalanced antioxidants may be even worse for long-term health than getting too few antioxidants. Excessive levels of antioxidant supplementation (for example, too much isolated synthetic vitamin E or beta-carotene), can actually lead to more oxidation and tissue damage rather than protection from oxidation. That happens because, under certain circumstances, excessive doses of unbalanced dietary anti-oxidants can become pro-oxidants. In other words, instead of fighting oxidation, the excess intake of these nutrients can actually promote it.

As stated above—and it is worth stating again, because it is a crucial point—when it comes to antioxidant supplementation, “more” is not “better,” because it is the overall collection of and balance between several antioxidants that is important rather than any single “super” antioxidant. This concept of balancing supplemental antioxidants is referred to as the “Antioxidant Network” – and that is the topic I’ll cover in the next excerpt from The Secret of Vigor…

The Free Radical Theory of Disease

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 Free Radical Theory of Disease
As you’ve just learned, when your body’s own internal antioxidant defenses are overwhelmed by free radicals, damage may occur to DNA, proteins, and lipids in cell membranes (generally referred to as “lipid peroxidation”). Excessive free-radical production can come from air pollution, cigarette smoke, intense exercise, and even immune-system activity (because immune cells release superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and nitric oxide as part of their “respiratory burst” to kill pathogens and clear out damaged cell material).

The most common free radicals in the body include superoxide (O2-), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), hydroxyl radical (OH-), nitric oxide (NO-), and peroxyl radical (NOO-). Superoxide, the most reactive of the free radicals, is formed in the mitochondria of the cell during the normal passage of molecular oxygen through the electron transport chain during creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) for cellular energy. Superoxide is inactivated by the action of the cellular antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase, resulting in hydrogen peroxide. At this stage, it is still a free radical, but one with a lower potency. Hydrogen peroxide can be further converted into harmless water and oxygen by the activity of other cellular antioxidant enzymes, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase.

The free-radical theory of aging and disease promotion holds that through a gradual accumulation of microscopic damage to cell membranes, DNA, tissue structures, and enzyme systems, people begin to lose function and are predisposed to disease—not to mention a loss of vigor.

In response to free-radical exposure, the body increases its production of its own natural ‘endogenous’ antioxidant enzymes (such as glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and superoxide dismutase). But it has been theorized that, in some situations, it may be necessary to supplement the dietary intake of antioxidants to help bolster the body’s defenses and prevent excessive oxidative damage to muscles, mitochondria, lungs, and other tissues—especially during or following intense exercise and exposure to pollutants, such as secondhand smoke or oxidizing radiation from sunlight.