“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.”
There are three reasons for diseases to take root, that finally lead to inflammation. And that is why all lifestyle diseases are also called inflammatory diseases. The three reasons are:
- Nutrient-anti-nutrient balance: Nutrient-anti-nutrient balance takes root in childhood. Nutrients are the vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and other chemicals we get from our food and via release of specific enzymes and hormones in the body when we eat healthy food. Anti-nutrients, as the name explains, block the absorption or production of nutrition in our bodies. Anti-nutrients come in the form of pollutants in the water we drink, air we breathe, stress we take (very important factor), active or passive smoke we inhale, the amount of processed foods we consume, the amount of artificial flavours, colours and preservatives we eat, the pesticides and chemicals in our food, lack of sleep (another very important factor), and the lifestyles we follow (sedentary, no exercise, no hugs, no sex). All anti-nutrients hinder nutrient absorption in some way or the other. And when the balance between nutrients and anti-nutrients tilts towards anti-nutrients, the body starts building toxins. These increase the internal inflammation in the body and its organs, cause lowered immunity, which makes the body vulnerable to illnesses and diseases.
- Stress: We all know about work stress, relationship stress, peer pressure stress. But the saddest form of stress is that we fester this stress inside us and take it out on ourselves and our kids.
Stress? And kids? Blah, you’ll say. Life was so much tougher when we were growing up right? Today’s kids grow up in air-conditioned classrooms, have so many entertainment choices, and have so many luxuries. I often hear friends tell their kids, “When we were your age, all we had was a book and a banyan tree!” Well, parents who say that, have answered their own question.
When choices aren’t too many, when the choices kids have are healthy choices (reading a book under a tree in the afternoon is the best oxygenating and mentally gainful activity ever), the foundation of good health is automatically laid. But when kids deal with peer pressure, parental pressure, jibes at obesity because mothers believe in showing their love via food that turns to fat, kids that experience psychological or social adversities in childhood may have lasting emotional, immune and metabolic abnormalities that help explain why they develop more age-related diseases in adulthood.
And that’s exactly what happened to our generation, who are now infested with lifestyle diseases.
According to a report in the December issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals conducted by Andrea Danese, M.D., M.Sc., of King’s College London, England, and colleagues studied 1,037 members of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, a long-term investigation of individuals born in New Zealand between April 1972 and March 1973. During the first 10 years of life, participants were assessed for exposure to three adverse experiences: socioeconomic disadvantage, maltreatment and social isolation. At age 32 (by 2005), they were evaluated for the presence of three risks for age-related diseases: depression, high inflammation levels (measured by the blood marker C-reactive protein) and the clustering of metabolic risk factors, including high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels and being overweight.
Individuals who had experienced adverse events as children were at higher risk of developing depression, high inflammation levels (internal body inflammation is the root cause of disease) and the clustering of metabolic risk factors at age 32.
The average age of a health inflicted urban Indian.
The researchers estimate that 31.6 per cent of the cases of depression, 13 per cent of the cases of elevated inflammation and 32.2 per cent of cases with clustered metabolic risk factors could be attributed to adverse childhood experiences.
So reducing your stress levels is imperative today, especially if you can relate to any of the above experiences you went through as a child. Like I said, people who wake up one morning with an ailment, or sadly, never wake up, had it building inside them for years, even decades, in the form of internal inflammation, which was never noticed or measured with a blood test.
- Sleep: In our quest to do it all, we compromise on one vital ingredient for being disease free – our sleep. Right since childhood, we short-change ourselves on this. I come across so many adults and teenagers who would never have had any problems to start with, if they received the right amount of sleep. For adults, it’s 8 hours and for teenagers, it’s 9-10 hours. Sadly, I don’t know any teenager today whose parents have sat down and explained to them that they will get less pimples, less mood swings, put on less weight, be sharper in class, fare better in exams, excel in sports, if they just sleep for 9 hours instead of being in front of a screen (TV/laptop/mobile phone). Life would be so much simpler and disease free if they just did that.
Sleep deprivation lowers growth hormone levels that are directly linked to accumulation of fat around the waist. The belly fat is particularly bad for your heart – hence the connection between sleep deprivation and heart.
And there is more. Some sleep facts and research:
- Sleep deprivation lowers the hormone leptin that tells you that you are not hungry. This can happen after only 2 nights of 4 hours sleep (Annals of Internal Medicine, December 7, 2004). As a result you keep eating and craving carbohydrate foods like pastas, cakes, doughnuts or pancakes with a lot of syrup. Hence, sleep deprivation leads to overall obesity but the fat accumulated around the waist is the most dangerous for the heart.
- Sleep is good for the heart and can be used as a treatment for high blood pressure. Dr Daniel Gottlieb (Boston University School of Medicine) questioned more than 5, 000 baby boomers and found out that those sleeping less than 6 hours had a 66% greater prevalence of high blood pressure.
- A study conducted by Eve Van Cauter (University of Chicago, 1999) showed a direct link between sleep deprivation and diabetes. After 6 days of sleeping only 4 hours per 24 hours, the young and healthy male participants in the study developed a pre-diabetic state. Sleep deprivation led to inhibition of insulin production. Without insulin, the blood glucose goes above the normal range. The morning cortisol was low and this explained the lack of energy after a sleepless night.
- Dr Dinges from the University of Pennsylvania studied numbers from a survey conducted in 2003, called the U.S. Department of Labor’s American. The study found that for each eight minutes in the car beyond 40 min, sleep time drops by about 15 minutes. So if you drive only 40 min a day to go to work and run some errands you can still get 6-7 hours of good sleep but if you put an additional 15 min of driving you are getting 30 min less sleep. Isn’t this amazing?
It does not matter if you go to the gym or run 3 kilometres every day. It does not matter if you eat healthy. High stress and less sleep will upset the nutrient-anti-nutrient balance and WILL STILL cause the damage.
Lack of sleep then, causes hunger, cravings for junk, lack of absorption of nutrients to help the body recover, digestive disorders, heart risk, unexplained pains, which all lead to increased levels of inflammation in the body.
As a result of all the above, the body experiences inflammation. The more inflammation a person has, the more prone he or she is to diseases that are characterised by inflammation. For example, coronary artery disease is diagnosed as inflammation of the blood vessels. A blood test that identifies the secretion of a chemical like interleukin-6, an out-of-range C-Reactive Protein or ESR, diagnoses the inflammation in the body. These chemicals are high in people who are obese (interleukin 6), and those who have type 2 diabetes, arthritis, periodontitis, asthma, bronchitis, cardiovascular disease (C-Reactive Protein) or people who have flu, infection etc (ESR). Many –itis diseases are caused by inflammation. There are many more inflammation markers in the body that doctors will want to see, before prescribing you with drugs that suppress inflammation.
This is how inflammation and disease take root:
Causes of inflammation triggers are mostly connected to dietary deficiencies and lifestyle issues. Deficiencies can trigger allergies, injuries, infections, for example, artificial colors and preservatives can trigger allergies and asthma. Bad eating habits and too many processed foods can trigger diabetes, obesity and heart problems. Too many saturated fats and high fat diary can trigger high triglycerides and cholesterol. Lifestyle issues like stress will deplete nutrients faster, especially water soluble vitamins like B-vitamins, which are required for proper nerve functioning, absorption of folic acid, iron and calcium and a calmer mind. Lack of these, especially B12, lead to twitches, depression, higher pain levels in the body. Deficiency of B-vitamins has also been linked to memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s.
So now that you know how diseases take route, you can reverse the process and reverse the disease. Find out how, in the next chapter.
Excerpted from RESTORE, the book on how to fight diseases. Order your copy today.