Inflammation can be a good thing. Let us say you have a infection in your hand. At the site of the infection fluid accumulates and it looks red. This is a attempt to dilute out the bad bacteria and toxins the bacteria are giving off. By diluting out the infection (causing inflammation and swelling) the body is better able to fight that infection. Sort of a divide and concur campaign.
The problem becomes when the inflammation is not successful in fighting the infection and/or becomes a chronic condition and becomes a very life threatening situation. Inflammation does not have to be the result of infection. ( Did I mention that vitamin D increases peptides that fight infection)? Oh, yes I should also say that vitamin D decrease inflammation and therefore swelling and pain! More on that later.
The problem becomes when inflammation is chronic and not a infection ( all the time) and there is swelling of tissue and pain. Think old age and sore joints and heart attacks. I should mention also the more the inflammation the more cancer. It is a problem that is very serious and not to be taken lightly. Inflammation tends to occur with all illness and it tends to be more evident as we age. Heck every machine wears out and our joints do too, not to mention heart and other systems as we age. Sort of like a old car. The maintenance has to be much more intensive to maintain function. As joints wear out they get inflamed and it hurts. Not to surprising when you consider the natural lubricant between joints is cartilage. Cartilage wears out and you have bone on bone. The more bone on bone, the more the pain and inflammation. And yes if you decrease inflammation bone on bone can be mostly pain free. That defines arthritis.
So what is maintenance. Well now this becomes very very interesting. Eat right ( we really are what we eat)! Ok. What else? How about vitamin D. It decreases infection ( recall the peptide thing) and swelling. You you even feel better because it effects the mood too!
I should talk a little about heart attacks and inflammation. What causes a heart attack. Most will say Cholesterol. Maybe, if you have blood that looks like that stuff your mechanic greases your car with, that can be a problem. That would be called very high triglycerides. Just about everyone does not fall into this group. You maybe a exception. Just be aware that Statins are helpful to about 15% of people and those people are helped because the statins reduce...inflammation. I think I just said that Vitamin D does that....Oh, and one more thing the statins have a complication rate of about 15%. One of those complications is loss of your kidneys. Ask you pharmacist if you don't believe me...Now vitamin D does the same thing....think I will would take vitamin D instead. My decision!
I should talk about heart attacks. There are two types. Some will disagree on what I say, but it is mostly a free country, so they can. So heart attacks. Two types. Ok, we have the Billy Clinton heart attack..did he really have one. Well due to taking the warnings of heart attack seriously he avoided one, though he was on the verge of one. The arteries in his heart ( and every where else in his body too) started to plug up because calcium and fat accumulates in the arteries of the heart. It slowly plugged the flow of blood to the heart. Sort of a starvation diet and it hurts especially when you move about. So they replaced the almost plugged arteries with others that where mostly disease free. This tends to be a total body disease. Brain, legs etc are effected. So that is one way.
A recent study says that calcium deposits in the heart, detected on x rays, is a a better predictor of heart attack than cholesterol. Should mention at this point that there is a vitamin that tells the calcium to go to the bones and not the arteries and heart. A good thing. It is called vitamin k2. There other types of k....not to worry about those. There is even a study in 2007 that says calcium is removed from the arteries by k2. So take k2....everyone....except those on anti coagulants.
Second type of heart attack. Well the calcium and fat builds up in the coronaries and there is a very significant inflammation and swelling there. In fact the tissue in the arteries are so swollen they are mushy and soft. (X rays of the heart may look fine). So this glob of stuff breaks off and floats down stream into the heart and you have a heart attack. If it plugs a lot, you die. If it plugs less you don't, but you end up with scar tissue in the heart which is not as good as heart muscle in its ability to move blood through your body. About one third die from this massive coronary! What does a anti inflammatory substance like vitamin D do. It takes down swelling and there fore makes that spot more firm and less likely to break off. It stabilizes the clot as they say in the medical literature.
So for me this becomes pretty simple. Stop inflammation of the chronic type and you will have less pain and live longer. In the process you will reduce the likely hood of heart attack and cancer. Yes chronic inflammation is associated with a increase in cancer. Check it out...Just google it. Actually I use ixquick for a search engine. They do not record where you go and what you look at on the internet.
Ok so you take vitamin D. Is it for me to say the amount is important that you take? I think so. I aim for a level between 70 and 100 ng/ml as that higher number reduces inflammation more than a lower number. Don't go over 100ng/ml. In fact if I have a level under 77ng I start to use a cane. Then I am 72 years old. Guess I will keep my level above that. No one knows how much is the right amount without a test, but there are good guide lines and the gold standard is the 25(oh)D test. Adjust accordingly. One more thing. Americans are low on magnesium. Low magnesium increases the likely hood of irregular heart and death. Vitamin D depleats magnesium so make sure you get some and take it everyday. I recommend Magnesium malate. Magnesium oxide is a good laxative and not to be used, imho.
Sounds kind of over powering all this information. What is the bottom line. What is it all about. Why am I having a significant portion of this inflammation? Here it is... the answer. Immune function. That's it! So here goes. We are subject to our environment. No sun exposure...very little vitamin D and our immune system starts wondering who we are and if it should attack your ( my ) body because it is confused. Vitamin D improves immune function and its IQ. So it does not attack the body as much and inflammation is reduced. Ok, that makes sense. What else.
Well 85% of the immune function is located in our guts. Certain bacteria are bad, increasing inflammation, and certain bacteria are good and those decrease inflammation. No sane person would hurt themselves if they knew they where doing it and the immune system is the same. I call this stupid gut syndrome. So, what messes up the immune function in the gut. Bad bacteria which comes from bad food. Bad food is lots of sugar and even more important corn sugar or fructose. Both of these sweeteners cause inflammation. The blood sugar and insulin levels go way up then the blood sugar level drops and the insulin is still there at a high level. That causes inflammation big time. I am talking heart attack, arthritis, infections and the list goes on and on. If you immune function is whacky you should not be surprise when you get sick.
Then there is the manufactured foods. Those foods promote bad bacteria. You have heard of probiotics. That is what I am talking about and a yogurt a day will not do it. Fermented foods have good bacteria. I am talking about fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. The bad thing is these commercial products are not a good source of fermented foods and good bacteria. Some are made with bacteria that is good and then sterilized so it will have a good shelf life. Others are not sterilized but sugar is added. Not good.
So what happens if you eat the proper foods and get enough sun or vitamin D everyday. (Sunshine once a month or one large dose of vitamin D a month will not do it. (Vitamin D should be taken every day just as our ancestors where exposed to sunshine everyday without the "benefit" of clothes). Ferment some sauerkraut or other foods. It is not rocket science and any one can do it just by working in your kitchen fifteen or twenty minutes a week. Lots of information on this on the internet. Just ixquick it. Then you will notice some thing really interesting. Stress is less, you are happier, you sleep better and everything about your life is better and that is all because you are better and your immune function made it all so.......One of the Doctor's on line newsletters has a lot of information on it. E mail me and I will inform you who. I try to avoid anything that suggest I am endorsing a particular product or company when blogging.
Be well and prosper.
Bruce Bennett CRNA, retired.