The first group of chemicals, histamine, leukotriens, and pro-inflammatory hormones (prostaglandins), cause the blood vessels to dilate or expand. The dilation of the blood vessels causes the area to become hot, red and swollen. The healthy tissue surrounding the damaged area releases anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (PG1 and PG3) to combat the inflammatory prostaglandins (PG2). Certain chemicals (proteolytic enzymes) are responsible for telling the white blood cells that their job is done. These chemicals sound the alarm for the white blood cells to stop attacking and digesting cells and tissues.
Proteolytic enzymes are manufactured to squelch the white blood cells from continuing to eat up cellular debris. As the damaged cells and tissues are removed, less of the pro-inflammatory chemicals and more of the anti-inflammatory chemicals are released. Once the inflammation process is finished, the body begins to repair itself. The balance between inflammation, destruction, and repair is an ongoing process. Normally, this process is kept in check. When the process becomes unbalanced, chronic inflammation takes over. Inflammation is largely regulated by the prostaglandin hormones.
There are several different groups of prostaglandins, but inflammation is largely controlled by prostaglandin 1 (PG-1), prostaglandin 2 (PG-2), and prostaglandin 3 (PG-3).
Prostaglandins are a group of regulatory hormones produced in the body from fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are essential for our existence. They can not be manufactured by the body but must be obtained from the foods we eat. Essential fatty acids are made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
PUFAs are divided into two families of essential fatty acids (EFAs)
1. Omega 3 oils, including alpha linolenic acid (ALA), are found in flax seed, soybean, walnut, and chestnut oils, as well as some dark green leafy vegetables. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA) are omega 3 derivatives and are found in most cold water fish. These fish include salmon, tuna, and mackerel.
2. Omega 6 is found in pure vegetable oils, including sunflower, safflower, and corn oil. Some individuals are genetically unable to convert linoleic acid (LA) into its derivative, gamma linolenic acid (GLA). This can be overcome by taking primrose or borage oil; both are high in GLA.
PG-1 and PG-3 are anti-inflammatory hormones. They help reduce and eliminate inflammation and pain. The best source for PG-1 and PG-3 is fish oil supplements or a diet high in cold water fish.
Arachidonic Acid (AA) PG-2
The pro-inflammatory (causes inflammation) hormone PG-2 is made from arachidonic acid (AA). AA is found in corn and corn oil products. Corn products are used as the prominent foodstuff in westernized livestock. Read meat and pork products have a high AA content.
Arachidonic acid is derived from the consumption of land-animal foods (meats, cheese, eggs, etc.). Arachidonic acid stimulates the production of inflammatory chemicals including leukotriens (notorious in causing allergic reactions), thromboxanes, and prostacylins. Several research articles have demonstrated that the more animal fats a human eats, the more arachidonic acid they have in their blood and cell membranes and the more likely to have inflammation. Conversely, a diet high in fish oils promotes less inflammation and a lower level of inflammatory chemicals.
The average AA/EPA of Americans is approximately 11:1. In patients with inflammatory conditions and neurological disorders, the AA/EPA ratio is 20:1 or more. An AA/EPA ratio of 1.5:1 is considered ideal. This is the ratio found in Japanese populations, which have the highest life expectancy and the lowest rate of cardiovascular disease.
Our inflammatory reactions and their chemicals are therefore largely determined by what foods (fatty acids) we eat. Since most Americans are carrying around at least 10 pounds of excess fat, it is no wonder that arthritis and other inflammatory diseases are out of control in our country.