Dr. Harris returns to the 6 root uses of chronic disease and discusses inflammation. There are many sources of inflammation in our lives, but fear not as Dr. Harris discusses what the common sources of inflammation are and how you can holistically heal your body of inflammation.
Lifestyle Medicine with Dr. Harris
Join me, Dr. Richard Harris, as we strive to unlock the secrets of the human body. Strive for wellness, strive for great health. Follow the show on iTunes, Spotify, Google and Android and Patreon. (silence)
Welcome to today’s episode of the Strive for Great Health podcast, hope everyone is doing well. Today we’re going to be talking about inflammation and immune system dysregulation. This topic is actually massive and you can talk about this for hours and hours so I’m going to try and distill it down into actionable bites. The high points, what you need to know about inflammation, what you need to know about immune system dysregulation, what these can cause and then of course, how holistic lifestyle principles can help treat these and of course, how supplements and other things can help with immune system dysregulation and inflammation. So let’s dive right in.
What is the purpose of the immune system? Well, our immune system is what helps us fight off foreign invaders. We typically think of this as infections, but they can be other things. It can be toxins. The immune system also helps us heal and repair our tissues when things have gone array. If you get a cut or injured, the immune system is there to help survey what’s going on, what’s the damage and to start the process of helping the body repair itself. Now, how does the immune system do that? Well, it’s through inflammation.
So inflammation is just a signaling pathway that causes the body to know that, hey something is abnormal here. Something is wrong here. What’s going on? And so the surveillance cells that we have, the white blood cells are floating around, will start this pathway if they see something that’s not supposed to be there, if they see something abnormal. So then the inflammation actually recruits other things to the area, like other types of cells, nutrients, building blocks, or other types of molecules that may need to help fight off an invader or help repair the tissue. It just depends on what’s going on.
So the inflammation can actually be good and so inflammation is what we need to help our bodies repair. Inflammation is what we need to help our bodies recover. If you break your arm, you need inflammation to help your arm repair and recover. A benefit of working out is actually it causes good type of inflammation. There’s an [armor] of our immune system that we think of as a good type of inflammation. And then if inflammation goes unchecked or goes on too long or has the wrong cause of it, that’s bad inflammation. So working out actually causes micro tears, which causes inflammation, which recruits in all these mediators, some white blood cells, some building blocks, some nutrients, increases blood flow so that area begins to heal. That’s good inflammation.
What’s bad inflammation is what’s caused by chronic disease, so diabetes can lead to chronic inflammation, that’s bad inflammation. Alzheimer’s can lead to chronic inflammation, that’s bad inflammation. So inflammation, excess inflammation and prolonged inflammation is linked to a host of chronic diseases like diabetes, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, strokes, cancer, even things like fibromyalgia, gut disorders like irritable bowel or inflammatory bowel, which is Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. So there’s numerous things that are linked.
If you’ve listened to the other podcasts, you can see everything’s interconnected. So hormone dysregulation can cause inflammation. Toxins can cause inflammation. So a lot of these causes, these six root causes can cause one of the other six root causes. Which is why in the functional medicines sphere we tend to have protocols that try to address all of these. We don’t just look at one thing. It’s not that pill for the ill system where you just say, “Okay, all you need to do is take this one medication for your really complex multisystem disease and everything will be okay.” No, of course that doesn’t make sense.
So good inflammation, workouts. You injure yourself, you need the body to repair, that’s good inflammation. Bad inflammation, excess inflammation goes on for too long. And that can lead to chronic diseases that can lead to plaque accumulation in the arteries. That can lead to deposition of those amyloid plaques in the brain that we see during Alzheimer’s. So there’s lots of things that excess inflammation can lead to over time. So what are some common sources of inflammation? I just covered some of this, the toxins, hormone dysregulation, improper nutrition. We talked about this in dysbiosis. If you’re eating a lot of processed foods, if you’re eating a lot of foods that contain toxins. If you’re eating a high carbohydrate type of nutrition plan, this can lead to inflammation in the gut. This can lead to abnormal gut bacteria, which causes immune system dysregulation, which then can cause chronic disease.
So even what we put in our bodies can cause inflammation. Stress is a key cause of inflammation. Chronic stress is an inflammatory state. That cortisol that I’ve talked about so much elevates and that can lead to inflammation. So we’ll do a podcast that talks about physiologic, meaning stress that’s caused by a body system or a biological reason. And then mental stress, which is the stress that we put on ourselves because of daily life activities and stressors. But that stress can lead to inflammation. Sleep dysregulation. If you’re not getting proper sleep, that’s huge. That can lead to inflammation. A lot of the disorders that we see with lack of sleep and the risks from lack of sleep including obesity, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, cancer, the list goes on and on are because lack of sleep causes inflammation.
Genetics. When I did my genetic testing, I had a lot of mutations in inflammatory pathways. And it makes sense, if I look at my family history, there’s a lot of what looks like inflammatory disorders in the family. There’s cancer, there’s fibromyalgia, there’s diabetes and these things seem to be linked to inflammation. And so when I did my genetic testing, I had multiple mutations in inflammatory pathways. So that just lets me know one of the things that I have to watch out for on my own, is inflammation. So a lot of my own activities that I do that we’ll talk about in a minute are to regulate my own inflammation, to supplement to make sure I have the right things that help battle inflammation. And of course, nutrient deficiencies. Nutrient deficiencies can lead to inflammation. B vitamins are very important. We know that if you have low B vitamin levels, one of the things that gets elevated is homocysteine.
And that is a sign of inflammation. That elevated homocysteine is actually a marker for cardiovascular disease. And usually if you see elevated homocysteine levels, you’ll see elevated inflammatory levels. Zinc is very important for inflammation. There’s other antioxidants that we’ll talk about that you can get through your diet or through supplementation that can help lower inflammation. So that’s inflammation. Again, the other side of the coin on this is immune system dysregulation. So immune system dysregulation is when the immune system takes things that are normal and interprets them as abnormal. So that could be either something like irritable bowel. Irritable bowel is when people get abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, alternate between diarrhea sometimes constipation sometimes, or they can have both. We tend to think of irritable bowel as a hyper sensitivity disorder, meaning that the gut is taking normal signals, maybe normal foods, normal molecules, interpreting them as abnormal and attacking them.
And that causes inflammation. And that causes the symptoms. I actually suffer from irritable bowel. I got it after I had a really, really bad colon infection when I was a kid. And I had these symptoms all throughout my childhood, my teenage years, where I would have horrible abdominal pain, horrible cramping, be doubled over in pain sometimes. Sometimes I have horrible constipation, other times I have horrible diarrhea and it wasn’t until I started getting medical training that I realized I have irritable bowel. And I found that one of my big triggers was gluten. And so when I did my genetic testing, I had some of the HLA-DQ mutations. That’s a immune system marker, the HLAs. That if it’s HLA-DQ mutations correlate with celiac disease. So I probably have celiac, but I’ve never done the actual testing for celiac, but my irritable bowel got better when I cut out gluten.
And then it got even better when I switched to eating nothing but whole foods. And it got better once I switched to low carb. So those are all just my personal background. My struggle dealing with some immune system dysregulation is irritable bowel. So as I talked about, this immune system dysregulation can happen with infections. We always say nature versus nurture, but in these situations, nature loads the gun, meaning your genetics, loads the gun. It lets you know what you’re susceptible to and then your environment pulls the trigger. And so I had genetic susceptibility to inflammation problems and immune system dysregulation problems. I got a colon infection and then I developed irritable bowel. So now my body will look at certain signals and interpret them as abnormal when they should be normal. So infection can lead to immune system dysregulation.
There’s a lot of cases of this with say the herpes virus and how a lot of people with Alzheimer’s have herpes virus signals in their brains on autopsy. And so this infection can lead to a hypersensitivity, an altered state where the body’s always on alert. As I’ve talked about before, the amyloid plaques, those tangles that we see in Alzheimer’s are profoundly anti-infective. So they are extremely potent fighters of infection. And so the body will take what it sees like there’s some herpes virus around and they’ll make these amyloid plaques and then you have symptoms after that. So that’s a hypersensitivity reaction. And then we have auto immunity. The auto immunity is what we think about with certain diseases like diabetes can be an auto immune disease. There there’s some autoimmune thyroid disorders. There’s things like lupus, which can be an autoimmune disorder that affects multiple different things, including joints and connective tissues and all kinds of organ systems.
But all auto immunity means is that the body is attacking itself. So the body sees signals on itself that should be, hey normal, everything’s copacetic here. We keep it moving. But the body will attack that system. The immune system will attack that system that’s abnormal. A lot of this happens due to infection. What we call molecular mimicry. Molecular mimicry is that some of the bacteria and viruses and other infective sources have pieces on them that look pretty similar to certain structures in our own bodies. And so when the immune system makes antibodies, makes things that help fight off the infection, it looks enough like our own body that now those antibodies will bind to things on our own body and then we’ll start attacking ourselves. So that’s the auto immunity. So that’s immune system dysregulation.
So what are some holistic principles that I can use to protect myself from inflammation and immune system dysregulation? Obviously, nutrition. If you listen to these podcasts, you’ll see me repeat the same things over and over and over again, because a lot of these things are all interconnected. There is no one answer to health. There is no one answer to solve a lot of these health problems. It is a multimodal approach. It is a systematic approach that targets a lot of different inputs and outputs into the system. So nutrition is always key. For whatever you have going on, nutrition is always, always at the center of that. So if you like I said, if you’re eating a lot of processed foods, if you’re eating a lot of carbohydrates, you can have inflammation. The inflammation starts in the gut and that inflammation can get transmitted throughout the body. So eating whole foods can really, really help decrease inflammation in specific type of foods like berries. Berries have something in them called polyphenols, high concentrations of polyphenols, which are extremely powerful antioxidants.
So that’s one of the things that I have almost every day is some berries because of that antioxidant effect that’s in those foods. And then of course in general vegetables like cruciferous vegetables, as I talked about before, increase that NRF2, which is a major signal for the body to make its own antioxidants. Garlic does as well. So those are just a handful of the foods that you can throw into your diet. If you’re looking for a nutritious approach to anti-inflammation help regulate the immune system. Cruciferous veggies for those that don’t know are things like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts.
So what’s next? Sleep. Again, as I talked about sleep dysregulation can cause inflammation and immune system dysregulation. So of course getting proper amount of sleep will help so that you’re making sure you get that seven to nine hours of sleep and that your sleep quality is great. And what really helped me with my sleep is sleep hygiene. It’s one of the things I’ve put into the five pillar lifestyle system is those sleep hygiene tips that help promote good natural restorative sleep. And we have to prioritize our sleep. I sound like a broken record, but don’t listen to society that tells you sleep when you’re dead. No sleep is very, very important to your health. And we’ll talk about one of the articles here in a minute that points that just how important sleep is for your health and for your brain health. Teaser.
So make sure you prioritize your sleep. If you’re interested in how you can have better sleep naturally, I highly suggest you contact me about the five pillar lifestyle system that goes over sleep hygiene and those sleep hygiene techniques literally saved my life. I had insomnia, all of my teenage years. Never knew why, I would wake up 10 times a night, always feel tired. I was always falling asleep in class. I almost got to the point where I had to repeat some classes in pharmacy school because I was doing so bad. And one of my professors told me about sleep hygiene. I looked up what it is. I realized I was doing so many bad habits that were destroying my sleep, that were taking away from restful sleep. And once I fixed that, my sleeping dramatically improved. Now, I usually only wake up once or twice a night and I get good restorative sleep, but I prioritize my sleep.
I make myself go to bed. I realized that nothing is as important as I think it is in that moment. So if I’m working on something, it can wait. It can wait, let me get my sleep. Let me start off tomorrow and tackle that thing. Of course, exercise. Exercise promotes the good inflammation. It’s a profoundly anti-inflammatory is what we think about as inflammation. Exercise just has a lot of benefits across the board. You look better, you feel better, you’re stronger and for me, it’s fun. I’m addicted to those endorphins. Endorphins are some of the happy chemicals our bodies make. I love exercise. If you ask my girlfriend, I get super cranky if I haven’t exercised in a while, because I’m used to that endorphin surge. So get your exercise. Get your stress mediation in. Meditate, meditate, meditate, meditate. I can’t tell you this how many times, meditate. If you pick up anything from these podcasts that you can start doing tomorrow to improve your health is meditate. And that’s also in my five pillar system and I go into how I meditate and what you can use to promote meditation.
And the second thing you can do to pick up today to start improving your health is intermittent fasting or time restricted eating. There is a difference between the two. I’ll probably do a later podcast about intermittent fasting and time restricted eating. But it’s a state where the body can get into autophagy. Autophagy means eating oneself. It’s a state of restorative properties. So the body will begin to clean up cells that aren’t working well. It’ll clean up cells that look like something’s wrong here. I don’t know what’s going on, but let me just get rid of that cell. Let me bring in some new growth. So it’s literally our body’s self-cleaning cycle. It’s like when you put your oven on the self cleaning cycle, autophagy is putting our bodies in a self cleaning cycle and the body can’t grow and repair at the same time.
It’s very, very hard for the body to do that. That’s two different signaling pathways. So when you stop eating through the intermittent fasting, your body then begins to become very efficient at using its own stored calories. Even a marathon runner has 40,000 calories stored on them. We all have tons and tons of stored body fat and then it uses that energy, but it also begins to clean up some of the cells that aren’t working well. So cells that aren’t functioning well to get new, really good functioning cells back in there because the body thinks that, hey I’m going to need everything working at an optimum capacity because there’s not as much food coming in. So I have to get really tuned up. I have to get really in shape. I’ve got to be prepared for what’s coming at me.
So not eating, it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. In the five pillar system I talk about intermittent fasting and how to do intermittent fasting correctly. And then I talk about time restricted eating, and there is a difference between the two. Both have benefits, but I do suggest that you get in intermittent fasting. I fast once a week. But I also do the time restricted eating as well. Supplements. So what supplements can I take to help decrease my inflammation or help with my immune system help regulate itself? Well, one of those supplements is like I talked about earlier, B vitamins and B vitamin deficiencies are not rare in this day and age. There’s a lot of medications like birth control, like Metformin that can cause B vitamin deficiencies.
Birth control, a lot of young women are on. Unfortunately I’ve seen a lot where a lot of young women would come in depressed, they’d be on birth control. And somebody else tried to put them on antidepressants when all they really needed was a B complex because their B vitamin deficient. And You’ve improved their life just by supplementing what they need to supplement because of the medications that they’re on. So if we know that if you have low B vitamin levels, especially B12, you can get abnormalities in homocysteine. Homocysteine is a metabolic byproduct of B12 metabolism and something called methylation. I will do a topic on methylation because it’s very interesting. It’s very fascinating. Methylation just means putting a little group onto our DNA and putting that group, that methyl group on our DNA is the light switch that turns our genes on and off.
Because we can’t really edit our genome ourself. We can a little bit, but not to the degree where you’d see really big changes. So how do we turn genes on and off? We methylate them. We remove methyl groups and that’s basically turning on and off the light switch to our genes. And so B vitamins are very, very important in that methylation process. So these homocysteine that’s high levels, this is linked to cardiovascular disease, linked to heart attacks and strokes. It’s also linked to inflammation. So we know that low B vitamin levels can lead to increased inflammation. Glutathione, as I talked about in toxins is a major antioxidant in the body, very important to take. We only make so much of it per day. You can increase your glutathione by taking precursors like inositol cystine or you can just take liposomal glutathione.
You want to take the liposome because it’s a protein so it gets destroyed if it’s not contained. Liposome is like a box inside of a box. So the liposome function ties the glutathione inside so it’s not destroyed by the stomach acid. So I take B vitamins every day. I actually have a lot of B vitamin mutations. So I need to take B vitamins. I take glutathione four times a week. That’s part of my anti-inflammatory days. I also take zinc daily. If you’re a lifter, that’s very important. Studies have shown that chronic lifters do get deficient in zinc. Zinc has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also necessary for immune system cells to function. Zinc is involved in a lot of different reactions in the body. Reactions are turning one thing into another or making something and zinc is essential for that.
Another thing that you can do to decrease inflammation, again is that NRF2 that I’ve talked about before. One of the things that I do recommend for that is a product called Balanced Immune, it’s in my e-store. It has resveratrol, broccoli seed, turmeric and vitamin D all of which are anti-inflammatory. They activate that NRF2… Well, we use the term anti-inflammatory that resveratrol, turmeric, broccoli seed are actually pro-inflammatory. So they cause a little bit of oxidative damage, but that causes the body to increase the NRF2. And because of that, that’s why I only take them three times a week. I take them on my pro oxidant days, which I don’t take the glutathione. And I have my anti oxidant days on days I take glutathione and some other things. So the Balanced Immune is specifically meant to decrease that auto immunity, to decrease that bad inflammation. So it is very effective at doing so.
Now to help the immune system with immune system dysregulation or to help prime an immune system that’s hypo functioning, you can take something like Daily Immune. It’s also in my e-store. This product is a little bit different. Has some vitamin C, some of those polyphenols I talked about, some zinc, some vitamin D and vitamin D is important for the immune system to function well. It also has an elderberry and lemon balm, which are of those polyphenols and flavonoids I talked about, these are some really strong antioxidant molecules. And then it has some other things in it as well that help the immune system function optimally. So the Daily Immune I take during the winter months, like right now, flu season. I’m exposed to flu all the time at work. People coughing on me, sneezing on me and that’s okay because that’s what I signed up for. And I really just want to help people, but in order to make sure that I don’t get sick, I take an immune booster and that’s the Daily Immune.
So Daily Immune, immune booster. If you have an immune system that gets you sick all the time or doesn’t work correctly, you’re always dealing with infections or you’re the person who always gets cold, that might be something you want to look into to help boost your immune system. If you’re somebody who has inflammatory diseases, has inflammatory pathways, then the Balanced Immune is something that’s great for helping to decrease that bad inflammation.
So let’s talk about articles. So the two articles I’m going to link to one are both directed to the talk we had today. So one is about stress and it was about stress disorders like PTSD actually increase your risk for infection. Well, that’s what we talked about today. Is it that chronic stress depresses the immune system, causes the immune system to not function like it should, immune system dysregulation and puts you at higher risk for infection. And one of the key things that you can do to prevent this is meditation, which we talked about day, which is that mindfulness, that stress mediation to make sure that your stress levels aren’t too high. Another thing that causes a lot of stress in our life is our cell phones.
There’s a study that came out recently that showed that even having your cell phone within reach elevates stress markers in the body. Even seeing your cell phone, elevate stress markers in the body. Hearing your cell phones ringtone, elevates stress markers in the body. So just unplugging from technology, getting away from all these things that are trying to draw our attention. Just being out there with your friends, your family, enjoying that time connecting with other individuals can also help decrease your stress.
Again, these articles will be posted in our Strive for Great Health Facebook group and also posts the video of the podcast in there for people who want to make comments. So the second article and this more I’m putting in because it’s really cool, because I’m a super nerd, but this is super cool. It was a study that looked at brain waves and it correlated brainwaves with flow of blood to the brain and flow of the brain’s own fluid called cerebral spinal fluid. Cerebral spinal fluid is in the spinal canal, spine. And it’s also around the brain, helps cushion the brain. But what they found was in a certain period of sleep, there’s something called the slow waves and these waves, what they do is the slow wave comes on and then about 30 seconds later, blood flow decreases to the brain and there’s a wave of this cerebral spinal fluid that washes over the brain.
So the study said that when this happens, this is the brain’s way of self cleaning. This is how the brain washes out toxins. That’s super cool. So what we do know is that lack of sleep causes an increase in the beta amyloid, those plaques that happen in Alzheimer’s in the brain. And it seems that this is the mechanism by which sleep is protective against Alzheimer’s. That by that wave of CSF washing out and washing those toxins out, it prevents that toxin accumulation in the brain, which prevents the hypersensitivity, which prevents the immune system reaction, which can help prevent Alzheimer’s. I think this is super cool that we’re linking directly sleep with a function of repair and recovery in the brain. So this should be an area that we should see more study in soon.
But that’s super cool. Now I’m just thinking about like little cerebral spinal fluid waves hitting the beach of my brain. I don’t know, I’m weird. So that was today’s episode. I hope that you enjoyed it. I hope it was actionable. I hope you learned something and I hope you learned that inflammation can be good, but it can also be bad if there’s too much inflammation. If there’s an excess of inflammation and hope you learned some strategies to deal with inflammation. It’s something that I deal with routinely because of my family history. So hope you enjoyed the information and we’ll see you next time. Thank you.
The journey towards great health continues. Thank you for listening this Strive for Great Health podcast by Dr. Richard Harris. Please subscribe and give feedback by leaving a positive rating and review on your preferred podcast listening platform. Follow the show on iTunes, Spotify, Google and Android and Patreon.