Natural Health and Self Care – Inflammation – What You Need to Know

More and more research is being published in the medical journals about the impact of inflammation on the body. Most of us know that inflammation is about redness, swelling, heat and pain, usually after we have been cut or had an infection. What most of us don’t know is that inflammation is not always obvious. It can quietly smolder in the body for years before making itself obvious by way of cancer, diabetes or heart disease.

I was talking about this with my medical practitioner a few weeks back. He looked at me in disbelief, as if I was treading on some of his favorite ideas. He was the doctor and therefore he must be right and I as the patient must be wrong. Sadly, he was just not up with his ongoing professional development – though to be fair there are just so many medical journals out there it just isn’t possible to be up to date in everything.

So what is this new information? It is an idea that has been around since the Romans, and quite possibly earlier. However it is only now that the research is catching up with the concept. An in-depth look at inflammation was the focus of a specialized medical journal Current Opinion in Pharmacology (2009) and there were a nice simple few sentences for ordinary people amongst the discussion about the pathways that only a few could understand.

The core idea is that inflammation is activated by tobacco, stress, some foods, obesity, alcohol, infections and environmental toxins. This makes it much simpler for all of us. We don’t need to know the detail – our body knows how to do that without our minds knowing anything about it.

So we need to give up smoking, avoid sugar, many grains, grain fed meat and any foods that contribute to obesity, reduce our overall levels of stress (physical, emotional, social, work), avoid truck and car fumes and other poisons where possible and make sure our hormones are functioning properly. This is really important as, for example, a low functioning thyroid means that we can’t turn beta-carotene into Vitamin A. A Vitamin A deficiency means not only that we can suffer from night blindness, but also that our skin and the linings of our lungs and gut don’t keep out the viruses, bacteria and fungi that cause infections or the toxins that might get into our bodies and need to be contained and removed.

Our bodies give a great feedback system to many of us in the community. If our waists keep getting bigger or our arthritis gives us trouble or we keep getting infections then we know immediately that we have an inflammation and immune system problem.

We CAN take charge of our lives and not leave it until we get sick, have a heart attack or be challenged with cancer or diabetes. We can take “feeling ill” or a large waist as an early warning symptom and choose to do something about it now.

As a person with a strong early warning system (that is I have lots of inflammatory symptoms), I used to get annoyed by people who were thin, who smoked, worked hard in high stress jobs and seemed to be fine. But the medical papers I have been reading reminded me that they might not be fine. These people can appear to be coping well, but under all of this appearance can be a smoldering inflammation, an immune system that is ripe for a heart attack or a cancer. Remember that some people stay completely well until all of a sudden they are hit with one of the big health problems.

We need then to take some pre-emptive action. We need to add some more brightly colored vegetables, especially the broccoli and onion families, get some regular exercise, learn to relax, get some sun for vitamin D and stop smoking if you are a smoker. This will improve your odds of avoiding one of the big diseases.

Natural Healing – Use the Sun to Reduce Cancer Risk

For years now we have been exhorted to avoid the sun, to cover up and to use sun screen so we can avoid getting skin cancer. However, unfortunately it looks as though we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. We desperately need some sun on our skin to make vitamin D, and a lot more of it than the doctors and health people have been recommending for a long time.

We have known for years that we need vitamin D and calcium for strong bones and the recommended vitamin D levels were set when the major concern was to avoid rickets in children. Later vitamin D became a concern because older people were developing osteoporosis and needed to strengthen their bones to see them through their old age.

Vitamin D is usually metabolized by the body from sunlight but in these days of “slip, slop, slap” of sunscreen, too many of us are now avoiding the sun when we should be reveling in it for at least a few hours each week – but do be careful, we still want to avoid getting burnt.

Most people are now vitamin D deficient and this is having a terrible consequence. We are finding more and more diseases which are made worse by lack of vitamin D. A range of cancers are made more likely by a lack of vitamin D, as is multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

An article in the Annals of Epidemiology, published early in 2009 said that women who had high levels of Vitamin D had less than half the chance of getting breast cancer and only one quarter the chance of dying from it than those who had the lowest levels.

Think about that for a moment. The journal article suggests a woman can cut their risk of getting breast cancer by more than half? And their chance of dying of it by three quarters? Why are we not hearing that being trumpeted from the roof tops?

One of the problems is that medicine has got itself caught up in a mess – a research mess. Medicine has developed a good way of working out whether a drug will improve outcomes. However most research is done by drug companies but because there isn’t a large profit to be made it just isn’t worth it to them. In addition most of the research and medical agenda has been hijacked by the drug companies so that even when a non-drug, natural activity or supplement is found to be useful there is a strong inertia in the medical profession to taking it up.

It is time to take responsibility for your own health and get out in the sun or go get some Vitamin D3 from your local pharmacist as almost everyone in the developed world is now deficient. You need 2000IU per day as a minimum. However next time you go to see your family physician or go to have a blood test then ask for a Vitamin D blood test as some people have very low levels and need to have higher doses of Vitamin D than 2000IU daily to get their levels up to a reasonable level quickly.

P.S. If you are still worried about the skin cancer problem then think on this: skin cancer kills some 1600 people a year in Australia. This is not good. But lack of vitamin D kills over 3000 people a year from breast cancer in Australia and over 4000 people a year from colorectal cancer. This is much worse.