Wednesday, 24 August 2011 10:14

Unveiled: How to avoid the common denominator of chronic disease and obesity

Written by  Hilde Nel
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Whether you want to lose weight, protect yourself against cardiovascular disease, or get relief from arthritic aches and pains, the crucial first step to take, is to address chronic inflammation.

Inflammation underlies most health problems. Lifestyle conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis all have one common denominator: chronic low-level inflammation.

Anti-aging doctor, Nicholas Perricone considers inflammation the single most powerful cause of the signs of aging. Lifestyle factors such as stress, a high sugar intake, lack of exercise, eating damaged fats, and obesity all contribute towards systemic inflammation.

Sugar and refined carbohydrates cause the release of insulin. According to cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra, too much insulin is the number one risk factor for heart disease, because surging insulin causes inflammation in the blood vessels.

Inflammation and body fat

There is an interesting link between inflammation and body fat. Inflammation makes our cells resistant to the effects of hormones such as insulin, cortisol, and leptin. This results in increased body fat. A vicious circle is created: an increase in body fat causes leptin resistance, which causes further weight gain!

Let’s see how the drama unfolds:

Insulin resistance causes inflammation

  • Inflammation, together with a diet rich in sugar and refined starches, causes raised insulin levels. Over time, the body loses its sensitivity to insulin and insulin resistance develops.
  • Insulin resistance prevents body cells from breaking down fat. This makes it difficult for us to lose weight.
  • At the same time, high insulin levels make our bodies store even more body fat.
  • High insulin levels turn on the genes linked to inflammation, which makes our cells resistant to insulin.

Inflammation and excess body fat cause leptin resistance:

Our body fat produces a hormone called leptin. This hormone gives us the feeling of having eaten enough. It also plays a role in metabolic regulation and helps the body utilise stored fat.

A 2006 study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh shows that inflammation inhibits leptin's role in controlling appetite. Inflammation prevents leptin from reaching the hypothalamus. The body therefore doesn’t get the message to stop eating. This in turn leads to more weight gain, which causes more and more leptin secretion and inflammation. Eventually leptin resistance develops.

Inflammation causes increased cortisol release:

Our brains and adrenal glands are very sensitive to inflammation in our bodies. With increased inflammation, the brain sends a signal to our adrenal glands to produce more of the stress hormone, cortisol, as cortisol naturally fights inflammation. However, continuous cortisol release increases the amount of belly fat in the body, making us less sensitive to leptin. Excessive cortisol also causes an increase in blood sugar, which stimulates more insulin secretion. Eventually, we become insulin resistant.

The good news

Many people will be thrilled to know that it is surprisingly easy to control inflammation. Lifestyle factors such as stress control, exercise, following a healthy low-GL diet, and taking natural anti-inflammatories all contribute significantly to reducing inflammation. Once inflammation is under control, the body will rebalances its insulin, leptin, and cortisol levels to ensure optimal health and weight control.

Dietary recommendations

  • Include foods that are rich in omega 3 fats, such as salmon, walnuts, sardines, anchovies, linseeds, and pumpkin seeds.
  • Avoid damaged and hydrogenated fats as well as animal fats.
  • Cut down on pro-inflammatory proteins such as meat and chicken. Go for lentils, chick peas, and fish.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, sugar, etc.) and only eat low-GL carbohydrates such as brown basmati rice, barley, quinoa, and oats, to name a few
  • Eat lots of fruit, vegetables, herbs, and spices. These foods are rich in protective antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Anti-inflammatory supplements

  • Turmeric (curcumin) is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory. Choose turmeric with added black pepper extract (piperine) as this ensures better absorption.
  • MSM, a sulphur mineral, can be taken in high doses to effectively combat pain and inflammation.
  • Boswellia (frankincense) is widely used as an anti-inflammatory agent for the treatment of colitis, lower back pain, morning stiffness, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, as well as fibrositis.
  • Bromelain, a digestive enzyme found in pineapple, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties when taken between meals.
  • Omega 3 fats contribute to the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (hormone-like substances) in the body.
  • Ginger contain a number of scientifically proven anti-inflammatory agents, such as the enzyme zingibain, which helps relieve pain and inflammation in arthritis, as well as two powerful anti-inflammatory compounds known as the shaogals and gingerols, which play an important role in disease prevention.
  • Cat’s claw, a vine indigenous to the Amazon rain-forest, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Besides being a powerful immune booster, it is commonly used for arthritis, rheumatism, bursitis and gout.

Warning: Many natural anti-inflammatory substances have blood thinning properties and should therefore not be used those on blood thinning medication such as Warfarin. Anti-inflammatory enzymes should be taken between meals. Those with peptic or duodenal ulcers should avoid taking digestive enzymes.


Last modified on Friday, 05 October 2012 11:15
Hilde Nel

Hilde Nel

A socio-cultural Anthropologist by profession, Hilde gave up her career in Anthropology at UNISA and the University of Stellenbosch to follow her true passion, natural health.

After completing an Advanced Certificate in Natural Healing, her life-long dream came true when she opened Simply Natural in October 2000 at Canal Walk in Cape Town.  Simply Natural has gone on to become one of the most respected health shops in the country, a source of information and expertise.

Hilde’s aim is to empower people to reach optimal health the natural way. She believes in a holistic approach to solving health problems, and that true joy and happiness unfold when using ones ultimate passion to serve others.

Her special interests include preventative medicine, nutrition for the mind, and digestive disorders.

Login to post comments