How Long-Term Inflammation is Hurting You Now

Posted on: August 11th, 2016 by Sarah No Comments

For the most part, our bodies take care of themselves – live clean and we will be healthy, right?  Sometimes, though, our bodies can overreact to problems; ask someone who is allergic to bees if their body is simply taking care of itself when they get stung.  An allergic reaction is the body “overdoing” its response to a problem. The immune system can often go into overdrive in response to threats as well.  For example, inflammation can be helpful to deal with injuries in small doses, but harmful when it fails to turn off; much like how a faucet is beneficial to us by giving us water but is problematic when it keeps leaking water after we no longer need it.  Inflammation is needed when we get a cut, but what if the inflammation never stops?

Many people experience harmful, chronic inflammation that doesn’t turn off, but most don’t even realize it.  The latest research shows us the body turns off the chronic inflammation using specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) that are naturally found in high levels in fish oils.  There are many reasons to take fish oil, but quality omega-3 fish oils that contain higher concentrations of SPMs are the most effective at controlling and resolving chronic inflammation without risky side effects.

Understanding the Inflammatory Response

Inflammation is the body’s normal immune response to bacteria, viruses, injuries and trauma to cells.  A good example of this is when you cut your finger and it turns red and puffy; that’s inflammation at work. Your body’s immune system is sending help to the damaged area to prevent things like viruses and bacteria from entering through the cut, to help remove any damaged tissue, and to provide essential nutrients for tissue repair

After inflammation does its job to fight the trauma, the body releases other substances called SPMs (specifically lipoxins, resolvins, protectins, and maresins) to stop the inflammatory response.  This is the normal healing process.  The problem is that the body often lacks the SPMs that are needed to stop the inflammatory response.

It’s easy to simplify the concept by using the leaky faucet analogy.  When the body fights the bacterial and viral invaders, it is like turning on the faucet to flush them away.  The faucet may continue to drip if the body lacks the SPMs to turn off the water.  This means the body continues to create the inflammation a little at a time, and it circulates through the bloodstream.  This causes the body to remain in a chronic state of minor inflammation even though there are no longer threats present.

This slow drip of inflammation can have serious effects over time.  Just as a slow drip of water can eventually stain a sink, a slow drip of inflammation can bring about chronic health problems.

A study from The FASEB Journal notes that atherosclerosis, also known as plaque buildup inside the arteries that keeps oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart, is now considered an inflammatory disease that SPMs can address.  According to the study, ensuring that you have enough omega-3s to supply the body with inflammation-stopping SPMs can reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and prevent blood clots.

The slow drip of inflammation also has a strong correlation to metabolic syndrome – the common term for the cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. A review of studies published in the Journal of Oleo Science determined that omega-3 fish oil supplementation, and the SPMs that come with it, significantly helps with metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes by reducing the level of cholesterol in the blood and decreasing insulin resistance.

Why doesn’t the body turn off inflammation by itself?

For a large proportion of Americans, the answer lies in their diet.  The American diet has changed over time with many more foods that contain far more omega-6 fatty acids than Americans of 100 years ago.  As many studies have shown, including research from the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids make the body more susceptible to inflammation.

Omega-6 fatty acids are not only found in eggs, cheese, and dairy products, but also high levels are found in processed foods, vegetable oils and refined carbohydrates which Americans are eating more of.  This increase has led to the imbalance of omega-6s to omega-3s, which are found in fish, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and especially flax seeds.  When we get more omega-6s than omega-3s, the body has great difficulty producing enough SPMs to control and stop the inflammatory process.

There is much to know about omega-3 fatty acids, but the most crucial thing to know is it is important to bring our omega-6 to omega-3 ratios as close as possible to the ideal 1:1.  As early as the 1950s, scientists found cod liver oil to be beneficial in treating eczema, high cholesterol, and arthritis.  It wasn’t until the 1980s, when studying the Eskimo diet, that researchers discovered that it was the omega-3 polyunsaturated fats that were beneficial, not the omega-6s also found in their diet.  Then it was determined that it isn’t just the omega-3s, but the ratio of the omega-3s to omega-6s.

A recent study, published in Biochemical Pharmacology, found people eating today’s Western diet typically get far too many omega-6s and that some people even consume 25 times as many omega-6s as they do omega-3s.  Japan, which is associated with a very low incidence of heart disease and other chronic conditions, has a dietary ratio of 1:4 omega-6s to omega-3s!

Although dietary imbalances of omega-3s to omega-6s can harm the body’s ability to form enough SPMs naturally from what we eat, age also decreases this ability.  A study from the Journals of Gerontology notes how chronic, low-grade inflammation is common as people age and that this is commonly referred to as “inflammaging.”  Stress, poor sleep habits, and lack of exercise can hamper production of SPMs and lead to increased inflammation as well.

Why supplement?

The conversion process of the EPA and DHA in omega-3s to SPMs is a very slow and inefficient process within the body.  Additionally, some people just cannot realistically eat as much fish as would be needed to get the desired levels of omega-3s and SPMs.  A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that eating one to two servings of EPA/DHA-heavy fish a week gives us the minimum amount we need to produce enough SPMs to naturally manage the occasional bout of inflammation that comes from injury or illness.  However, in a situation of high or ongoing levels of inflammation (or with an individual with suboptimal health or nutrition) quickly producing enough SPMs to deal with an overwhelming cascade of inflammation can be very difficult.

There are now fish oils that are naturally enriched with high levels of inflammation-fighting SPMs that you can’t find in traditional fish oils.  Research from The Metagenics Healthcare Institute for Clinical Nutrition has shown that supplementing with SPMs over an eight-week period can help reduce measurable inflammation in the body and improve inflammation-related symptoms.

Although the study only lasted eight weeks, SPMs can be taken indefinitely as they have no known side effects.  This makes them significantly safer than traditional anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or corticosteroids.

Most scientists agree we should be taking in about the same amount of omega-6s as omega-3s and that doing this through your diet is always the first choice.  Fish is a good source for easily absorbed omega-3 fatty acids- the EPA/DHA you need along with a host of other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin D, and selenium.  Be careful with eating too much fish, as too much of a good thing can cause vitamin A toxicity.  Fish can also contain methylmercury, which effects brain development.  Light tuna has far less methylmercury than white or albacore tuna.  But remember that not all fish are the same.  Tuna canned in vegetable oil, for example, has a 13:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, because of the vegetable oil.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to find a fish oil that explicitly lists how many SPMs it contains.  For this reason, I like a newer product called SPM Active by Metagenics.  Their fish oil supplements all have a reputation for being some of the best available, but this new product is one of the first to contain elevated, measured doses of SPMs.

This is only possible through recent advances in fractionation technology that allows Metagenics to isolate SPMs in fish oil and know exactly how many are going into each softgel.  There are many reasons to take Omega-3 fish oil supplements, but SPM Active is one of the few on the market that can guarantee you the anti-inflammatory benefits.

Although SPM Active is fish oil, SPMs are different from what you get in EPA/DHA fish oil.  Because of this, EPA/DHA and SPM fish oils can be taken together to receive the all the benefits that omega-3s have to offer.  If you’d like to learn more about what EPA/DHA can do for you, read my previous article about it here.  For a great EPA/DHA supplement, consider Arctic Cod Liver Oil by Nordic Naturals or EPA/DHA Essentials by Pure Encapsulations.  Both of these products are extensively tested for purity and have reputations for using only the highest quality fish oil available.

A chronic, low level drip of inflammation can be serious.  Only by being proactive can we protect ourselves from the diseases that can develop in a chronically inflammation-stricken body.  I hope this information is useful to you and, if you have any questions regarding the concepts discussed here or anything else, you can reach our customer service team at 888-460-3091 or e-mail them at customerservice@oakwaynaturals.com.

Until next time, stay healthy!

Yours in health,

Dr. Gregg Gittins

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SPM Active is a revolutionary new nutritional product developed through advanced fractionation technology featuring standardized levels of SPMs (specialized pro-resolving mediators) found in fish oil.

For the most part, our bodies take care of themselves – live clean and we will be healthy, right?  Sometimes, though, our bodies can overreact to problems; ask someone who is allergic to bees if their body is simply taking care of itself when they get stung.  An allergic reaction is the body “overdoing” its response to a problem.

The immune system can often go into overdrive in response to threats as well.  For example, inflammation can be helpful to deal with injuries in small doses, but harmful when it fails to turn off; much like how a faucet is beneficial to us by giving us water but is problematic when it keeps leaking water after we no longer need it.  Inflammation is needed when we get a cut, but what if the inflammation never stops?

SPMs in high-quality fish oil can prevent chronic disease
SPMs in high-quality fish oil can prevent chronic disease

Many people experience harmful, chronic inflammation that doesn’t turn off, but most don’t even realize it.  The latest research shows us the body turns off the chronic inflammation using specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) that are naturally found in high levels in fish oils.

There are many reasons to take fish oil, but quality omega-3 fish oils that contain higher concentrations of SPMs are the most effective at controlling and resolving chronic inflammation without risky side effects.

Understanding the Inflammatory Response
Understanding the Inflammatory Response

Inflammation is the body’s normal immune response to bacteria, viruses, injuries and trauma to cells.  A good example of this is when you cut your finger and it turns red and puffy; that’s inflammation at work.  Your body’s immune system is sending help to the damaged  are to prevent things like viruses and bacteria from entering through the cut, to help remove any damaged tissue, and to provide essential nutrients for tissue repair.

After inflammation does its job to fight the trauma, the body releases other substances called SPMs (specifically lipoxins, resolvins, protectins, and maresins) to stop the inflammatory response. This is the normal healing process. The problem is that the body often lacks the SPMs that are needed to stop the inflammatory response.

This means the body continues to create the inflammation a little at a time, and it circulates through the bloodstream. This causes the body to remain in a chronic state of minor inflammation even though there are no longer threats present.

This slow drip of inflammation can have serious effects over time.  Just as a slow drip of water can eventually stain a sink, a slow drip of inflammation can bring about chronic health problems.

According to one study, atherosclerosis, also known as plaque buildup inside the arteries that keeps oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart, is now considered an inflammatory disease that SPMs can address.  Ensuring that you have enough omega-3s to supply the body with inflammation-stopping SPMs can reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and prevent blood clots.

The slow drip of inflammation has also been found to cause metabolic syndrome – the common term for the cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.  A review of SPMs’ role in resolving inflammation, published in Frontiers in Immunology, notes that unresolved inflammation is also associated with periodontal diseases and cancer.

Why doesn’t inflammation turn off by itself?
Why doesn’t inflammation turn off by itself?

For a large proportion of Americans, the answer lies in their diet.  The American diet has changed over time to include many more foods, such as eggs, cheese, dairy products, processed foods, vegetable oils and refined carbohydrates, that contain high levels omega-6 fatty acids.

When we get more omega-6s than omega-3s, found in foods such as fish, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and especially flax seeds, the body has great difficulty producing enough SPMs to control and stop the inflammatory process.  There is much to know about omega-3 fatty acids, but the most crucial thing to know is it is important to bring our omega-6 to omega-3 ratios as close as possible to the ideal 1:1.

A recent study, published in Biochemical Pharmacology, found people eating today’s Western diet typically get far too many omega-6s and that some people even consume 25 times as many omega-6s as they do omega-3s.  Japan, which is associated with a very low incidence of heart disease and other chronic conditions, has a dietary ratio of 1:4 omega-6s to omega-3s!

Although dietary imbalances of omega-3s to omega-6s can harm the body’s ability to form enough SPMs naturally from what we eat, age also decreases this ability.  A study from the Journals of Gerontology notes how chronic, low-grade inflammation is common as people age and that this is commonly referred to as “inflammaging.”  Stress, poor sleep habits, and lack of exercise can hamper production of SPMs and lead to increased inflammation as well.

Why supplement?
Why supplement?

The conversion process of the EPA and DHA in omega-3s to SPMs is a very slow and inefficient process within the body. Additionally, some people just cannot realistically eat as much fish as would be needed to get the desired levels of omega-3s and SPMs.  One study found that eating one to two servings of EPA/DHA-heavy fish a week gives us the minimum amount we need to produce enough SPMs to naturally manage the occasional bout of inflammation that comes from injury or illness.

There are now fish oils that are naturally enriched with high levels of inflammation-fighting SPMs that you can’t find in traditional fish oils.  Because SPMs can be taken indefinitely as they have no known side effects they are significantly safer than traditional anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or corticosteroids.

Most scientists agree we should be taking in about the same amount of omega-6s as omega-3s and that doing this through your diet is always the first choice.  Fish is a good source for easily absorbed omega-3 fatty acids- the EPA/DHA you need along with a host of other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin D, and selenium.  Be careful with eating too much fish, as too much of a good thing can cause vitamin A toxicity.  Fish can also contain methylmercury, which effects brain development.  Light tuna has far less methylmercury than white or albacore tuna.

But remember that not all fish are the same.  Tuna canned in vegetable oil, for example, has a 13:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, because of the vegetable oil.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to find a fish oil that explicitly lists how many SPMs it contains.  For this reason, I like a newer product called OmegaGenics SPM Active by Metagenics.  The fish oil products in Metagenics’ OmegaGenics line all have a reputation for being some of the best available, but this new product is one of the first to contain elevated, measured doses of SPMs.

This is only possible through recent advances in fractionation technology that allows Metagenics to isolate SPMs in fish oil and know exactly how many are going into each softgel.  There are many reasons to take Omega-3 fish oil supplements, but OmegaGenics SPM Active is one of the few on the market that can guarantee you the anti-inflammatory benefits.

Although OmegaGenics SPM Active is fish oil, SPMs are different from what you get in EPA/DHA fish oil.  Because of this, EPA/DHA and SPM fish oils can be taken together to receive the all the benefits that omega-3s have to offer.  If you’d like to learn more about what EPA/DHA can do for you, read my previous article about it here.  For a great EPA/DHA supplement, consider Arctic Cod Liver Oil by Nordic Naturals or EPA/DHA Essentials by Pure Encapsulations.  Both of these products are extensively tested for purity and have reputations for using only the highest quality fish oil available.

A chronic, low level drip of inflammation can be serious. Only by being proactive can we protect ourselves from the diseases that can develop in a chronically inflammation-stricken body.   If you have any questions regarding the concepts discussed here or anything else, please feel free to fill out our Ask the Doctor form found at the Doctors Corner.

Yours in health,

Dr. Gregg Gittins

References

Allport, Susan, The Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3 Fats Were Removed From the Western Diet and What We Can Do to Replace Them.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007, p. 115

Merched, Aksam, Ph.D., et al., The FASEB Journal: Atherosclerosis: evidence for impairment of resolution of vascular inflammation governed by specific lipid mediators.  2008

Barre, DE, Ph. D., Journal of Oleo Science: The role of consumption of alpha-linolenic, eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids in human metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes–a mini-review.  2007

Recchiuti, Antonio. Ph.D., and Serhan, Charles, Ph.D., Frontiers in Immunology: Pro-resolving lipid mediators (SPMs) and their actions in regulating miRNA in novel resolution circuits in inflammation.  2012

Patterson, E., MD, et al., Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: Health implications of high dietary omega-6 polyunsaturated Fatty acids.  2012

Franceschi , Claudio, Ph.D., and Campisi, Judith, Ph.D., The Journals of Gerontology: Chronic Inflammation (Inflammaging) and Its Potential Contribution to Age-Associated Diseases.  2014

Mozaffarian, Dariush, MD, and Rimm, Eric, ScD, Journal of the American Medical Association: Fish Intake, Contaminants, and Human Health Evaluating the Risks and the Benefits.  2006

The Metagenics Healthcare Institute for Clinical Nutrition: Supplementation with Specialized Pro-Resolving Mediators Reduces Inflammatory Biomarkers and Improves Reported Clinical Symptomology in Subjects with Chronic Inflammatory Conditions. 2015

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