Anti-Inflammatory Medicine Washington DC

Although doctors have long linked inflammation to arthritis and gum disease, the idea that inflammation underlies a variety of other chronic diseases has spawned a relatively new area of medical research.

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Cooling the Fires Within

Provided by: 

By Maureen Callahan, RD,

Grabbing a fiery-hot pot handle or stubbing a toe may hurt like the dickens, but before you can even scream, “Ouch!” the body sets off a cascading chain of inflammatory responses to help heal the injury. The injured area swells, the skin turns red, and the body releases dozens of inflammatory chemicals to limit the damage. And in response to such an injury, inflammation is a good thing.

Unfortunately, new research suggests that the typical Western diet of highly processed, sugary foods triggers the body to release these same inflammatory chemicals. And that isn’t good. Constant low levels of inflammation over many years may set the stage for a host of chronic illnesses, ranging from diabetes to heart disease to cancer.

Inflammation overload

Although doctors have long linked inflammation to arthritis and gum disease, the idea that inflammation underlies a variety of other chronic diseases has spawned a relatively new area of medical research. The work is preliminary, but researchers are slowly building a case for the detrimental effects of long-term, low-level inflammation. One way they’re doing this is by measuring changing levels of inflammatory substances in the blood in response to diet and disease. For example, studies show that high levels of the inflammatory C-reactive protein (CRP) raise the risk for atherosclerosis. Conversely, lowering the CRP levels lessens the risk for heart attack from atherosclerosis.
In his new book, The Inflammation Cure (McGraw-Hill, 2005), William Joel Meggs, MD, PhD, says he suspects the same inflammatory forces that cause heart attacks also could cause a medley of seemingly unrelated disorders such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and stroke.

Although it may take years to completely unravel this complicated inflammation-disease connection, studies already suggest that how you eat and live can either fan the fires of inflammation or quench them.

Foods that provoke

The biggest inflammatory culprit may be the Western diet itself. In a new report from the Harvard Medical School, researchers identified a specific diet pattern that revs up inflammation and increases the risk of type-2 diabetes in women.

That pattern includes drinking lots of sugary or diet sodas; eating refined grains and processed meats; eating very few cruciferous or yellow vegetables; and drinking little wine or coffee. More work is needed to tease out the health risks and benefits of each of these foods individually, but the researchers say that the overall eating style is clearly important.

Another no-no: high-fat diets. In a study conducted at the University of Buffalo, researchers discovered that eating a high-fat, fast-food breakfast of an Egg McMuffin and hash browns sends a rush of inflammatory substances into the bloodstream, a rush that lasts three to four hours. In contrast, a breakfast of fruit and fiber-rich foods such as whole-grain cereal, even when it adds up to the same 900 calories as the ...

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