By: CLIFFORD SONNIE, M.D., M.P.H.
I subscribe to a lot of medical journals. I was catching up on my reading this past weekend and something struck me. In almost every article some practitioner is touting that such and such herb or vitamin or whatever helped a certain condition. Well what hit me is that when you read the whole article, all of them say the same thing. The “miracle” substance decreased inflammation. Well ask any of my patients and they will tell you that in my opinion literally all health problems stems from inflammation. Specifically, having too much inflammation. The subject of inflammation can easily take this entire newspaper. I’m going to try to simplify it. Here goes nothing.
First if I may, a couple concepts. No it’s not too confusing. Life exists as a balance (hence the name of my clinic). There is a give and take, a yin and yang, a plus and minus. We all need inflammation to live and we all need to curtail and limit inflammation to be healthy. When you start your car there are a lot of moving parts. Over time they will wear down. We use oils, lubricants and additives to minimize this and keep our car longer. The body is similar. Every time we breathe, our heart beats, we use a muscle, our body kills a bacteria and as simple as a single cell living we produce and use inflammation. Think about it. You sprain you ankle, it swells. There is inflammation there because your body needs to get certain cells and substances to the ankle to fix it. Likewise when it is done the swelling goes away. This inflammation is also called free radicals or oxidants. If left unchecked these free radicals accumulate and will not only harm the cell that made them but also adjacent cells. If over time enough cells are harmed, we have disease. God is pretty smart because we also have a lot of antioxidants naturally in our body that gobble up these free radicals and prevent harm from being done.
Now think about that example I made and what if the swelling didn’t go away in that ankle. You would have constant pain, swelling, weakness, etc. Hey that sounds a little like arthritis. Please excuse the simplicity of this but I like simple. Remember the saying: KISS, keep it simple silly. (Ok fine, I don’t use the word silly).
Why is there too much inflammation? Either our bodies don’t make enough antioxidants or we are exposed to way too much inflammation and it overwhelms our bodies. The first is the easiest as God already gave us things like SOD (superoxide dismutase) and glutathione to name two that gobble up those pesky free radicals. However a diet rich in processed “nonfoods” along with smoking, drinking and other bad habits will decrease our bodies ability to naturally produce them. If you notice these same bad habits also produce as many free radicals as they prevent from being produced. Add to this pollution (air, water, etc), toxic metals, some pharmaceuticals, harmful environmental exposures and boom you’ve just depleted your stores of free radical fighters and need to get more.
How do you do that, you ask? That can come in a variety of flavors. Berries such as acai, blueberries, etc have high concentrations of antioxidants. Eliminating processed foods as much as possible and increasing water in you diet will be essential. Exercising (even though exercising will itself create free radicals) conditions the body to more efficiently produce antioxidants and the overall result is better for the body. Supplements are also needed. I would prefer all vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to come from the diet but that is usually just not possible. Likewise detoxification is essential to allow your body to produce those protective substances more efficiently. Now we have come back to those articles. They will tout an ORAC score which is a supposed level of antioxidants or the fact that this supplement or that one is better than sliced bread. Confusing ain’t the word. Add to that too many “practitioners” hanging up a shingle professing themselves as nutritional experts. Sorry, I digress again.
Talk to your family MD or DO. Ask them if adding an antioxidant can assist an already existing issue or perhaps be used as a preventative. Or you can call and we can sit and see what may or may not be beneficial to you knowing that detoxification is just as important as replenishing nutrients. Remember a smart health care consumer is informed and aware.
Clifford Sonnie, M.D. is the medical director of the Balance of Life Clinic.