The synchronized flow and precise orchestration of the approximate 150,000 biochemical reactions occurring in our bodies each moment resonate as a functional whole permitting the human experience.
Optimal biochemical and physiological functioning is the imperative that Nature has established for each organism in order for it to fulfill its role in the larger drama of geochemical and biochemical cycles as they perpetuate their intimate exchange of energy, in association with the sun.
From the primitive, fermenting, single-celled organisms to the incomprehensible complexity of mammals, much of what is occurring at the cellular level is repair and regeneration from disturbances in the dynamic balance (homeostasis) as energy and materials are exchanged. This renewal process is called inflammation and it can be found in all creatures with circulatory systems (blood/lymph). Single-celled organisms and small multicellular organisms either survive or perish rather quickly while those with circulatory systems undergo an extremely elaborate, defense, cleansing, and repair process.
The blood and lymph vessels, white blood cells, platelets, and fibroblasts all begin producing a vast array of biochemicals that orchestrate the inflammatory response, the purpose of which is to restore balance by removing toxins and dead cells while simultaneously stimulating the production of new cells and vessel growth. Inflammation, therefore, is the primary process, which corrects imbalances as they occur.
When this vital cascade of events is thwarted, both cellular wastes and exogenous wastes accumulate and new cells fail to be produced, leading ultimately to cellular dysfunction, organ dysfunction, and death.
Inflammation is initiated or stimulated by three distinct pathways:
- Micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi or viruses
- Trauma, whether slight or life-threatening
- Toxic ingestion or accumulation
Inflammation can be thought of as consisting of three parts, albeit this distinction is artificial, it does allow for a mechanical description of events.
- Defense involves neutralizing all threats to the organism whether they are chemical or biological through an influx of leukocytes (white blood cells), which “eat” as well as produce chemicals to dissolve and recycle aberrant tissue.
- Remove all debris (toxins, dead cells).
- Stimulate the production of new cells to maintain the functioning of the whole organism.
When stimulation of one or more of these pathways persists, the inflammatory process is extended — cells necessary for tissue regeneration continue proliferating as a consequence of growth factors and other chemicals being produced locally, resulting in granulation tissue (new cells and blood vessels). This is termed the proliferation stage of wound healing and is necessary for the resolution of the repair process.
As an additional requirement for tissue proliferation, the normal processes, which prevent excessive or unnecessary growth, must be suspended. All cells are programmed to have their components recycled at certain intervals. This is called apoptosis (programmed cellular death), and it must be interrupted or slowed down in order for wound healing to succeed. Unchecked, this proceeds to a condition known as neoplasia, or cancer, the wound that never heals.
Relationship Between Cancer And Inflammation
In 1863, Rudolph Virchow (genius and Renaissance man) discovered that leucocytes are present in neoplastic tissue, thus establishing the association between inflammation and cancer. Since that time, chronic inflammation has been identified, repeatedly, as a risk factor for cancer development and even as a means to diagnose cancer as well as develop a prognosis (prediction of outcome). Examples include inflammatory states associated with viruses such as human papiloma virus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus while other evidence implicates inflammation, not in association with micro-organisms, as a significant risk factor, such as asbestos, cigarette smoke and inflammation of the bowel and pancreas.
The relationship between cancer and inflammation is not limited to the development of the condition. It has been well established that chronic, systemic inflammation is also a consequence, resulting from the microenvironment surrounding the tumor and, in fact, it is this chronic inflammatory state that serves to provide a protective shield (for the tumor) from the immune system. This microenvironment surrounding the tumor quite clearly resembles the inflammatory state with its abundance of cytokines, chemokines, leukocytes, lymphocytes and macrophages, all of which contribute to new vessel growth, increased blood flow, immune suppression (associated with the malignant disease), and metastasis. Furthermore, the inflammatory condition of cancer reduces the effectiveness of many of the modalities employed to treat cancer, including chemotherapy. If this inflammatory state is not quenched, the tumor remains protected.
Free Radicals In The Body Stimulate An Increase In Mutations
Of note, is the chaotic blood flow in tumors, which result in a vacillation between hypoxia (oxygen deprivation from decreased blood flow) and reperfusion (return of blood flow). Reperfusion, in turn, generates a super abundance of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These free radicals (ROS) not only destroy cells and tissues, but damage DNA, thus stimulating an increase in mutations. Hence, the hypoxia and oxidative stress (ROS) of the tumor microenvironment further induce inflammatory consequences resulting in a proliferating snowball of pathology.
What is quite evident from an understanding of the biochemistry of cancer is that the reduction of inflammation is not only the cornerstone of healing cancer but, without it, there can only be failure.
Allergies, autoimmune conditions, heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, “infections”, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), inflammatory bowel conditions and almost every other category of “disease” are examples of the other directions that inflammation can take. The word, almost, was used to distinguish those conditions that result from genetic mutations, like cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome from conditions that are the result of living out of harmony with nature. In spite of the genetic defects, those conditions referred to are manifest through inflammatory states and are, therefore, ameliorated by the same, return to healing that corrects all the other conditions, which have resulted from a divergence from healthful living.
One’s total body state of inflammation is easily measured with the use of two simple blood tests, CRP and AA/EPA. In fact, C-reactive protein (CRP) is considered to be more predictive of a heart attack than any other test known!
The biochemistry of inflammation is both initiated and mediated by a family of chemicals produced by cells, using components of their membranes (“skin”). These initiators and mediators are called prostaglandins. There are two groups of prostaglandins, one that produces an inflammatory cascade, and the other that produces an anti-inflammatory cascade.
Arachidonic acid (AA) initiates the inflammatory prostaglandin cascade, which is required for several absolutely vital functions. In fact, animals that are unable to convert linoleic acid (omega-6) into arachidonic acid, are obligated to eat the flesh of animals that are capable of that vital conversion. In case you might be wondering, humans can easily convert linoleic acid into arachidonic acid and are, therefore, not required to consume flesh.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) acts on AA to initiate the anti-inflammatory cascade and it is the balance of these two pathways, inflammatory and anti-inflammatory that result in health or “disease”. EPA is converted from alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) obtained from such dietary sources as flax and hemp seeds. EPA is directly ingested, not requiring metabolic transformation, from such dietary sources as human breast milk, microalgae, and spirulina. Fish, by the way, must consume algae since they are not capable of producing EPA de-novo. In other words, we do not need fish to serve a “middle-man” function.
Humans Can Produce Both EPA Directly By Conversion From Omega-3 Oils And Ingest Algae Containing EPA.
When the AA/EPA ratio is 1:1, there is perfect balance between these two pathways, which preserve the integrity and optimal functioning of the organism (aka, Health). Although a ratio of up to around 5 will allow for relatively very good health, most people range from 7 to 20, although it is not uncommon for us to find significantly higher ratios, especially in people with cancer.
Unfortunately, the allopathic and pharmaceutical representatives, also called medical doctors, would have their patients take pharmaceutical agents to block key enzymes in these pathways in order to subvert nature. This is prescribed instead of recommending that their patients restore the balance of their biochemistry and physiology naturally, which, by the way, is the only way that balance can be restored.
Blocking one enzyme, as pharmaceuticals (drugs) do, initiates, in the body, homeostatic mechanisms designed to restore that enzyme’s function and rid the body of the drug. Eating and living according to nature produces a biochemistry which is balanced, easily capable of excreting metabolic wastes, and which utilizes the acute inflammatory process at appropriate intervals for short duration to maintain optimal functioning.
Diet And Inflammation As It Relates To Health
Luigi Fontana, MD, PhD, a research clinician, has published several studies evaluating the role of diet and inflammation. The most relevant findings are as follows:
- Uncooked, plant derived food results in a uniformly low CRP in all age groups. In other words, a diet of uncooked, unprocessed, organic plants and their products produces an overall un-inflamed metabolism, which precludes the development of “disease”.
- Caloric restriction has been found to lower both CRP and TNF-alpha, inflammatory cytokines responsible for “disease” and aging. Studies at several centers around the world have been conducted in a variety of creatures from insects to mammals, which corroborate this finding in humans.
What we are left with after reviewing the literature and delving deep into our collective psyches, is that when we eat according to our nature, we are blessed with a life of uninterrupted health, leading to a vigorous and lasting old age, unless, of course, we run into the side of a mountain.