Inflamation And Chronic Disease May Be Related

Post-Tribune


02-28-07

There is new evidence that points to inflammation and autoimmune diseases as producing a greater risk for cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and heart disease, according to information published in "Consumer Reports: On Health." Studies have indicated that inflammation, an immune-system response that may be exhibited through signs of swelling, redness and heat, can be partly to blame for these major chronic diseases.

How Inflammation is Involved

Inflammation is typically part of the body's natural response to infection or injury. White blood cells are dispatched to the affected area and form a protective shell around the damage -- a beneficial inflammation. Occasionally, however, the immune system is thrown out of whack and ends up attacking healthy tissue in addition to the unhealthy. This may cause low-grade, chronic inflammation, as is the case in many diseases such as psoriasis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Preliminary research has pointed out that those with a malfunctioning immune system are more at risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and certain cancers.

Detecting a Problem

Chronic inflammation may produce few outward symptoms, making it more difficult to detect. However, a blood test that measures a substance called C-reactive protein (CRP) may be a tool in diagnosing inflammation. The higher the CRP in the blood, the higher the overall inflammation. A newer high-sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP) may be more effective in figuring out the role of inflammation with chronic disorders. To date, CRP tests are mainly used to help detect and determine treatment options for arthritis and lupus.

Fighting the Fire

Research continues into the effects of some medications that are traditionally prescribed for other conditions on treating inflammation. For example, statin drugs known for reducing cholesterol can reduce inflammation, as does regular aspirin use.

But before practitioners begin widespread prescribing of medications without adequate testing, there are other options that may yield fewer side effects to try first.

* Prevent infections: Infection often means inflammation, therefore consider vaccinations against the flu, hepatitis B and for women, HPV.

* Eat healthy foods: Foods rich in unsaturated fats such as fish, olive and canola oil, and whole grains should be a large part of the diet. Choose fish that are low-mercury suspects, such as wild salmon, shrimp, scallops and flounder.

* Treat autoimmune disorders: Sufferers of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis should talk with their doctors about effective treatment options to reign in inflammation.

* Exercise and curb eating: Large meals may elevate CRP because digestion of large quantities of food triggers inflammation. Eat smaller portions and exercise moderately for a long time to keep weight down.

* Keep stress at bay: Stress and depression can have negative impacts on health. Consider treatment for depression and stress, whether relaxation methods or prescription drugs.