By Wiley Long
Each organ, and even the bloodstream, contains a part of our immune system, which uses inflammation to protect us from bacteria, viruses, parasites, molds and foreign proteins as well as to heal wounds. Ideally, such threats are neutralized and the associated inflammation is resolved.
An unresolved inflammatory response (chronic inflammation), however, can spread damage throughout the body. Researchers from different areas of medicine have independently and repeatedly concluded that inflammation plays a key role in a variety of illnesses.
“I am a chiropractic doctor working in a multi-specialty setting (with physical therapists, several medical physicians [orthopedic surgery, spine neurosurgery, internal medicine, pain management] and acupuncture). I have been in practice since 1982. I have read The Paleo Diet and The Paleo Diet for Athletes as well as other publications by authors who are generally in concert with what I guess we could call Paleo-principles. My diet is the Paleo Diet.
For patients who claim to have tried everything in pursuit of chronic pain relief, addressing underlying pro-inflammatory dietary practices can be a fundamental key to recovery. The Paleo Diet can be the key that unlocks the door to sustained pain relief.
Many of my patients suffer from chronic pain and the principles of the Paleo Diet are valuable as it is essentially an anti-inflammatory diet. For instance, chronic pain sufferers who attempt to combat symptoms without addressing underlying omega-3 versus omega-6 imbalances from over reliance on grains and lack of animal sources of DHA and EPA, are fighting an uphill battle. The same can be said for foods with high glycemic indices that also have a pro-inflammatory effect.”
How the Paleo Diet diet relieved chronic pain
Adopting the Paleo Diet resulted in both pain relief and improved athletic performance for a patient working with Dr. Russell. An endurance athlete in his mid-50s suffered from persistent back pain due, in part, to two degenerated lumbar discs. He was beginning to make some improvement in spinal pain with some specific Flexion-Distraction Mobilization (chiropractic treatments) and exercises.
Dr. Russell also suggested The Paleo Diet for Athletes as an anti-inflammatory diet based on the patient’s athletic endeavors and the inflammatory nature of his psoriasis.
The patient’s pain improved more rapidly than expected, and his recovery time was rapid and with far less physical discomfort than he had experienced previously. As a bonus, the patient judged his athletic performance to also be improved.
Connection between inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease identified
Inflammation is involved in almost every disease process, and reducing chronic inflammation is often found to be therapeutic. Neurologists have also reported an inverse relationship between anti-inflammatory medications and Alzheimer’s disease. In 1997, the journal Neurology published findings that people who had been regularly taking anti-inflammatory medicine had much lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
As recently as September of 2009, the journal Gerontology published a study linking neuroinflammation with the development of several central nervous system diseases, including late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Link between chronic inflammation and cancer found
Other researchers have also connected inflammation with cancer. The journal Cell published a study that identified a basic cellular mechanism that may link chronic inflammation with cancer.
The researchers identified a protein called p100 as allowing communication between inflammation and cancer development processes. Chronic inflammation might lead to unrestrained cancer development.
Chronic inflammation associated with heart attack and stroke
In 2003, the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a joint statement associating inflammatory markers (such as C-reactive protein or CRP) with coronary heart disease and stroke. CRP is one of the acute phase proteins to increase during systemic inflammation.
The statement was based on evidence implicating inflammation as a key factor in atherosclerosis. That’s the process of fatty deposit build up in arteries. High levels of hs-CRP consistently predict recurrent coronary events in cases of unstable angina and heart attack. Higher hs-CRP levels are also associated with the likelihood of an artery reclosing following balloon angioplasty, and lower survival rates. High levels of hs-CRP also predict prognosis and recurrent events for stroke and peripheral arterial disease.
Leaky-gut syndrome linked to chronic inflammation
Increased intestinal permeability, also known as leaky-gut syndrome, can affect overall health by allowing passage of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from the intestinal lumen into peripheral circulation.
LPS comes from the cell walls of resident gram negative gut bacteria, and is one of the most potent pro-inflammatory antigens known. Increased passage of LPS into circulation induces pro-inflammatory cytokines (communication proteins of the immune system) leading to low-grade chronic inflammation.
Dietary saponins from potatoes, beans, and legumes induce a leaky gut, as do dietary lectins, alcohol, and NSAIDS. Lectins survive cooking and processing, as well as digestive enzymatic degradation, so they arrive in circulation intact in physiological concentrations to activate the immune system. Lectins are also able to increase E. coli and gram-negative bacteria overgrowth in the intestinal lumen.
Why the Paleo Diet is an anti-inflammatory diet
Returning to the diet that humans evolved to eat addresses many underlying pro-inflammatory modern dietary practices. The Paleo Diet corrects the pro-inflammatory effects of omega-63:/omega-6 3 fatty acid imbalance that can result from consumption of vegetable oils, grain-based products, and a lack of DHA and EPA from animal sources.
The diet also eliminates other modern food products that have been implicated in the inflammatory basis of disease, such asincluding dairy products, refined sugar, and lectins. Lectins are found in beans, grains, and legumes, which are not part of the Paleo Diet. found in grains and legumes.
While the diet also excludes processed foods (such as refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils in margarines, potato chips and baked goods that can be pro-inflammatory), it does include olive oil. This highly mono-unsaturated oil can actually reduce inflammation. The high-fiber content of the diet also helps to reduce inflammation.
In addition, foods with high glycemic indices also have a pro-inflammatory effect. The low glycemic load foods of the Paleo Diet avoids such high-glycemic foods address this , which also helps to lower insulin levels, and help to maintain optimum weight.
Next time, we’ll take a look at the many aspects of the Paleo Diet that reduce your risk of disease to improve mental and physical function in later life. We’ll also share ideas on how to keep Paleo when dining in Japanese restaurants.