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Taking Control

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PillsThe process of acute inflammation is designed to control and eliminate the invasion of foreign proteins in the body, whether from bacteria, viruses, foreign cells (other biological cells that are not of human origin) or cancer cells. But when the inflammatory process works overtime, normal human cells of various types are damaged or destroyed.

In an effort to learn how to keep inflammation from damaging good cells, scientists have been thoroughly dissecting the inflammatory process. They’ve identified multiple components of the process and created drugs to offset the harm that over-inflammation can cause. These drugs are intended to stop acute exacerbations of arthritis or colitis and life-threatening bouts of asthma, anaphylactic shock or heart attacks.

But too often these same drugs are marketed and used as a replacement for making sensible lifestyle choices.

Drug advertisements imply that it is okay to make foolish choices: like petting a cat while sitting in a field of blooming flowers just because you are taking the latest leukotriene blocker to arrest your asthma. Or eating lots of heavy carbohydrate, fried foods full of cheese, just because you’re taking the latest antacid to stop heartburn.

Marketers tell people they can take the latest anti-inflammatory drug and then happily live any lifestyle they choose. They suggest that you don’t have to make sensible choices, because “there’s a drug for that!”

Unfortunately, the side effects of these drugs are often neglected or downplayed – sometimes with disastrous results. For example, the recent discovery of increased heart attack rates in people with coronary artery disease who take COX-2 anti-arthritis medicines.

The sensible approach to any inflammatory disease is to avoid activities which increase your specific inflammatory response and to promote lifestyle activities which reduce the inflammatory activities in your body.

For the four specific body systems this means:

For the skin – avoid things that you know will irritate your skin or cause allergic reactions, and avoid excessive sun.

For the upper and lower bowel – avoid irritants like caffeine, nicotine, cholesterol, chocolate, non-digestible sugars and irritating spices, as well as any specific foods to which you know you are sensitive.

For the breathing system – avoid nicotine, specific lung irritants like asbestos, coal dust and cotton and wool fibers in high concentrations, and any other things that you know will irritate your breathing.

For the blood vessels – avoid trans-fats, cholesterol, stimulants, and high concentrations of stress hormones, steroids and sugars.

In general – avoid obesity (and the lifestyle choices that lead to being overweight), alcohol, smoking, lack of sleep and high stress situations. All of these are known to disrupt the immune system and lead to dysfunction of the inflammatory systems.

Yes, there are some irritants that get some people in trouble – MSG, peanuts or walnuts, aspartame, etc. But these are not the primary culprits in today’s general increase of inflammatory diseases.

The primary cause of inflammatory disease is poor lifestyle AND the abuse of anti-inflammatory drugs to allow the pursuit of these poor choices.

So what can you do? Decrease your stress, maintain ideal weight, eat a well-balanced diet high in good nutrients (which are anti-inflammatory by nature), stop smoking and get regular daily exercise.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Author

Max Wayne Hammonds was born Aug 3, 1943, in northeastern Indiana, in the county hospital in Wabash. He attended high school and college in his home town of North Manchester and attended Indiana University Medical School in Indianapolis. Following an internship in South Bend, IN and a year of flight medicine in the Air Force, he took a residency in anesthesiology at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX.