Root Cause Medicine: What Causes Inflammation?
Mother Nature is smart; she’s brilliant in fact. How do I know? Having been trained for decades in the constantly evolving area of functional medicine and root cause medicine, it has become very clear that the worsening state of health on our planet, and most especially here in the U.S., stems from rampant, out of control inflammation. Inflammation is the known initiator of all the chronic degenerative diseases so plaguing our citizens, both young and old. What causes inflammation and how do we fix it? At our Bay Area Functional Medicine Clinic, we encourage you to enjoy Mother Nature’s bounties—the natural ones that are free of GMO, chemicals, pesticides, etc.
“No” and “Oh No” – The Story of Two Evil Inflammatory Substances
“NO” actually stands for nitric oxide. “Oh no”, is factually peroxynitrite and is correctly written “ONOO“ but pronounced “oh no” for ease. It also makes it easy to remember they are both BAD for you. Don’t worry about the strange words, remembering them as No and Oh no will serve you just fine. NO forms into ONOO and both are what causes inflammation. ONOO initiates a complex cycle responsible for many chronic inflammatory conditions.
Researcher Martin Pall, PhD is a professor from Washington State University and is well known for his work in this area. He recently made a breakthrough in what causes inflammation when he stumbled across a compound named Nrf2 (pronounced “Nerf 2”. Yes it’s fine to attach the connotation of something that’s fun and safe, like a nerf ball to this substance. It’s definitely a “good guy” as it does keep you safe from illness)!
Nrf2 raises antioxidants in the cells and has highly significant anti-inflammatory effects. It is considered a central regulator where health promoting factors in the body can come together to protect us from, according to Dr. Pall, “essentially all the chronic inflammatory states”. When discussing what causes inflammation one therefore cannot miss including the effects of this superstar, Nrf2.
We know that we would like to avoid the NO/ONOO cycle. It turns out the Nrf2 IS the substance that from an evolutionary standpoint allows us to do just that. Nrf2 allows us to avoid the inflammatory conditions associated with NO and ONOO production. To date, Dr. Pall has published papers on 23 different diseases linked in some way to NO/ONOO.
Dr. Pall was amazed to learn that Nrf2 is an incredibly complex, highly evolved system that suppresses or quiets the NO/ONOO cycle. In his opinion, you only find that type of highly evolved set of responses when nature has decided something is very important.
We know that inflammation kills, so when looking into what causes inflammation, we find NO/ONOO. And it turns out that our very smart Mother Nature has provided Nrf2 to prevent NO/ONOO from creating inflammatory disease. Note that Nrf2 is best at prevention. There is less evidence that it reverses disease, but Dr. Pall is hopeful that it may be useful for treatment in the future.
“Magic” Inflammation Fighting Foods
There are six nutrient types that raise Nrf2 levels and they include the following variety of foods. I would highly recommend that you work to include each type in your diet:
1. Tomatoes, purple sweet potato and leafy green vegetables—Carotenoid (Ker-Aht-En-Oyd) nutrient group
2. Onions and garlic—Allium nutrient group
3. Herbs—such as parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, saffron, bay leaves, legumes, eggplant, many leafy green vegetables, Chinese broccoli, purple sweet potato, black rice, olives and olive oil—Phenolic (Fee-No-Lick) antioxidant group
4. Walnuts, coldwater fish, leafy green vegetables that provide fatty acid precursors—Omega-3 fatty acids group
5. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and daikon radish—Isothiocyanates (I-So-Thigh-O-Si-An-Ates) nutrient group
6. Mediterranean herbs (see list above), olives, peel of fruits and eggplant—Terpenoids nutrient group
What Causes Inflammation?
What causes inflammation is the initiation of the NO/ONOO cycle. What initiates that cycle? Toxins, chemicals, GMOs, fast foods, drugs, artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup—and sadly, the typical American diet generally speaking.
What stops inflammation? Nrf2. How do we increase production of Nrf2? The foods are listed above. Did you see how often green vegetables were mentioned? I put them in bold so you wouldn’t miss them! It turns out that our friendly dark green leafy vegetables are present in almost every category. You would do yourself and your family a great health benefit that will increase longevity by learning to cook and enjoy organic green vegetables. I promise you that properly prepared, they are delicious!
You are welcome to watch my “Dr. Vikki’s Kitchen” videos on YouTube where I teach you how to quickly create healthy food that your entire family can enjoy.
When helping our patients at our Bay Area Functional Medicine clinic overcome a multitude of problems—from obesity to heart disease, from diabetes to autoimmune disease—lessening inflammation is the core of our approach. There are many causes and all possible sources must be evaluated for success to occur. Food sensitivities must be identified, so too must infections if they are present. Sources of toxins must be isolated. But the lynchpin when identifying what causes inflammation is to “arm” the body with a strong ability to defend itself, and interestingly enough, that comes from food.
Do you need help in identifying what causes inflammation in your body? We at HealthNOW Bay Area Functional Medicine clinic are here for you. Call us to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION: 408-733-0400.
Dr. Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
IFM Certified Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of “The Gluten Effect”