Inflammation (Part 1)

Updated 23 May 2012

Inflammation (Part 1)

In the last decades, we have been witnessing an escalation in chronic diseases once unknown except in the very elderly or the obese. What do we attribute the state of chronic disorders to? If the cause is a mystery to you, it is not to medical and scientific researchers any more. Studies have shown that unhealthy modern lifestyles and excesses are the main causes for such health issues. Poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyles, work demands and environmental and emotional stress take a toll on the human body. Our diet and way of eating have drastically changed in the last six decades from fresh whole organic foods to manufactured, denatured, genetically engineered foods.
Vegetables and fruits are no longer fresh, whole or organic; more or less depleted from nutrients (long refrigeration periods, soil depletion, food processing) or contaminated with pesticides and additives to increase production and shelf life.
The same applies to grains; they are no longer whole, but processed, genetically engineered, or stripped from their bran and nutrients. They have become empty carbohydrates.
Vegetable fats are not healthy any more. They are heat-pressed and used at very high temperatures, which change their configuration. They turn into health damaging trans fats.
The meat and poultry we eat are not only non-organic but also processed, containing “harmful” hormones, antibiotics and additives.
It was once said: “You are what you eat.” Now, we have become the product of what we are fed: “corrupted” foods, pesticide-sprayed produce, hormone-fed cattle, genetically modified grains, contaminated fish and trans fats.
Moreover, food portions have become super sized and food preparation has become more complicated: Fatty, fried, starchy, sugary, refined and processed. The beverages we drink are sugar-laden and highly-caffeinated or with sugar substitutes and additives. The end result is that we have become oversized fat bipeds, who have become immobilized, disease-afflicted, unproductive, dependent and burdens on family and society.
Do we realize what happens to our bodies when we consume gigantic portions of man-made “modern” foods? We become obese and disease-stricken with diabetes, heart disorders and cancer before the age of forty. When we reach this stage we realize that we are in deep trouble. This becomes a point of “no return” unless we shape up and address the problem before it is too late. We often ask how? Well, when we make complete modifications to our lives to save our health. Before suggesting a diet or a lifestyle, I shall explain what happens inside the body when we reach this stage of obesity and unwellness.
We see everyday how “modern” diets provide us with fatty super sized meals with genetically modified foods, manipulated fats and ultra sweet beverages altered by synthetic chemicals (sweeteners, coloring, flavors). The meals we consume are not made out of fresh natural whole organic foodstuffs any more. They may be “eatable” but they have nothing nutritious about them. Our digestive systems have been tricked into accepting them as food, but our body cells, organs and systems protest by developing and manifesting silent inflammation, autoimmune disorders, cancer and other diseases. Let us see how such changes occur.
Disease starts somewhere inside the body. What ignites it has been a mystery for ages. But, thanks to recent scientific evidence and tireless efforts of dedicated medical researchers like Dr. Barry Sears, the enigma is beginning to unravel. He and others believe that silent inflammation is at the base of many “modern” chronic disorders, diabetes Type 2, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer, depending on each person’s genetic disposition. What is suspected to cause silent inflammation is obesity and modified foods. Let us see what triggers it.
Our “modern” diet of huge portions of the “wrong” fats and refined sugar and carbohydrates along with stress and sedentary lifestyles have driven our bodies to store layers and layers of fat, making most people either fat or obese and unfortunately diseased. The obese are more prone to toxicity as fat hides toxins within its layers.
Because the same “modern” diets of fast food and supersized portions plus inactivity have taken over our traditional lifestyles, obesity in Saudi Arabia has reached close to 60 percent, something unknown to us 30 years ago, except for the unfortunate few. Over three million citizens are obese and ailing, costing the country millions according to Dr. Walid Bukhari, chief surgeon at the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah.
You must be wondering, how obesity generates internal inflammation. Obesity is the result of cumulative body fat. Too much refined carbohydrate and sugar consumption puts the pancreas on overdrive to produce insulin to allow blood sugar into cells to use and metabolize. When cells become engorged with fat they become insulin resistant. They lose their capacity to receive insulin through their insulin receptors. The condition is called insulin resistance. Blood glucose remains elevated and un-metabolized. The pancreas continues pumping more insulin to remove the extra blood glucose, resulting in high levels of insulin and sugar lurking in the blood, wrecking havoc in the system. Let us explain the course of obesity.
Overconsumption of high glycemic carbohydrates (refined sugar and grains, fried potatoes, overcooked starches) and fat raise insulin levels, which increase visceral fat around the waist, resulting into obesity. Insulin, fat cells and excessive meat intake release pro-inflammatory hormones, eicosanoids, which promote inflammation. It is also believed that silent inflammation could trigger insulin resistance, as oversized fat cells and insulin produce inflammatory compounds.
To combat fat cells, the pancreas keeps on pumping insulin to metabolize fat. With fat cells increasing in number and size, they lock their receptors to insulin, resulting in insulin resistance, un-metabolized blood sugar and consequently diabetes Type 2. With insulin and sugar swimming in the blood, the body releases cortisol, a powerful stress hormone. Cortisol floods the system in order to contain the insulin influx. The battle goes on silently in the system, creating more and more damage. Silent inflammation persists in this manner for months and years without manifesting any symptoms until diabetes Type 2 or other metabolic syndromes surface regardless of age.
Next week, I shall pursue the subject of silent inflammation in order to keep this culprit hushed and low for better health and wellness.
N.B.: Individuals with medical conditions or on medication should consult their physicians when they decide to introduce anything new in their diet even if it is natural.
To read previous Health Solutions articles, visit:

Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

Updated 21 April 2018

Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

JEDDAH: There is a growing need for dietary supplements in Saudi Arabia, given the increasing popularity of junk food and the effective role supplements can play in treating diseases caused by mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

A recent study found that 22 percent of Saudi people take nutritional supplements. It is no surprise, then, that many Saudi businesses have forged partnerships with international dietary-supplement companies.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss, a Saudi dietitian with a Ph.D. in nutrition, said dietary supplements can be defined as substances that provide the human body with a nutrient missing from a person’s regular diet. However, she stressed that they are not intended to replace healthy eating.

She also warned against taking them without first talking to a doctor or dietitian, as some products can have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. 

“They can also cause problems if someone has a history of certain health issues,” she added.

A blood test can determine which nutrients we are not getting enough of in our diet, and therefore which supplements might be beneficial. Nutritional supplements are also used to help treat certain health conditions. 

“Vitamin C, for example, is often used to reduce cold symptoms,” said Idriss. “Fish oil is taken to lower elevated blood triglycerides.”

She suggested four daily essentials that can bridge nutritional gaps in our diet: a multivitamin, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. 

“I routinely recommend a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to my clients after consulting with their doctors,” she said. 

“For menstruating women, who require 18 milligrams of iron each day, a daily supplement helps boost iron intake.”

She said people over the age of 50 are advised to take a multivitamin to ensure they are getting enough B12, which plays a key role in the functioning of the nervous system and the development of red blood cells. 

“Older adults are more vulnerable to B12 deficiency because they are more likely to have decreased production of stomach acid, which is needed to release B12 from the proteins in food.” said Idriss. 

“It is also a good idea to take a daily multivitamin if one is following a low-calorie diet.”

She also pointed out that a high intake of DHA and EPA, the two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, are linked with a lower risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. A deficiency of DHA might also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. 

“A daily intake of 1,000 milligrams of both DHA and EPA is equivalent to eating 12 ounces of salmon a week,” said Idriss.

The dietitian believes that the Saudis who take food supplements often do so more to benefit their appearance than their health. 

“Saudi women consume more dietary supplements than other people in Saudi Arabia,” she said. 

“They do so either to lose weight or to care for their hair and nails. Bodybuilders also take large amounts of supplements.”

However, both groups, according to Idriss, tend to take supplements on the recommendation of friends and trainers, not doctors. 

She warned that commercials and social-media rumors can persuade people to buy supplements online that may not be approved as safe by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and advised people to get as much of their daily nutrient needs as possible from healthy eating.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss

“Along with vitamins and minerals, a healthy diet provides fiber and hundreds of protective phytochemicals, something a supplement cannot do,” she said, adding that the body absorbs natural food more effectively than supplements.

In addition, combining supplements with medications can have dangerous, even life-threatening, effects. 

“Drugs for heart disease and depression, treatments for organ transplants, and birth-control pills are less effective when taken with herbal supplements,” she said.

“Taking an anticoagulant, aspirin, and a vitamin E supplement together may increase the potential for internal bleeding or even stroke.”


Natural sources

With the spread of fast-food restaurants and their alluring ads, the long-term health of the Saudi people is in danger, as children and young people snub natural sources of nutrients, such as fruit and vegetables. 

“This can lead to many deficiency diseases. Moreover, vegetarians can develop similar illnesses due to the absence of meat in their diet,” she said.
Dr. Ashraf Ameer, a family-medicine consultant, said the importance of nutritional supplements lies in treating mineral and vitamin deficiency, especially for pregnant women, growing children, diabetics, people with chronic diseases, and the elderly. 

“However, these products should come from reliable companies and meet Saudi food and drug requirements,”he added.

Mohammed Yaseen, who has a food supplements business, said his company works with a leading British health-care company to provide the Saudi market with high quality products.

“With this we hope we can contribute to the national transformation program by raising private-sector spending in health care from 25 percent to 35 percent, which in turn would lead to the sector’s financial sustainability and boost economic and social development in the Kingdom,” Yaseen said.


Vitamin Terms

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid.  Phytochemical is a biologically active compound found in plants.