How Our Bodies are Killing Us. Researchers Link Inflammations to Cancer and other Deadly Diseases

New studies link common inflammations to cancer, heart disease, obesity, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, migraines, and more. What you can do to protect yourself.
By: East End Health News
 
Nov. 18, 2009 - PRLog -- We are all familiar with inflammations. Most of us, at any given time, are nursing a bruised elbow or knee, painful sinuses, an itchy skin rash, or achy joints. Usually the inflammation is a result of something tangible, something we can readily identify - such as a fall or an infection or poor ergonomics or a reaction to, say, poison ivy.  But according to a recent presentation by Dr. Michael Karin of the University of California and posted on the UCSF web site, the truly revolutionary discovery of the last few years has to do with how our own cells can trigger an inflammatory response when they are injured or broken down due to things we can't as readily identify - like toxicity, vitamin deficiency, trauma or infection - and how these inflammations play a critical role in a host of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure, to Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, migraines, and even, some claim, depression.  

The obvious question is why? Why does our body, specifically our immune system, wage war against us in an increasingly aggressive manner?

Dr. Michael Karin offers up an interesting theory. "We really need to think of this like an evolutionary biologists," he says. "This is a very ancient evolutionary system. It is there to protect us against microbial infections, which would have killed 90 percent of us in the first few years of our lives." He goes on to explain that the primary function of every species, whether it be a rat, a mouse or a human being is to survive to maturity to reproduce. Beyond this, the immune system shows a cold indifference. Dr Karin points out that all chronic diseases related to the immune system affect mostly the elderly or people who are beyond their reproductive age. "Once you are past that reproductive age the species doesn't care, evolution doesn't [care] - there's no evolutionary pressure to keep you free of disease once you are past your fifties or even your forties." Karin says. "We have not evolved to avoid these problems."

In lieu of evolving, researchers for the pharmaceutical companies like Karin are busy trying to unravel the mechanisms, molecules and pathways that lead the body to unleash upon itself such a destructive force that invariably leads to its own demise. To understand their strategy, one has to first grasp the difference between the two methods by which the body deals with ridding itself of unwanted cells due to aging or injury. In each case the body handles it differently. When we shed cells due to aging, a process called apoptosis, the body simply isolates, terminates and removes the dead cells at a rate of about 50 - 70 billion cells a day - for the most part without incident. But when we injure a cell due to blunt force, infection, trauma or toxicity, the body reacts by a process called necrosis. Instead of simply removing the dead cell as waste to be excreted, the body sets off an inflammatory response and leaves the cellular debris in place. And herein lies the problem. If, Karin and others believe, they can alter the genetic induced sequence by which our bodies differentiate between aging cells and injured cells, they can trick the body into a more benign reaction (one that doesn't potentially lead to cancer and a host of other diseases) -or no reaction at all.
   
Some are skeptical. "It's as if they begin with the premise that the machine is fundamentally flawed," says Polly Colvin who practices Ayurvedic healing at Holistic Health, "and they want to tinker with its machinery to fix the mechanisms by which it works."

Colvin and other practitioners of Ayurveda healing take another approach. To them the inflammatory process is not an evolutionary flaw by which our bodies have failed us, but represents a fundamental imbalance both physically and psychically by which we have failed our bodies. To them Dr. Karin's approach highlights this failure. "The body is not a machine, just as we are not machines. Thinking of the body this way is part of the problem, not the solution."

According to the ancient Indian practice of healing, imbalance is at the root of all disease. Chronic inflammation is a manifestation of this imbalance. In a normal healthy person inflammation is only a temporary reaction. Once the condition has subsided, assuming that which provoked the inflammation has been removed, the body produces anti-inflammatory processes to naturally reduce and control the inflammation. On this, East and West agree. In most healthy people, the inflammatory process works as it should. Where it fails is when the source of the inflammation hasn't been addressed or the body, for whatever reason, seems prone to exaggerated inflammatory attacks, which spread like an unattended fire, leading to conditions such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, dermatitis, psoriasis, asthma, colitis, Crohn's disease and many others.

Colvin doesn't discount the value of western science and even Dr. Karin's efforts in the case where the inflammatory attacks have become debilitating. But for most of us, treating inflammation should require less invasive and destructive measures than many western prescriptions. According to Ayurveda, we are all subject to imbalance both spiritually, physically and emotionally. But those who tend to burn hottest, type A personalities who are quick to flare with their tempers and passions (called "pitta" types in Ayurveda parlance), are more prone to the overheating of inflammations. Cooling the fires, so to speak, and restoring the balance between hot and cold is at the heart of Ayurveda treatment.
   
Sarah Richards of http://www.homegrownherbandtea.com, who provides a wealth of information on Ayurveda healing on her web site and sells a line of Ayurveda herbal teas, has what she believes is the perfect balance between the two view points.  She calls it Inflama-Tea. Inflama-Tea is blended from traditional Ayurvedic "cooling" herbs with known anti-inflammatory compounds (COX- 2 inhibitors), blood thinners (to encourage oxygen flow and improve circulation), demulcents (to increase viscosity), and ph balancing herbs to reduce acidity. Acidity is considered by many to create an environment where inflammation flourishes due to its heat generating nature.
   
"Incorporating herbs into your life," Richards says, "as well as eating cooling, ph balancing foods, will go far to alleviate your inflammations. I can't tell you how many people I hear from who start drinking this tea and feel a hundred percent better."
   
For Colvin it comes back to the example of the machine. "People need to understand that their health is a direct reflection of how they relate to their bodies. If they ignore it, or abuse it, or disregard it - they're going to have problems and all the medicine in the world won't change that."

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Homegrown Herb and Tea is an herbal tea apothecary located in Portland, Maine and online at http://www.homegrowntea.com. We serve wellness tea, Ayurvedic teas and specialty teas.
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