Tag Archives: inflammation

Top 5 Benefits of Aloe Vera

Boasting immune boosting, anti-microbial and wound-healing properties, the therapeutic uses of aloe vera are surprisingly diverse. Here are my top 5 uses for this versatile supplement.

1. Digestive Support
Aloe vera is often used by those with digestive complaints. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis are marked by long-lasting inflammation within the digestive tract. The natural anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera have led to a number of studies investigating the possible benefit of this plant for these conditions.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of aloe vera in patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis demonstrated improved symptoms in patients taking aloe vera compared to those in the placebo group (1). Similar benefits have been reported in patients suffering with ulcerative colitis (2).

2. Immune Support

Aloe vera contains a special type of sugar molecule called acemannan which boosts the activity of macrophages. Macrophages (from the Greek, meaning ‘big eaters’) are white blood cells which function to destroy or ‘eat up’ pathogens. Alongside this action, acemannan also enhances T-cell function and interferon production. This type of immune enhancement is evident in studies which show that consumption of aloe vera gel is effective in combating candida infection (3).

3. Detoxification

The detoxifying effect of aloe vera has been scientifically verified by lab tests of urinary indican levels. Indicans are molecules found in the urine, and they can be used to measure bacterial activity in the small and large intestine. Raised levels of indicans suggest compromised digestive health, including problems such as protein malabsorption and bacterial overgrowth (4). Aloe vera has been found to reduce urinary indican levels after just one week. This suggests that aloe consumption can improve protein digestion and absorption, or improve bacterial balance in the bowel.

Aloe-Vera-Gel
Aloe Vera Gel applied to the skin can help with 1st or 2nd degree burns

4. Skin Benefits
Applied topically, aloe vera can be used to help heal damaged skin. A recent meta-analysis, which examined studies involving a total of 371 patients, concluded that aloe vera may be considered effective in treating first and second degree burns. In fact the studies showed that topical application of aloe vera reduced healing time by an average of 9 days (5). It is thought that naturally occurring substances in aloe help cells to regenerate, speeding up healing.

Aloe is especially useful in the summer months owing to its cooling and soothing properties. A common ingredient in aftersun lotions, aloe vera is believed to act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Research is conflicting, although a recent randomised, double-blind trial found aloe vera to be more effective than hydrocortisone cream in reducing sunburn symptoms 48 hours after application (6).

5. Diabetes and blood sugar regulation

There have been several studies investigating the efficacy of aloe vera in the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. One of the first studies involved a group of 3,000 diabetic patients who supplemented their existing treatments with a natural remedy containing aloe gel and psyllium seed husks. In 94% of these patients, fasting blood glucose levels fell to normal levels within two months (7).

In diabetic models, consumption of aloe vera has been found not only to reduce fasting blood sugar levels, but also to reduce levels of liver enzymes (a sign of liver damage), and cholesterol (8). Aloe’s high fibre content, glycoproteins and antioxidant benefits are believed to help the body to regulate blood sugar more effectively.

A further controlled study of 72 diabetic patients supports these benefits, showing that 2 tbsp daily of aloe vera resulted in a significant reduction in blood sugar levels over a period of 42 days (9).

Aloe appears to have a huge number of nutritional benefits and healing properties, making it a versatile nutritional supplement.

References

  1.  Langmead L et al (2004) Anti-inflammatory effects of aloe vera gel in human colorectal mucosa in vitro. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 19:521–527
  2. Langmead L et al (2004) Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 19:739–747.
  1. Jackson JA et al (2000) Urine Indican as an Indicator of Disease. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine Vol. 15, No. 1
  2. Sun-A Im et al (2010) In vivo evident of the immunomodulatory activity of orally administered aloe vera gel. Arch Pharm Res Vol 333:3, pp. 451-456
  3. Maenthaisong R et al (2007) The efficacy of Aloe vera used for burn wound healing: A systematic review. Burns. 33:713–18
  4. Reuter J et al (2008) Investigation of the anti-inflammatory potential of Aloe vera gel (97.5%) in the ultraviolet erythema test. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 21(2):106-110]
  5. Agarwal 0P (1985) Prevention of Atheromatous Heart Disease. Angiology. 36: 485-92.
  6. Okyar A et al (2001) Effect of Aloe vera leaves on blood glucose level in type I and type II diabetic rat models. Phytother Res.15(2):157-61.
  7. Bunyapraphatsara N (1996) Antidiabetic activity of aloe vera L. juice 11. Clinical trial in diabetes mellitus patients in combination with glibenclamide. Phytomedicine. 3:245-248
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Five Ways to Fight Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural process and is part of our immune system, helping to heal injury and protect us from infection. Unfortunately inflammation can sometimes get out of control. Modern living appears to encourage chronic low-grade inflammation. For example, when the body is under stress, from poor diet, excess weight, pollution or even simply through ageing, inflammation can be triggered.

Once inflammation is triggered, it can become a chronic problem. Professor William Meggs, chief of toxicology at East Carolina University explains: “Once inflammation begins, it sets off a series of physiologic reactions that cause additional inflammation and the body’s reactions become more and more difficult to turn off” (1).

Conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, periodontal disease, premature ageing, inflammatory skin conditions and allergic reactions are all examples of chronic low grade inflammation. Achieving optimal health means taking measures to control your inflammation risk. Below are some simple dietary guidelines for controlling and reducing levels of inflammation.

1. Aim for 9 servings of fruit and vegetables daily.
Phytochemicals in fruit and vegetables have both anti-inflammatory and antiallergic agents. Studies have found that increased fruit and vegetable intake lowers markers of inflammation and oxidative stress (2). Aim each week to eat at least one of these top inflammation-fighting foods from each of the following categories:

fruit
9 servings of fruit and vegetables can help aid inflammation

Cruciferous vegetables:
Bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, watercress
Leafy green vegetables:
Collards, chard, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach
Legumes:
Black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, navy beans, peas, pinto beans, soybeans
Berries:
Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries
Beta-carotene-rich foods:
Apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, mango, pumpkin, sweet potato

2. Increase levels of omega 3.
The best sources of omega-3 are oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, sturgeon, anchovy, herring, trout, sardines and mullet. Better still, choose those with lower levels of mercury contamination such as sardines, salmon and North Atlantic mackerel.  Fish oil suppresses anti-inflammatory cytokines, reducing inflammation (3). Alternatively, fish oil supplements can be added to your diet. If you are vegetarian, you should include a tablespoon of good quality flaxseed oil daily.

3. Decrease levels of omega 6.
While omega-3 has anti-inflammatory effects, omega-6 is usually pro-inflammatory. A good balance between the two is essential for optimal health. Unfortunately the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in the modern diet tends to be too high. In the UK, our ratio of omega 6 to 3 is around 20:1 whereas the ideal ratio of omega 6 to 3 is thought to be nearer to 4:1 (4). Limiting processed and fried foods containing vegetable oils and reducing foods high in arachidonic acid, such as red meat, may help to reduce levels of undesirable inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP).

4. Add olive oil to your diet.
Olive oil improves cholesterol levels and contains powerful antioxidants. This oil plays a huge part in the Mediterranean diet, which is linked to longer life expectancy and lower rates of cardiovascular disease. A recent study found that adding just 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil daily for one week reduced levels of LDL cholesterol (5). Try using olive oil as a salad dressing, or substituting the oil for your usual margarine.

5. Watch your AGE.
Highly processed foods and meats cooked at high temperatures are likely to have high levels of Advanced Glycation End products. AGE products increase inflammation, and are caused by prolonged processing such as heating and sterilising. Fortunately there are several ways to reduce AGE products. Cooking using a lower temperature, using moist heat, and adding acidic ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar will help (6). If you are making a stir-fry, the best way to reduce AGE products is to include plenty of vegetables with a small amount of protein. You can also try steaming fish and seafood, simmering chicken in a sauce and braising red meat in liquid.

References

1. Meggs WJ (2003) The Inflammation Cure. New York: McGraw Hill.

2. Root et al (2012) Combined Fruit and Vegetable Intake Is Correlated with Improved Inflammatory and Oxidant Status from a Cross-Sectional Study in a Community Setting Nutrients 4(1): 29–41.

3. Calder PC (2002) Dietary modification of inflammation with lipids. Proc Nutr Soc Aug;61(3):345-58.

4. Erasmus U (1993) Fats the Heal, Fats That Kill. Canada: Alive Books.

5. Stark AH (2002) Olive oil as a functional food: epidemiology and nutritional approaches. Nutr Rev 60(6):170-176.

6. Urribarri J et al (2010) Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet. J Am Diet Assoc.  Jun;110(6):911-16.e12.

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January is Love Your Liver Month

December is a month filled with office parties and festive celebrations. While Christmas is a wonderful time to relax and celebrate with family and friends, all this overindulgence can play havoc with our health. It therefore seems timely that the British Liver Trust has named the month of January national Love Your Liver month.

The liver is extraordinary. It filters around one and a half litres of blood every minute, ridding our body of toxins such as alcohol, caffeine, drugs and food additives. Weight gain over Christmas time results in extra fat stored in the liver, and the extra caffeine, alcohol and the morning-after painkillers, all place additional pressure on this important organ.

In fact, according to the NHS, 1 in 5 people in the UK have a fatty liver, and rates of liver disease in the UK are rising (1).

How does overindulgence damage the liver?

When the liver tries to break down alcohol and other toxins, this can cause oxidative stress which damages cells in the liver. It is also thought that alcohol and other irritants can damage our intestine which means that toxins from the intestine can get into the liver, leading to inflammation and scarring. The liver turns glucose into fat which it sends round the body to store for use when we need it. Alcohol affects the way the liver handles fat meaning that fat starts to build up in the liver.

Dr Mark Wright at the British Liver Trust explains that the liver tends to suffer at Christmas because Chritmas indulgences are not simply restricted to a single day – instead the festive period is drawn out over several weeks, meaning that the liver is subject to excess fat, alcohol and calories over a long period of time. If we bombard our liver with too many toxins we can eventually overstretch our liver’s resources.

How can we protect and repair the liver?

The good news is that these early signs of liver disease are reversible as the liver has the remarkable ability to repair itself. The Love Your Liver campaign suggests just three simple steps to protect your liver’s health:

1. Stay off alcohol for 2-3 days in a row each week;
2. Take more exercise and stay fit;
3. Cut down on sugar and fat.

Nutritionally, there are a number of measures that are also believed to help an over burdened liver to repair itself. Foods that help promote healthy liver function include:

Are you eating enough fruit to help keep your liver healthy?
Are you eating enough fruit to help keep your liver healthy?
  • High sulphur foods, such as garlic, legumes, onions and eggs;
  • Water soluble fibre such as pears, oatbran, apples and legumes;
  • Cabbage family vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage and sprouts;
  • Functional foods such as artichokes, beets, carrots, turmeric and cinnamon.

A good quality antioxidant supplement can also support your liver by providing it with the resources it needs to repair oxidative damage. Certain nutritional supplements can also support the liver’s detoxification processes. For example, sulphation is the chemical process used to detoxify substances such as alcohol and paracetemol.  The supplement methyl sulphonyl methane (MSM) – a form of sulphur – helps to support this sulphation process in the liver. The antioxidant supplement silymarin, or milk thistle, is also frequently used to help support and repair the liver, with much research supporting its benefits in diseases of the liver (2).

Stay Health Aware

As the liver has no nerve endings, it can be hard to notice the first signs of problems. If you feel you have been overindulging with fatty foods and alcohol over a long period of time you can ask your GP for a liver function test.

The Love Your Liver Roadshow is touring throughout the month of January and offers free liver assessments to the public. The roadshow is planned to stop at Portsmouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bradford, Leeds, Middlesborough and Glasgow. For the most up to date information, visit the British Liver Trust’s Love Your Liver website.

Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

1. Liver Disease Summary Statistics. www.liver.nhs.uk.

2. Saller R, Brignoli R, Melzer J Meier R. (2008) An updated systematic review with meta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarin. Forsch Komplementmed.

3. Image courtesy of winnond.

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Low Vitamin B6 linked to Inflammation

Low levels of vitamin B6 in the body may be linked with a variety of inflammatory conditions, a new study suggests.

The study found that those with the lowest levels of B6 in their blood had the highest levels of inflammation. The reverse was also true. Those with the highest blood levels of vitamin B6 had the lowest levels of chronic inflammation and the lowest risk of inflammatory diseases.

Temporary inflammation, such as redness and swelling after an injury, is a powerful defence mechanism, triggering healing in the body. However, chronic inflammation is a destructive process, and has been identified as an emerging risk factor for a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, measured levels of vitamin B6 in 2,229 adults. The researchers also measured several different markers of inflammation, including homocysteine, cytokines and the inflammatory C-reactive protein (CRP).

While previous studies have also linked low blood levels of vitamin B6 with various signs of inflammation (2, 3), such as C-reactive protein (CRP), researchers say this is the first large-scale study to look at the relationship between this vitamin and a variety of inflammation indicators.

Lentils and Kidneys Beans contain B6
Lentils and Kidneys Beans contain B6 which may help toward healthy inflammation levels.

The results found that with the highest blood levels of vitamin B6 had 42% lower levels of inflammatory CRP compared to those with the lowest blood levels. This group also had 14% lower levels of homocysteine and 20% lower levels of cytokines.

The researchers also looked at the incidence of inflammatory conditions within the group. Again, those with the highest levels of B6 demonstrated a 21% lower rate of cardiovascular disease, and a 40% lower rate of diabetes.

The researchers are confident that “overall inflammation is inversely associated with [vitamin B6 blood levels]”. Until more research elucidates this link, it certainly seems sensible to ensure that your diet is providing you with an adequate intake of this vitamin.

If your diet is heavy in sugar, refined flour, alcohol and coffee, you are likely to have reduced levels of vitamin B6 in your body. A wholefoods diet including good sources of vitamin B6 such as chicken, turkey and beef will help to boost your levels. Vegetarians can get plenty of this vitamin in pulses such as lentils and kidney beans, and in other plant foods such as spinach, bell peppers and sesame seeds.

As B Vitamins tend to work together, it is usually advisable to supplement B6 as part of a balanced B-Complex formula.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

 

References

1. Sakakeeny L, Roubenoff R, Obin M, Fontes JD, Benjamin EJ, Bujanover Y, Jacques PF, Selhub J. (2012) Plasma pyridoxal-5-phosphate is inversely associated with systemic markers of inflammation in a population of U.A. Adults. J Nutr. 142(7):1280-5.

2. Shen J, Lai CQ, Mattei J, Ordovas JM, Tucker KL. (2010), Association of vitamin B-6 status with inflammation, oxidative stress, and chronic inflammatory conditions: the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 91(2):337-42.

3. Woolf K, Manore MM. (2008) Elevated plasma homocysteine and low vitamin B-6 status in nonsupplementing older women with rheumatoid arthritis. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Mar;108(3):443-53

4. Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat

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Echium Seed Oil – Beauty from Within

Composed of several types of tissue, and functioning to protect the body from the everyday environmental barrage of abuse, the skin serves as our largest organ. The outer layer, known as the epidermis, is made up of a fibrous protein called keratin and numerous types of fat, including various omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Some of which are important for skin health and others not so. Though ‘biologically dead’ the epidermis remains active, with its fatty acid composition playing a key role in the health and appearance of the skin’s surface.

The skin lacks important enzymes to reconstruct omega-3 and omega-6 fats from food, so our skin’s makeup is a direct reflection of our diet. This may be good news if you eat plenty of oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados and avoid refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils. If your plate typically resembles Western diet patterns, your skin will likely contain an abundance of omega-6 fats such as linoleic acid (LA) and arachidonic acid (AA) – the latter being linked directly with inflammation and inflammatory-based skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.

Igennus Echiomega
Igennus Echiomega is made from echium seed oil and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Echium seed oil is a natural plant oil renowned for its unique profile of skin-supporting fatty acids. Especially rich in a rare form of omega-3 called stearidonic acid (SDA), as well as anti-inflammatory omega-6 GLA and omega-9, it provides the skin with an ideal balance of fats to regenerate cells and reduce inflammation.

Well known for its anti-ageing potential, echium seed oil is a popular ingredient in many skin creams and beauty products but only recently has it become available in supplement form to nourish the skin from within. Oral supplementation offers enhanced benefits over topical products (though a combination of both would offer synergistic benefits) due to more efficient absorption, enabling the beneficial fatty acids to be incorporated directly into skin cells to target inflammation beneath the skin’s surface.

Each Igennus Echiomega capsule provides 500mg echium seed oil, with just two capsules daily providing ideal levels for skincare. Offered in a capsule shell derived from seaweed, Echiomega is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Written by Dr Nina Bailey from Igennus Healthcare Nutrition

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Treating and Managing Hay Fever With Natural Products

Seasonal allergies affect millions of people in the UK each year with aggravating symptoms such as sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, running nose and itchy skin. These hay fever symptoms are the result of the immune system’s reaction to harmless pollen particles in the same way it would respond to harmful antigens. In this immune response, immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) detect the pollen ‘antigens’ and activate mast cells and T helper cells (specifically type 2 or Th2 cells). The increase of Th2 cells and the mast cell histamine release in the mucosa and peripheral blood result in inflammation, hay fever symptoms and atopic conditions.

UnBEElievable Bee Products
UnBEElievable Bee Products including MAX Strength and DAILY Defence contain many of the ingredients that helps to support you in the Hay Fever season

Conventionally, hay fever is managed by using anti­-histamine drugs to reduce symptoms. However, a more holistic and curative approach to treating hay fever is to modulate the immune system, reduce the histamine response and to focus on reducing inflammation. Certain nutrients and natural remedies can be helpful in achieving these therapeutic goals and in creating a long term, effective treatment for hay fever and other atopic conditions.

Elderberry has been used medicinally for centuries in the UK and in Europe. Elderberry is widely known for its effective use in treating viral infections. Elderberry is also rich in Vitamin C and the bioflavonoid quercetin, both of which are powerful antioxidant and anti-histamine nutrients. These actions can help to reduce mast cell histamine response and reduce mucosa inflammation. Recent clinical studies have found elderberry effective at treating allergic sinusitis and rhinitis.

Reishi mushroom has been used historically as an immune tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Scientific researchers in the western world are now beginning to understand the active constituents that are responsible for the mushroom’s immune supporting actions. Reishi contains the bioflavonoid triterpene which inhibits histamine release. It also contains oleic acid and cyclooctasulphur compound which have antihistamine actions. In addition to these anti-­-allergic actions, reishi contains antioxidant and anti-­inflammatory phytonutrients which may be helpful in reducing hay fever symptoms.

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid found naturally in algae. Studies have shown that astaxanthin is effective in modulating the immune system, specifically siting its role in balancing the Th1 and Th2 cells. By rebalancing these T helper cells, astaxanthin aids in reducing the hypersensitivity to pollen allergens. Astaxanthin is also a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient. These actions may help to reduce the symptoms related to the inflammation of the mucosa.

Bee propolis contains a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. It also has significant immunomodulating and anti-­inflammatory actions. Propolis is one of nature’s most potent anti-­oxidant substances, exceeding Vitamin E in anti-­oxidant actions. Propolis also has been found to effectively modulate the immune system without over stimulating it. The combination of these actions may be helpful in creating a long term treatment for hay fever.

Written by Erin McCann NT mBANT from UnBEElieveable Health and Being-Balanced

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