Since we discovered that cardiovascular disease, joint pain, and diabetes are due to inflammation we have been in a rush to put down the flame. Clinicians, health bloggers, and talk hosts all talk about the benefits of taking anti-inflammatory supplements and medications. We know. We have been spending hard-earned gazillions on de-flaming ourselves in the last decade or so.
So, what’s inflammation
In most minds inflammation is a bad thing. From the small health food owner to a renowned cardiologist everyone repeats the same story: inflammation causes chronic disease and must be subdued. It is something we should fear and avoid at any cost.
But there is a different side to inflammation. It turns out that it is not a aimless glitch, but a highly controlled reaction to a noxious substance. That’s right. The role of inflammation is to protect you. When the body is invaded by a foreign object or a germ, the body will attempt to outs it by flaring up inflammation.
For example, when a flu virus attacks, the immune system will put the body in the state of high inflammatory alert. The face will glow red from fever, joints will ache from circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines, and the body may succumb to the overwhelming malaise. That’s good. Without the body putting up a fight, the virus may find it extremely easy to take over the host. Bodies that don’t fight are immunocompromised. Did you know that fevers and cancers are inversely correlated? People experiencing regular fevers have fewer cancers than those who are fever-free.
Getting a splinter jab in the finger is not any different. A few minutes after the splinter pierces the skin, the finger starts showing signs of inflammation. The body brings extra blood and leukocytes to the area, which engorges the tissue. The red and swollen finger is now officially inflamed. That’s also good, because after few hours or days of the painful misery, the finger will be saved. The splinter will pop out together with pus that formed around it. Rest assured, once the foreign object is gone, so is inflammation. If inflammation is to continue, it is a sure sign something else is yet to come out.
Why people have chronic inflammation
If you understand that inflammation is a reaction to an unwanted object having penetrated in the body, then you should also understand that chronic inflammation is nothing else but the body’s futile attempt to clean you out. Hmm… clean from what?
There are many things your body does not need and does not want. They range from accumulated metabolic garbage, to environmental toxins, biofilms, and microbial foci. Wrong gut flora is one of them. Many people don’t realize that pristine gut flora is an anti-inflammatory gem. It not only prevents nasty pathogens from colonizing, but also prevents inflammation from lingering. By doing so it spares the body from oxidative damage. Oxidative damage is an after-effect of inflammation and is responsible for nasty health problems such as arterial plaque buildup, chronic fatigue syndrome, strokes, heart attacks, dementia, T2 diabetes, and even cancers. Thus keeping good gut flora in proper order is one of the better ways of curbing inflammation. Yes, we know. We`ve been swarming probiotics aisles for years, but despite the mad rush we are not any less inflamed.
How to write a smarter prescription?
It may be shocking to learn that many people swallow yogurts and bacteria pills only to have the little guys destroyed by their next meal. Maybe now it is time to talk about glyphosate. Glyphosate is a herbicide also going under the popular name Roundup. It is used extensively and is also sprayed just before harvest to make commercial farmers lives easier. The problem is that the residue finds its way to food. That has an immense consequence to the gut flora as the herbicide is a deadly proposition to the little guys living in the darkness of the human gut. Simply put glyphosate acts as an antibiotic for the gut bacteria.[i]
Glyphosate is currently sprayed on many popular crops such as corn, barley, wheat, oats, buckwheat, millet, oilseed rape, lentils, garbanzos, peas, soybean, flax, sunflower and potatoes. Its residue can be found in bread, cereals, fries, beans, and oils. Your bean burittos, hummus, and corn may have it. So could the soy protein bars you use for weight loss, those healthier than fried baked potato chips, and that oatmeal your doctor recommends.
Canadian Food Inspection agency found that 36.6% of grain products carry glyphosate, so do (vegans beware!) 47% of bean and lentils.[ii] Here you have it. Your daily glyphosate insults on the gut may have dramatic consequences to your immune system over time. Your glyphosate imbalanced flora may have become a perpetuate source of inflammation while you spend money on probiotics in vain.
Expect your doctor to scratch his head. He knows chronic inflammation needs to go away, but besides writing a prescription for an NSAID or another anti-inflammatory pill, he pretty much is out of tools. It is not in his scope to write a prescription for banning agri-chemicals on your plate.
How to avoid a double kill
It`s insane! On one hand we eat damaging glyphosate by the bucket, on the other hand we get handed out gazillions of anti-inflammatory prescriptions to feel better. That is a frightful situation, from which neither an individual, nor the planet comes out alive. The story gets uglier, because glyphosate is not the only one to be blamed. Did you know that NSAIDs further alter gut flora[iii],[iv] and also damage the ecosystem?[v]
So what can you do to stop this vicious cycle? What can you do to feel well without taking a bite out of the environment? Easy. Use your money kindly. Don’t support commercial farming, don’t buy cheap prepackaged food, don’t do junk. If you do, you won’t only make yourself more inflamed, but will also help eco-lethal agriculture grow into a fat monster. Buy from a local organic or self-sustainable farmer. Just that one change alone will help you ditch that chronic “incurable” inflammation. Teach your doctor. Maybe he will have an aha moment as well.
Try this as a start
How about a two week trial off glyphosate? There are two ways you can do it.
You can either go 100% organic, or simply avoid all sprayed crops. The choice is yours, although I would suggest the second option, because some organic brands have been found (horror!) to be just as badly glyphosate contaminated. Either way, if you choose to do the trial, you will need to organize yourself. Being off glyphosate is a much bigger challenge than it looks.
Off glyphosate means your table should be free of cornflakes, blueberry muffins, oat flakes, tofu cubes, and fried rice that have been drowned in canola oil. It also means no chips, lentil soups and corn salads. Glyphosate-free days exclude most eat-outs, fast food, and shady restaurants. It means you have to find time to wash your spinach and cook your eggs. You also have to know how to do it.
Treat the off glyphosate challenge as your ultimate health and eco boot camp. It can teach you a few important life lessons. While scrambling to look for cleaner ingredients, you may realize how widespread the agricultural pollution is and how big of a problem this poses for the planet: from decimating pollinators to changing soil microbiota to killing off marine organisms to accumulating toxins in commercially-grown animals.[vi]
The two weeks off glyphosate will not reverse diabetes, fix fluctuating blood pressure or slim down fatty liver, but it will give you a good start and teach a strong appreciation for clean food. Being responsible takes effort. It takes time, it requires new skills, and needs a completely different philosophical angle. Instead of carelessly using and trashing the planet, let’s aim to co-thrive. Being aware, responsible, and chronically de-inflamed is the simplest and the most powerful thing you can do for yourself and for the environment.