This episode of the podcast is all about inflammation. You’ve heard me mention inflammation and how its important inflammation is multiple times by now. First thing to point out when it comes to the topic of inflammation is that not all inflammation is bad. Inflammation is a necessary process of the body and without it we would never be able to heal. However, there are two types of inflammation.
Acute inflammation and chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation is usually helpful and beneficial. Chronic is always bad. Acute inflammation is the body’s way of responding to trauma or damage and it’s crucial to healing and repair. It gets in there, does its job, and gets out. This is the good version of inflammation. It’s also what helps make it possible for your muscles to grow after a workout.
Chronic inflammation is the bad inflammation that leads us to disease. It’s when the normal inflammatory process goes haywire and won’t shut off. The immune system has lost its mind and white blood cells are looking for something to attack and what they end up attacking is you.
So, when you hear me talking about inflammation, especially when I’m discussing the negative health aspects of inflammation, I’m usually always talking about the long-term chronic variety as opposed to the short term acute.
At this point you may be wondering - “how do I know if I’m inflamed?” Well, chances are if you have joint pains and aches, headaches, digestion issues, heart issues, blood sugar issues, sleeping troubles, fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain, auto-immune disease (remember my diagnosis was rheumatoid arthritis), dementia, even cancer, you’re inflamed.
There are also a few blood tests we can use to measure levels of inflammation. The first blood marker we can measure to detect inflammation is C-reactive protein otherwise known as CRP. CRP will be elevated in any inflammatory environment and can get as high as 40mg/L during acute inflammation. We really shouldn't have any elevation of CRP during normal everyday life so a CRP level of just 1mg/L or higher usually indicates some chronic and systemic inflammation.
Another blood marker I mentioned before is Interleukin-6 otherwise known as IL-6. IL-6 is secreted by the cells of the immune system such as T-Cells during response to inflammation (which I spoke about in the last episode about sleep) so it follows that elevated levels of IL-6 would indicate higher levels of inflammation.
One more test that is actually my preferred way of testing but is not actually readily available is called Tissue Omega-3 Content. This test actually measures the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids in your blood. Omega-3 fatty acids represent our anti-inflammatory concentration, whereas Omega-6 represents our pro-inflammatory concentration. We want to have a good balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 but generally speaking we want to have more anti-inflammatory fatty acids because this will help protect us from a multitude of diseases. Ideally, Omega-3 Tissue Concentrations should be around 60%.
Now you may be wondering, how does one become inflamed? Well, unfortunately there are so many things in our modern society that can contribute to chronic inflammation. We have the obvious causes like
And chronic stress
Poor diet - high sugar, highly processed, high in trans-fats, high gluten and low nutrient which pretty much describes the standard American diet. Also, as we mentioned earlier a diet low in Omega-3 fatty acids and high in omega-6 will put is in a highly inflamed state.
Other common causes include lack of sleep, lack of quality exercise, and poor gut health. Then there are more subtle causes of inflammation like poor air quality, poor water quality, exposure to toxic mold or harmful chemicals like glyphosate can lead to chronic inflammation.
Alright, so what happens when we’re inflamed? Here are 5 of the worst things that inflammation can do to the body.
Ruins Brain Health - When inflammation is triggered in the brain, the microglia cells can’t do their job which is to clean out and dispose of dead neurons, plaque, and other debris. When they can’t do their job, a buildup occurs, and this really interferes with neurons firing correctly. This makes the brain slow or foggy, hence the term brain fog. This also leads to depression, as well as a number of other brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. In fact, the link between inflammation and brain health is so strong that now, inflammation is being considered as a primary cause for depression. Especially in cases where anti-depressants don’t work. This is because anti-depressants don’t do anything to combat the inflammation.
So, even if we are not at the point yet where we have full bore depression, anxiety, or something even more severe like Alzheimer’s or dementia, the more we combat inflammation the healthier our brain is going to be. This means more focus, increased productivity, better mood, better outlook on life, more capacity to deal with stress, and of course less likelihood of developing a cognitive disease in the future.
Ruins Heart Health - So inflammation and heart disease is a BIG TOPIC. I could probably do a whole podcast on this topic alone and may in the future, but I am going to try and distill the connection down to its essential elements right here right now.
Everyone knows by now that there is a correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease. We once thought that it was a high fat diet that led to this, but now we know that it is rather a highly inflammatory diet that causes inflammation. A highly inflammatory doesn’t necessarily need to be high fat, in fact its more often high carb that leads to high cholesterol.
So, this high carb diet will spike insulin which will cause these carbs to be turned into triglycerides, which is basically just stored fat. The molecule that’s responsible for transporting these triglycerides, or the stored fat, is known as very low-density lipoprotein, otherwise known as VLDL, which is a form of cholesterol. Once VLDL does its job of transporting the triglycerides, it is turned into LDL, which you may have heard of as the “bad” cholesterol. However, not all LDL is bad, there are two types of LDL. There is a big LDL, which is actually harmless, and there is a small LDL, which is bad. These small and dense LDLs are bad because they’re able to penetrate artery walls and because they have a lipid surface will cause these artery walls to oxidize and will cause the whole inflammatory process to occur. Note that this only occurs in arteries because oxygen is required for this oxidation process to happen, and because arteries carry blood with oxygen whereas veins don’t, it only occurs in arteries and not veins. So, when this inflammation occurs, the immune system sends cells known as macrophages to come clean up the inflammation, but these macrophages become overwhelmed, turn into foam cells, accumulate more oxidation, and then this occurs over and over again until a plaque forms.
So, in summary, more carbs mean more triglycerides. More triglycerides mean more small LDL particles, and more small LDL particles mean more inflammation because they pierce artery walls and become oxidized. More inflammation leads to heart disease. What helps combat these small LDL particles is HDL particles, that’s why HDL is known as the good cholesterol and LDL is known as bad. What improves HDL cholesterol? Good diet and exercise.
Ruins Joint Health - As we discussed earlier, when we have chronic inflammation, the normal inflammatory process has gone absolutely haywire, and the body can sometimes turn on itself. Often times this chronic inflammation hits the joints the hardest. Obviously, over time, this becomes extremely damaging to the joints surface and begins to erode the synovial lining that allows the joints to move on top of one another. That’s why one of the symptoms of joint inflammation is stiffness and lack of range of motion along with pain and discomfort.
Often times patients don’t realize that there actually isn’t anything “wrong” per se with their joints that are ailing them, there’s nothing torn or broken, they’re just eating an improper diet that is causing pain via inflammation. Unfortunately, there are some cases where patients can get every treatment under the sun forever and they won’t get any better until they fix their diet and remove the inflammation. This is one of the main reasons that I decided to create my online course to remove inflammation because there are so many people who are in this exact situation. I’ll talk more about the online course at the end but it’s pretty simple: Remove the inflammation. Lose weight. Feel better.
4. Ruins gut health - Chronic inflammation also plays a massive role when it comes to gut health. As I mentioned in a previous podcast, our microbiome influences every aspect of our day to day lives, our health included, so when our microbiome is out of sync, so too will the rest of our health. Inflammation inhibits our body’s ability to properly digest and absorb nutrients and will result in dysbiosis. Dysbiosis can manifest in several different ways, such as gas, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, chon’s disease or colitis.
Research indicates that the most important thing for reducing intestinal inflammation is to have a diverse population of gut bacteria. This is why it’s important to avoid anti-biotic use if we can, and also eat a diet that is much lower in sugar and trans-fat than the standard American diet. When we lose our populations of healthy bacteria, negative bacteria take over and when these negative bacteria die, they release chemicals called endotoxins, otherwise known as lipopolysaccharides, which are known for their pro-inflammatory action.
5. Ruins our metabolism and makes weight gain easier and weight loss harder - As we gain weight, we increase inflammation, and as we increase inflammation, we typically gain weight. When we are chronically inflamed our body releases pro-inflammatory cytokines. These pro-inflammatory cytokines disrupt our body’s ability to respond to insulin. When the body becomes less sensitive to insulin, the pancreas must therefore release more of it, and that triggers the body to store more fat, specifically in the abdominal region. And fat in the abdominal region is particularly dangerous because it increases the risk of heart disease and also cancer. This is why waist circumference is an important health indicator.
Inflammation can also interfere with the body’s response to leptin, which is the hormone responsible for telling the brain we’ve had enough to eat. This is why it’s so important to address inflammation first before addressing weight loss because it will be impossible to lose the weight and keep it off for life until the root cause of inflammation is addressed. Someone can be exercising 5 hours a day and eating in a caloric deficit but until we address the chronic inflammation, they’re not going to feel any better or lose any weight.
So, Dr. May, what are 5 quick things we can do to reduce inflammation and therefore lose weight?
1. Cut out grains from your diet. Grains destroy your gut permeability, trigger an immune response, and result in inflammation.
2. Take an omega-3 or krill oil supplement. Remember, you want to have a healthy balance of omega 3 to omega 6 and the average American has 60 omega 6’s for every 1 omega 3.
3. Exercise – this one’s self-explanatory. However, TOO much exercise can cause chronic inflammation. The normal acute inflammatory response to exercise is actually a good thing.
4. Fasting – fasting has been proven to reduce those inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein and Interleukin-6.
5. Maximize sleep, went into detail about that last episode.
And as I mentioned earlier, I have a whole 9-week course dedicated directly towards reducing inflammation so whether you or someone you know are trying to improve symptoms of a specific chronic condition, reduce pain, lose weight, or any combination of those this class is all you need. Just go to docmaydiet.teachable.com and use code DMD20 at checkout to save 20% on the course. Once again go to docmaydiet.teachable.com, use code DMD20 at checkout, and save 20%.
Ok guys thanks for listening, really important podcast hope you got something out of it. Remember to like and subscribe on YouTube, apple podcasts, and Spotify. See you next time.