Rubor, calor, tumor, dolor and functio lasesa: These are the old medical terms for the five classic signs of inflammation, to wit redness, heat, swelling, pain and loss of function. The word itself comes from the Latin term meaning ‘to set on fire’, and in the medical sense is an indication that the body is responding to signals that its tissues have in some manner been injured.
Inflammatory responses are initiated in order to rid the body of offending destructive stimuli such as pathogens like bacteria, viruses and parasites or chemical irritants, as well as repair the damage. As such they are a vital protective response of a healthy organism.
Inflammation is typically mediated through the vascular tissue of the body as blood flow increases and blood vessels become more permeable so that fluids, proteins and white blood cells can be delivered to the area of injury. As part of the response, there is an attempt to localize the insult and seal off the rest of the body from the pathogen, irritant or toxic agent.
Generally, inflammation, like diseases in general, is categorized as acute or chronic. The classic five signs are indicators of the former while the latter tends to display more diffuse and generalized symptoms. Acute inflammation is self-limiting, meaning that resolves relatively quickly. Either the body overcomes the insult via an inflammatory response or else it succumbs to it.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, does not resolve in a timely fashion but continues over months, years or even decades. It can be the result of an incomplete resolution of an acute situation, or else develop more insidiously over time without an initial strong inflammatory event. Either way, slowly and inexorably, it compromises healthy physiological processes and the well being of the organism, contributing to or causing its demise.
The greatest medical challenges modern society faces today are in fact chronic inflammatory diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis and a host of other auto-immune diseases such as scleroderma and Grave’s disease are but a few of the many that have long been understood to fall in this category. In addition, it is becoming increasing clear that many other conditions such as heart disease and related conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, interstitial cystitis, and endometriosis are also the end result of chronic inflammatory responses. Diseases that have flourished more recently such as Lymes and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are also included in this group.
The success of conventional pharmaceutical medicine is to a great extent due to drugs like antibiotics and steroids, both of which have proven to be powerful agents against acute inflammation. But they also have strong side effects and are generally not suitable for long-term use in chronic inflammatory diseases. More importantly, while they address inflammatory responses, these drugs generally do not resolve the underlying causes that initiate the inflammation.
Likewise, other pharmaceutical agents such as aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressive drugs such as methotrexate provide non-curative, symptomatic relief as well as a host of unwanted symptoms.
There are a host of non-pharmaceutical substances – botanical medicines, nutritional supplements, and homeopathic remedies – that can provide potent anti-inflammatory treatment. One of the most common and effective is Omega 3 fatty acids. Derived from marine as well as some plant sources, these poly-unsaturated fats decrease the production of pro-inflammatory molecules known as eicosanoids and cytokines.
Current research and clinical data have shown that Vitamin D is also a very strong anti-inflammatory. It has been shown that it activates a gene that interferes with inflammatory responses by binding directly to DNA. Because the importance of this vitamin and effective blood levels has only recently been recognized as well as publicity to avoid direct sunlight, most people tend to be deficient – often alarmingly so. A simple blood test and inexpensive supplementation can easily rectify this.
Another traditional anti-inflammatory is curcumin, the active ingredient of the most common Indian spice and ayurvedic herb tumeric. For thousands of years this member of the ginger family has been taken internally and applied topically for wide variety of conditions. In addition to acting as an antibacterial, promoting digestion, and balancing intestinal flora, it is gaining widespread attention for the treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s and a host of other inflammatory diseases.
Homeopathy provides perhaps the most sophisticated and specific form of anti-inflammatory treatment. The homeopathic armamentarium provides a large number of remedies each with its own specific indications, action and affinity for particular body tissues. Medicines such as the nightshade Belladonna, Apis mellifica derived from the honeybee and Arnica Montana, a member of the sunflower family, are all widely used for various inflammatory conditions.
While all these are valuable allies against unwanted inflammation, there is also a need to identify and remove the underlying causes for chronic inflammatory responses.
Most disease on some level or another involves an inflammatory process. For some conditions, a general strategy of avoiding commonly recognized inflammatory agents, introducing anti-inflammatory substances and enhancing the general vitality of the body is sufficient to affect a cure.
But there are other conditions, often more longstanding and more entrenched, for which effective treatment entails recognizing and addressing the underlying causes of the inflammation with greater specificity. In these cases, diagnosis is often missed by conventional medical examination or test for two reasons: the cause is not being sought out and/or detection of the cause is too subtle for current standard methodology.
A very good – and common – example is cardiovascular disease. While this is a general term encompassing many different specific conditions, conventional diagnosis whether it be an electrocardiogram or a blood test identifies the state of the heart, the blood vessels and the blood but reveals relatively little about the origins of that state.
Consequently, all too often treatment occurs only after the inflammatory process has continued undetected and unabated for many years. This causes life threatening tissue destruction and demands ‘heroic’ intervention by means of surgery to repair the damage and accompanying pharmaceutical agents to reduce the inflammatory byproducts such as cholesterol. Clearly, in such circumstances, these can be lifesaving procedures, but diagnosis from a different perspective and treatment at an earlier stage will often make it possible to avoid more dramatic procedures.
While there are a myriad of causes of inflammation, the majority can generally be classified into a relatively few categories: biotoxins, industrial toxins, medical toxins, environmental sensitivities and food sensitivities. These are not absolutely exclusive of each other and a person can be – and often is – challenged with multiple sources of inflammation.
As an example, it is often the case that people suffering from mercury toxicity because of amalgam fillings will also have chronic fungal infections as well as become more susceptible to Lymes disease. Sometimes it is difficult to tell which of the multiple toxins is primary, but clues can be found through a thorough history.
The biotoxins include microorganisms such as parasites, bacteria, viruses, fungi and a lesser-known category called mycoplasma. While many of us are aware of health risks posed by acute viral, bacterial and parasitic infestations, there is generally less appreciation of the pervasive chronic presence of many of these and the problems that they can cause.
Much common pathology, especially autoimmune disorders, has been associated with various biotoxins. For instance, the Coxsackie virus is often found in autoimmune thyroid disorder and Crohn’s disease is associated with amoebic and fungal infection. Of particular note is the presence of mycoplasma in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
These unique organisms have no cell walls, seeming to fall somewhere between viruses and bacteria, although they have been classified as a genus of bacteria. The discovery back some 30 years ago of the association with rheumatoid arthritis was quite controversial at the time and most allopathic authorities dismissed the proponents of this theory. But over time it has gained widespread acceptance.
A fascinating perspective on the role of biotoxins in chronic illness can be found in the book “Accidental Cure”, by Dr. Simon Yu. Currently a practicing physician in St. Louis, Yu found himself at one point in his career treating indigenous populations in South America. He often prescribed potent anti-parasitic medications, since like many places in the third world, parasites were quite common. Much to his surprise though, he saw how these medications would often reverse very severe pathologies that seemingly were unrelated. Back in St. Louis, he began to treat his patients with severe illnesses such as cancer and Parkinson’s in a similar fashion with positive results.
Heavy metals, pesticides and insecticides are perhaps the most common industrial toxins that are almost universally present in the tissues of most animal species. These can lie at the root of any number of diseases, but are particularly associated with various neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, ALS, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Medical toxins are chiefly comprised of pharmaceutical agents, although certain surgical interventions also fall into this category. In a sense, these can be thought of as a subset of industrial toxins. Long-term use can cause tissue degradation, irritation and inflammation, which can also open the door to various other toxicities. A common example is the use of antibiotics or the birth control pill as a precursor to chronic fungal infection.
Also falling into this category are immunizations, which present an especially complex challenge to the body. On the one hand, there is the well-publicized presence of mercury as a preservative in some vaccines, while on the other hand, the very notion of a vaccine is to irritate the body tissues into creating an immunological response. Intentional introduction of toxic material into the system by inoculation bypasses most of the body’s normal defenses against external pathogens and can have long lasting repercussions. These have been associated with a widespread number of conditions such as cognitive disorders and diabetes.
When the body mistakenly identifies part of itself as foreign or pathological, consequently initiating a damaging immunesystem attack on that part it is termed an autoimmune illness. Currently, there are several hundred of these diseases thahave been recognized, ranging from the familiar such as rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile diabetes to the more esoteric such as ‘retroperitoneal fibrosis’.
The hallmark of such illnesses is widespread inflammation throughout the body. This self-destructive process can occur in just about any location and tissue in the body. The brain, the gut, the sense organs, the glands, the sexual organs, connective tissue, and the skin – nothing seems to be spared. Of course, not all of these are assaulted in any one person. There is a factor of individual susceptibility, or what homeopaths call the “diathesis” (the hereditary predisposition of the body to a disease, a group of diseases, an allergy, or another disorder) that no doubt plays a critical role in determining what kind of autoimmune disorder might arise in any given person.
According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), there are about 50 million persons in the United States alone, about 1 in 6 of us suffering from some form of autoimmune illness. And, the number of people affected by them is increasing. “It is one of the top ten causes of death in women under the age of 65, is the second highest cause of chronic illness, and is the top cause of morbidity in women in the United States.”1
Many critical questions remain to be answered about this phenomenon. Through the lens of conventional medical research, the causes and treatment of autoimmune illness are not well understood. Nor is the reason that they are affecting more and more people.
Certainly, common sense would dictate that the increasing degradation of the environment plays a causative role. We are continually being inundated with heavy metals, chemicals and electro-magnetic fields to which our bodies have hitherto been unaccustomed. Perhaps we can conceptualize autoimmune illness as a desperate attempt by our immune system to ‘clean house as the overall toxic burden becomes too great.
Theories aside though, there has been some harder evidence about at least one of the factors – and perhaps the main factor – involved in the precipitous rise in autoimmune disease.
Three scientists affiliated with Kobe University in Japan published a study in 2009 about their research into the role that antigen stimulation plays in the development of autoimmunity.2 Antigens are toxins or other foreign substances that induces an immune response in the body, especially the production of antibodies which are the blood proteins (or ‘immunoglubulins’) that the immune system uses to identify and neutralize foreign substances in the body, most commonly bacteria and viruses.
In common parlance, ‘antigen stimulation’ means immunization or vaccination. The researchers wrote, “The method we have chosen was to stimulate the system maximally by antigen to the levels far beyond its steady-state just like testing the capability of automobile. In a perfectly reproducible experiment in which the mice not prone to autoimmune diseases were immunized repeatedly with an antigen, we have unexpectedly and surprisingly discovered that overstimulation of immune system beyond its self-organized criticality inevitably leads to systemic autoimmunity”.
This isn’t, in fact, the first research to point this fact out. In the scientific journal “Autoimmunity”, a 2005 article states that while bacterial, viral and parasitic infections along with chemical exposures have been shown to induce autoimmune diseases, the same appears to be true for vaccines.3 The same mechanisms that act in infectious invasion of the host, apply equally to the host response to vaccination. It has been accepted for diphtheria and tetanus toxoid, polio and measles vaccines and GBS (group B streptococcus) . Also this theory has been accepted for MMR vaccination and development of autoimmune thrombocytopenia, MS has been associated with HBV vaccination.
Before World War II, the German physician Hans Heinrich Reckweg coined the term ‘Homotoxicology’, which is basically the study of how the body adapts to various forms of external and external toxins by manifesting various forms of illness progress deeper and deeper into the tissue structure. To reverse this toxic process, he developed therapies based complex homeopathic formulas.
Reckweg strongly believed that since they are attenuated to be very weak and are introduced by methods that jump past the normal defense systems of the body, vaccinations confuse the immune system, making it difficult for it to judge whether the introduced substance is ‘self’ or ‘non-self’. It is like being in a horror movie where aliens take over people’s bodies, making it impossible for the police or army to differentiate between ‘real’ people and ‘alien’ people and causing them to mistakenly attack the wrong ones. The only difference is that this isn’t a movie…
Even before Reckweg, homeopaths have long inveighed against vaccinations. James Tyler Kent, perhaps the most famous and influential American homeopath wrote in 1901: “I have investigated the pros and cons of vaccinations and after perennial observ ations and accurate weighting of circumstances I came to the conclusion, that the proofs that argue for vaccinations are very doubtful. In fact vaccinations have contributed enormously to damage individuals and the entire mankind. They caused many humans to get sick, have produced many ulcers and have masked, I don’t doubt this, many constitutional ailments.” 4
1. AARDA, The Cost Burden of Autoimmune Disease: The Latest Front in the War on Healthcare Spending, 2011.http://www.aarda.org/pdf/cbad.pdf
2. Ken Tsumiyama, Yumi Miyazaki, Shunichi Shiozawa, Self-Organized Criticality Theory of Autoimmunity.PLoS ONE, 9 December 2009 | Volume 4 | Issue 12 | e8382 http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/archivos_pdf/self-organized-theory-autoimmunity.pdf
3. Molina, Shoenfeld. ‘Infection, vaccines and other environmental triggers of autoimmunity”, Autoimmunity. 2005 May: 38 (3): 235-45
4. Kent, James Tyler, “The Homeopathic Recorder”, Vol. XVI, No.12, 1901
Chronic inflammation is at the root of a broad spectrum of diseases that are amongst the most challenging to treat. Rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, allergies, heart disease, diabetes, interstitial cystitis, chronic Lymes disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and other auto-immune diseases too numerous to list all can be classified as such.
In fact, there are few chronic conditions that are not in some way related to inflammatory processes. This also includes metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of raised triglycerides, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, low high density lipoproteins and obesity which affects nearly half of the population over 50 years of age in the United States.
Effective treatment – or better yet, prevention - of chronic inflammation would literally transform healthcare in this country. Yet, conventional medical approaches for the most part focus on after the fact management of symptoms without offering much in the way of cure, let alone prophylactic measures.
There are though relatively effective measures that can be taken both in regard to prevention and cure of chronic inflammation. Broadly speaking, there are two mutually complementary strategies. One is the removal of specific agents of inflammation. This would encompass elimination of parasites, viruses and other pathological microorganisms present in the body, detoxification from heavy metals such as lead and especially mercury, as well as detoxification from industrial or agricultural pollutants.
It is worthwhile to note that while these toxins may be present in the body without causing any symptoms, often it is the case that the body promotes inflammatory processes as a self-protective mechanism to rid itself of the toxic burden. As one example, a patient was relieved of chronic abscesses in her upper torso when a large mercury amalgam dental filling was replaced with more benign materials while simultaneously undertaking a heavy metal cleanse.
Another as of yet under-appreciated cause of inflammation is electromagnetic field pollution, which unfortunately has become almost ubiquitous. Computers, cell phones, wireless networks, ‘smart meters’ and even electric currents disturb metabolic processes to a greater or lesser extent resulting in various forms of inflammation.
While relatively few people are sensitive to the degree that they associate specific symptoms or pathology with EMF pollution, they do indeed exist. These ‘canaries in the coal mine’ seem to have a particular susceptibility and commonly complain of disturbed sleep, confusion and/or fatigue in the presence of strong EMF fields.
Ironically, their sensitivity serves them well as they tend to get out of harms way.
For instance, a 15-year-old patient recently reported that her insomnia and stomachaches disappeared once the power company removed the smart meter that was placed on the wall below her bedroom. More insidious are the effects on the majority of people who are not so sensitive. Researchers in the field have implicated EMF pollution in a wide variety of chronic inflammatory illnesses including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Aside from the removal of external causative factors, there are any number of treatment strategies that can effectively detoxify the body of inflammation causing agents. There are herbal, homeopathic and nutritional supplement protocols designed for various organs and body tissues, as well as protocols aimed at various toxic factors, be they biological (‘biotoxins’) or chemical in nature.
The other general approach is to strengthen and cleanse the body as a whole without targeting specific agents or individual organs or systems. Constitutional homeopathy can be very effective in this regard – sometimes to the extent that it stimulates the body to rid itself of the toxin.
Another very powerful therapy is the implementation of what is generally known as an ‘anti-inflammatory diet’. Although there are some discrepancies between various versions promoted by different practitioners, the gist of it remains the same.
The heart of the diet is reduced intake of starchy carbohydrates and simple sugars. An abundance of carbohydrates and refined sugars promotes high blood sugar and consequently accelerated insulin production. This in turn will promote inflammatory processes throughout the body. Some diets allow a certain amount of whole grains while others eliminate them altogether, but refined or highly processed starches are excluded.
In particular, fructose – otherwise known as fruit sugar - which is most commonly derived from sugar cane, sugar beets and corn are prohibited. This is especially the case for seemingly ubiquitous ingredient of high fructose corn syrup.
Good quality fats, as found in virgin coconut and palm oils as well as other saturated fats found in meats are anti-inflammatory and play an important role. Other oils such as olive oil and avocado oil, which is rich in monounsaturated fats, are also helpful. On the other hand, trans fats found in hydrogenated oils, margarine and many other processed foods are to be strictly avoided as they promote inflammation.
Vegetables and fruits, as fresh and organic are of as possible, are of course included since they have anti-inflammatory properties on top of providing necessary vitamins and minerals. Juicing is an excellent way to take in an abundance of them.
Once the diet is in place, strengthening the gut with healthy bacteria found in probiotic supplements or in naturally fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi is very helpful. Finding or making these naturally fermented products does take some effort, but is worth the effort.
Along with this, supplementation with Omega 3 oils, Vitamins C, D and magnesium will go a long way in assisting the body to stop chronic inflammation.