Most of us wouldn’t think of embarking on a culinary adventure without making sure we have the right herbs and spices. After all, these ingredients are usually what gives recipes their flavour, taking a dish from ‘meh’ to magnificent.
While you probably appreciate the ability of spices to improve your cooking, you may not be aware of how much they can do for your health. Many common herbs and spices have a long history of traditional use as medicine, with modern science supporting their clinical applications.
Take turmeric, for instance. Some experts believe medicinal use of this bright yellow powder dates back nearly 4,000 years. Turmeric features prominently in Ayurveda, the holistic medicine of India, as well as traditional Chinese medicine and other healing systems around the world.
Derived from underground stems of a ginger plant known as Curcuma longa, turmeric is commonly used in Indian curries. It’s also a popular supplement thanks to a powerfully anti-inflammatory and antioxidant constituent called curcumin.
What is curcumin and where is it found?
Curcumin is a curcuminoid, a natural polyphenol with a vivid yellow colour. Curcumin is the most active compound in turmeric, and it possesses strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
While it makes up anywhere between 2–6% percent of turmeric, curcumin is considered to have poor bioavailability, meaning it isn’t well utilised by the body on its own. For this reason, curcumin is often combined with substances like black pepper that have been shown to boost its absorption, despite the mechanism of action not yet being fully revealed – the piperine in black pepper, for example, might inhibit the liver from getting rid of turmeric, so the amount in the blood stays higher. Pepper also helps the gut absorb curcumin more efficiently.
Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties have made it a popular subject of research, and studies indicate a number of health benefits. Among these, curcumin’s ability to reduce joint pain and treat arthritis stands out as particularly promising.
How does curcumin relieve joint pain and other arthritis symptoms?
Science suggests curcumin can suppress inflammation through a number of different mechanisms, making it an effective treatment for inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Several studies have demonstrated the ability of curcumin to relieve joint pain in patients with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Here are some of them.
- In one randomised double-blind placebo-control parallel-group clinical trial, patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee received either 1,500 milligrams of curcuminoids in three divided doses or a matched placebo. After six weeks of treatment, patients in the group that was given curcuminoids experienced significant improvements in pain and physical function compared to the placebo group.
- In an Italian study of patients with osteoarthritis in one or both knees, those who took a turmeric formulation for 90 days showed a 58% reduction in overall pain and stiffness compared to controls. They were also able to reduce their need for painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen by 63% compared to patients on conventional medical therapy alone.
- In 2016, a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials looking at the efficacy of turmeric and curcumin for alleviating the symptoms of joint arthritis concluded: ‘This systematic review and meta-analysis provided scientific evidence that 8–12 weeks of standardised turmeric extracts (typically 1,000 mg/day of curcumin) treatment can reduce arthritis symptoms (mainly pain and inflammation-related symptoms) and result in similar improvements in the symptoms as ibuprofen and diclofenac sodium. Therefore, turmeric extracts and curcumin can be recommended for alleviating the symptoms of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis.’
Can curcumin reduce joint pain and treat arthritis in Lyme patients?
Many people with Lyme disease experience joint pain as a symptom, sometimes to the point of debilitation. And, in cases where Lyme infection goes untreated and/or advances to the chronic phase of the disease, arthritis is a common problem.
By the estimation of certain experts, around 60% of patients with untreated Lyme disease will develop a condition called Lyme arthritis. Patients with Lyme arthritis typically experience symptoms like swollen, painful joints that cause pain and inhibit joint function and mobility.
Given the ability of curcumin to effectively reduce joint pain and swelling in patients with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, it is perhaps unsurprising that this potently anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound can also alleviate symptoms in those with Lyme arthritis.
Stephen Harrod Buhner, a prominent herbalist and author who is an expert in alternative therapies for treating Lyme disease, believes curcumin can be a powerful tool when it comes to reducing joint pain and treating arthritis in Lyme patients. In his acclaimed book, Healing Lyme: Natural Healing & Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis & Its Co-infections, Buhner says research shows curcumin is a promising agent for Lyme arthritis.
Another Lyme specialist, Kenneth B. Singleton, also recommends curcumin for Lyme patients with arthritis. Singleton mentions curcumin in his book, The Lyme Disease Solution, as an important anti-inflammatory agent in Lyme treatment due to its ability to inhibit pro-inflammatory eicosanoid production.
Books by both Buhner and Singleton can be excellent resources for Lyme patients seeking non-traditional treatment options for Lyme disease symptoms.
With the weight of tradition and modern science behind it, curcumin shows immense promise for effectively reducing joint pain and treating arthritis in Lyme patients and should be considered as part of any Lyme disease treatment protocol.
As the summer season rolls around, incidences of Lyme disease increase dramatically. Summer is prime tick season, where a person’s chances of getting bitten are at their highest. Ticks are the only known spreaders of Lyme disease, a controversial disorder that finds itself in somewhat of a grey area when it comes to medical legitimacy. The acute form of the disorder is well recognised, but the chronic form, where symptoms are disparate and variable, is not yet officially recognised as a true disorder. This is despite thousands upon thousands of people coming forward with similar symptoms long after the acute stage of the disease has passed.
This controversy makes treatment of the disease very difficult, although companies like Make Well continue to research and attempt to counteract Lyme with their range of natural supplements designed to support its treatment. Despite these efforts, chronic Lyme remains a very tough disease to cure. One way to prevent either form of Lyme disease is to protect yourself from ticks and their bites. So as the summer hits, what are the best ways to defend against these dangerous parasites?
1. Wear Long Clothing
Ticks require bare skin to be able to bite. Though many of us can’t wait to ditch the jeans and throw on a pair of shorts in the summer, exposed legs can be one of the most inviting places for a tick to latch on to. If you’re going for a walk in woody or grassy areas, do your best to cover up as best you can. Although it might not be the most fashionable look for the summer season, tucking your trouser legs into your socks can be a very wise move. It’s also not a bad idea to wear a hat of some kind to protect your head. More clothing during the hot summer is the last thing anyone wants to wear, but this simple tactic can help you protect yourself from ticks.
2. Avoid Wooded Areas
Ticks love the woods. They also love grassy, overgrown areas. They can be found both within the grass and on the bark of trees. However, contrary to popular opinion, ticks cannot jump. They attach themselves to their hosts using a technique known as ‘questing’. This involves them positioning themselves on the very edge of something like a blade of grass and extending their front legs. They will wait in this position until they can hook onto something with their tiny claws. Therefore, physical contact is required with the tick in order for it to successfully attach itself. Avoiding overgrown areas can greatly reduce your chances of this happening.
3. Check Your Pets (and Avoid Wildlife)
It’s not just humans who are susceptible to tick bites. They will also happily latch on to a dog, cat or any warm-blooded creature who happens to cross their path. Contact with your dog or cat can then bring ticks into your home, leading to human bites. If you have a dog, try to take it for walks that avoid excessively grassy or woody areas. Obviously, four-legged animals are closer to the ground than humans, giving them a higher chance of coming into contact with questing ticks. Check your pets thoroughly when they come inside, and try to catch and dispose of any ticks then and there.
4. Check Yourself Thoroughly
It’s also important to check yourself thoroughly when you come in from the outdoors. Ticks won’t just stay in the place that they first latch on to a host; they will often travel across the body and search out dark or sheltered spots to bite down on. So just checking your exposed skin isn’t enough – the ticks could easily be hiding somewhere else on your body. The exact rate of transmission of Lyme disease is not accurately known. The CDC estimates that in most cases, it takes 36–48 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease to its host. Other experts, however, think that the rate of transmission is much faster. Either way, getting the ticks off your body as soon as possible is critical. Also be on the lookout for the distinctive bullseye rash, a prime indicator of acute Lyme disease. The rash takes the form of a red bullseye, with one circle surrounding the second, and forms very soon after Lyme transmission. It’s important to remember that acute Lyme is treatable with antibiotics, so if it is caught in these early stages, the chance of recovery is high. If the disease is missed and left to mutate into the chronic manifestation, recovery, and indeed diagnosis, will be a much tougher road.
5. Use a Pesticide
There are some chemical ways to repel ticks on both skin and clothing, using pesticides. Any product that contains permethrin is good to douse your clothes in, and it can remain effective through several washes. For those who work outdoors or spend much of their day outside, pre-treated clothing is available. There are also a number of insect repellents that have been vetted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe to use on adults and children. Remember to always follow the instructions when applying these products. Helpfully, the EPA provides a search tool on its website, which can help you find the right repellent for you and your family.
Stopping Lyme disease at its source is the easiest way to avoid a potentially long and protracted battle with this debilitating disorder, so be sure to keep these tips in mind and protect yourself from ticks this summer.
Chronic Lyme is a disease of inflammation. Although the primary cause of the disorder is an infection, transmitted by ticks, as the disease matures, the symptoms change drastically. Antibiotics, which have been proven to be very effective in the initial acute stages of Lyme disease, are not enough to treat the condition once it reaches its chronic stages. This is because very little of the initial bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, remains in a patient’s system over time. Instead, the majority of symptoms are caused by an inflammation response, which becomes constant and overreactive when it can’t eradicate its target. The foundations for effective treatment for chronic Lyme are laid in a person’s diet. Naturally, as with any disorder, there are foods you should eat, and foods you should avoid.
Some foods deter inflammation, and some encourage it. Lyme patients regularly complain of joint and muscle pain; in fact, this is one of the primary symptoms of chronic Lyme. This is a direct result of inflammation and should be one of the first things doctors look to mitigate when it comes to chronic Lyme. Constant fatigue is also a big factor in patients’ lives; this is due to the immune response perceiving an attack and demanding sleep from the body. The problem is that sleep never remedies the underlying infection, because at this point, the inflammation response is trapped in a vicious circle, and is essentially reacting to itself. Again, there are foods that will add to this sense of fatigue, and those that can mitigate it. Let’s look at three things Lyme disease patients should avoid in their diets.
The first thing on the list of foods to avoid is a familiar one. In fact, sick or healthy, we are often told that sugar can be dangerous to almost every part of our bodies if we eat too much of it. However, it’s especially problematic for chronic Lyme patients. Sugars feed the Lyme-causative spirochetes, and also suppress your immune system. As your immune response is under extreme stress in the first place, anything that damages it or dampens it further should definitely be struck off your diet. It is very difficult to avoid sugars, as they are present in numerous types of foods. However, commitment to cutting out this undesired ingredient is important. Refined sugars are especially bad, and you should also keep an eye on how much fruit you eat; there are actually a lot of natural sugars present in fruit, and too much fructose can cause similar issues to those listed above.
Avoiding gluten is something of a trend these days, so there’s a chance you might be steering clear of it already. However, if you suffer from chronic Lyme, it’s especially important to reduce your gluten intake. Why is this, exactly? Gluten is one of the main causative agents of inflammation in the body. If you’ve ever felt bloated or sickly full after a meal heavy in gluten, you’ll know how bad it can make you feel. That’s inflammation at work. It’s also responsible for coeliac disease, an auto-immune dysfunction that causes sustained damage to the small intestine. The relationship between grains and our bodies isn’t precisely known, and it’s unclear why gluten affects some people more than others. Chronic Lyme patients should cut back on gluten immediately, to give their immune system the best chance of fighting back. Numerous healthy alternatives exist such as amaranth, sorghum, buckwheat and quinoa.
Dairy can be another primary source of inflammation irritation, and as with gluten, it affects some more than others. It can produce the same kind of symptoms as gluten, making people feel bloated, full and sluggish. It can also cause other digestive issues in large amounts, such as diarrhoea or IBS. Your stomach is an important tool in the fight against chronic Lyme, as much of the immune response originates there. Keeping your gut flora healthy can reinforce your immune system and help to rebalance immune responses all over your body. Dairy is another one of those pesky ingredients that is quite hard to avoid, although with recent trends in healthy eating, your local supermarket should have some alternative options available.
Changing your diet is a big step, so it’s recommended that you talk to a nutritionist and/or your doctor before implementing changes. As well as suggesting which foods to include and which to avoid, they might suggest that you add some supplements to your diet, to help quell inflammation and make sure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you require. Make Well produces a line-up of all-natural supplements, with which they have been working with doctors around the world in order to support the treatment of chronic diseases such as Lyme. It’s important to remember, however, that sorting out your diet is merely one step on the road to recovery. It won’t cure your chronic Lyme disease outright, but it can help to alleviate some of the more crippling symptoms over time.
As summer rolls in, most people are happy for the opportunity to get out and about in the sunshine. The dark, cold hours of winter are gone for another year, and with the summer comes long days, warm nights and the opportunity for barbecues, swimming, sunbathing and picnics. However, it’s not all sunshine and smiles; as with any season, there are some health concerns that come along with the summer, not least of all summer fatigue. Unfortunately, the symptoms of this non-severe yet debilitating condition are similar to Lyme disease, which also hits its peak in the summer months. So how exactly can you tell the difference between the two?
First of all, some definitions might be handy. Summer fatigue leaves people feeling tired, lethargic and sleep-deprived. In places with particularly hot summers, this effect can be amplified. If you’ve ever been out in the sun for long periods of time, you’ll recognise that sluggish feeling that comes over you when you have to drag yourself up from the beach or deck chair. This feeling can mount up over the seemingly endless summer days, resulting in a cumulative and chronic sensation of lethargy. This can also be compounded by the fact that many people move from the warm outdoors to cold, air-conditioned rooms. This sudden temperature change leaves the body vulnerable and can make it hard for the immune system to work effectively.
So what is the reason for this lethargic state we all find ourselves in after too much sun? Well, the answer is pretty straightforward. Your body is working hard to keep you cool in the heat, and in doing so, it exerts a lot of energy. Your blood vessels dilate, which increases blood flow around the body, allowing more to rise to the skin’s surface. Sweating is also an important mechanism the body uses to keep cool. As sweat forms on your skin, it evaporates in the heat, cooling you down in the process. The end result of this overtime shift your body’s putting in is inevitable tiredness. Your heart and metabolic rate also go up, compounding the effect. On top of all this, most people are chronically dehydrated for much of their lives. We rarely drink as much water as we need, and a prominent symptom of dehydration is fatigue.
While it’s not exactly a fatal issue, summer fatigue can be quite draining, especially if patients are dealing with it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the most prominent symptom of Lyme disease is also fatigue. Lyme disease comes in two distinct forms: acute Lyme, which occurs soon after the initial tick bite and lasts for a number of weeks, and chronic Lyme, which can persist for many years after the bite. Fatigue is a major factor in both manifestations of the disease, and one that patients continually grapple with on their road to recovery.
Telling the difference between acute Lyme disease and summer fatigue is relatively straightforward. Acute Lyme is almost always accompanied by flu-like symptoms, primarily a headache, fever, chills and aches. In many cases, a bullseye rash is also present around the location of tick bite, forming a red-ringed circle with another red circle inside. In addition, acute Lyme comes on rapidly after a bite, so if you’re aware of the dangers of Lyme, you can trace it back to a time you were maybe outdoors in wooded or grassy areas. Even if you don’t see the tick or find the site of the bite, Lyme disease can be investigated based on circumstantial evidence.
When it comes to chronic Lyme disease, detection is much harder. The symptoms of chronic Lyme are much less defined, and can vary from patient to patient. They can come on months after the tick bite, or in some cases, even years. It’s much harder in this instance to trace the symptoms back to a specific tick bite, or even a specific period of time. Chronic fatigue is one of the most prominent symptoms that chronic Lyme patients complain of. However, it is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as pain in the joints and bones, neurological complications, mobility issues and cardiac problems. None of these are present with summer fatigue, so the best way to differentiate between the two disorders is to keep a close eye on other potential symptoms. Keeping out of the sun for a couple of days as a test control wouldn’t hurt either.
Make Well offers a number of all-natural products that can be utilised to support the treatment of chronic diseases such as Lyme. Many of these supplements can help fend off bouts of fatigue and provide essential vitamins and minerals that patients might not be getting from their regular diets. If you’re having issues with fatigue and you don’t quite know how to rebalance yourself, a good first place to investigate is the nutrition you’re providing for your body. Cutting out certain foods, adding in others, and supporting your diet with supplements might be just what you need to conquer fatigue, no matter what form it comes in.
While you probably think of it as a means to satisfy hunger, the food you eat plays a critical role in keeping you healthy. From breakfast to a midnight snack, everything you consume provides your body with the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients it needs to function properly.
Of course, some foods are more nutritious than others – a bowl of sugary cereal may be a tasty way to start the day, but it isn’t going to give your body much to work with compared to good old-fashioned porridge.
Just as foods vary in terms of nutrition, some of the compounds within these foods pack more of a wallop than others when it comes to supporting your health. Of these compounds, one of the most important for powering your body is the antioxidant.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are substances found in food (or synthesised in a laboratory) that inhibit oxidation, a chemical reaction that can produce unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals are naturally produced when your body breaks down food, and other common triggers include intense physical exertion as well as exposure to ultraviolet radiation and cigarette smoke. The instability of free radicals can lead to a process called oxidative stress that may cause damage to cells. Antioxidants work to protect your cells from this damage.
How do antioxidants work?
Antioxidants protect cells from damage is by neutralising free radicals, thereby reducing oxidative stress. The instability of free radical molecules is the result of a missing electron. Antioxidant molecules possess the ability to give free radical molecules an electron, thereby neutralising the free radical.
There are many types of antioxidants. Although they share certain commonalities, each antioxidant works differently based on its unique chemical structure. Some of the many antioxidants are:
- Glutathione, which is generated internally by the body
- Vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that is crucial for preventing oxidative damage to cell membranes
- Vitamin C, a water-soluble antioxidant that is also an essential dietary nutrient
- Flavonoids, which are found in plant foods
- CoQ10, another antioxidant produced by your body that is used by every one of your cells
- Carotenoids, compounds that are responsible for the bright colours of certain foods
- Resveratrol, which is sometimes called ‘the fountain of youth’ for its ability to protect against age-related illnesses
What are the health benefits of antioxidants?
Research suggests that oxidative stress caused by free radicals may be associated with the development of conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and more. The damage done to cells by free radicals may also ‘speed up’ the ageing process.
When antioxidants neutralise free radicals, they minimise the damage these unstable molecules do to your cells – and potentially lower your risk of developing certain diseases in the process. Antioxidants may also help support healthy ageing.
Which foods are high in antioxidants?
While your body produces some antioxidants (like glutathione and CoQ10), others can only be obtained from food. Since each antioxidant possesses unique benefits, eating a variety of antioxidant-rich foods helps ensure that you’re providing your body with the support it needs to fight free radicals. Here are some foods high in antioxidants:
Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods you can eat because they’re exceptionally high in antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients, but low in calories.
Cocoa in dark chocolate contains antioxidants that may possess anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective properties.
This leafy green is packed with antioxidants and a number of other nutrients.
Many nuts contain antioxidants, but walnuts are almost twice as high in antioxidants compared to other commonly consumed nuts.
Strawberries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins that give them their vibrant red hue.
Red and purple cabbage also contains anthocyanins, as well as vitamin C.
Along with lentils and other legumes, beans are a good source of both antioxidants and dietary fibre.
Artichokes are one of the most antioxidant-rich vegetables, and boiling or steaming them increases their antioxidant content.
This bright yellow spice that is often used to flavour curries contains antioxidants as well as an anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin.
Used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, goji berries contain particularly potent antioxidants called Lycium barbarum polysaccharides.
Grapes and grape seed extract
Grapes' skin and seeds contain resveratrol, the ‘fountain of youth’ antioxidant.
How can antioxidants help patients with Lyme disease?
In patients with chronic Lyme disease, the immune system is challenged permanently. Inflammatory processes are triggered consistently and subconsciously, which leads to a pro-inflammatory environment and can cause many symptoms.
Antioxidants found in food have been shown to help lower cytokine levels (inflammatory messengers for inter-cell communication). A diet that features a variety of antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts and spices also provides the body with the nutrition it needs to fight off Lyme infection.
When putting together a Lyme disease treatment plan, it’s a good idea to start with your plate. Focusing on healthy wholefoods that are high in antioxidants is a relatively simple way to support your body as it battles this complex condition.
We all know exercise is good for us. In addition to helping you maintain a healthy body weight and strong muscles, moving your body on a regular basis has been associated with the reduced risk of health problems like high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more.
Exercise can also have a hugely positive impact on your mental health. Working out regularly may alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, and it’s also an excellent way to keep your stress levels under control.
How can exercise possibly be so good for so many things? Among its many actions, exercise works to reduce one of the primary causes of illness in the body: inflammation.
What is inflammation?
Although generally cast as harmful, inflammation actually plays a critical role in the immune system’s response to infection and trauma. When you’re injured, inflammation acts as a signal to your immune system that it needs to heal the damage. (Think about the way an ankle swells after it has been sprained.)
Inflammation also alerts the immune system to the presence of invaders like viruses and bacteria that can make you sick, which is why your throat may get sore and inflamed when you’re coming down with a cold. This type of short-term inflammatory response to injury or infection is called acute inflammation, and it’s perfectly normal and healthy.
But what happens when inflammation persists? If the inflammatory response goes on for too long or occurs in the wrong place within the body, it can become a problem. Known as chronic inflammation, this inappropriately extended inflammatory process can affect the whole body and has been linked to heart disease and cancer as well as autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Systemic inflammation is also a common symptom of chronic Lyme disease.
How does exercise reduce inflammation?
Science has long suggested a connection between exercise and lowered inflammation, but a 2017 study conducted at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine offered an understanding of how exercise works to reduce inflammation.
The study found exercising reduces inflammation by stimulating the immune system in a way that produces an anti-inflammatory cellular response. Exercise activates the brain and sympathetic nervous system, enabling the body to do what it needs (like raise blood pressure and speed up heart rate, among other things) to perform work.
According to researchers, this activation of the brain and sympathetic nervous system causes immunological responses, including the production of proteins called cytokines. One of the cytokines produced during exercise is TNF, which is crucial for the regulation of both local and systemic inflammation.
The findings of this study may have broad implications for the treatment of chronic inflammation. As the study’s senior author, Suzi Hong, PhD, told UC San Diego Health: ‘Knowing what sets regulatory mechanisms of inflammatory proteins in motion may contribute to developing new therapies for the overwhelming number of individuals with chronic inflammatory conditions, including nearly 25 million Americans who suffer from autoimmune diseases.’
How much daily exercise is required to reduce inflammation?
Perhaps the most compelling part of this study’s findings is how little exercise is required to reduce inflammation. Researchers found that one 20-minute exercise session was enough to stimulate an anti-inflammatory cellular response.
Not only do you not need to exercise for a long time to reap anti-inflammatory benefits, you also don’t have to overexert yourself. Walking on a treadmill at a moderate intensity level was enough to reduce inflammation in this study. In fact, a single 20-minute session of moderate treadmill exercise resulted in a 5% decrease in the number of immune cells producing pro-inflammatory TNF.
How can people with Lyme disease incorporate exercise into their daily routine?
Chronic inflammation, which can manifest as swollen and painful joints, is a common problem for Lyme patients. Although it may be the furthest thing from your mind when you’re struggling with symptoms of Lyme disease, incorporating just 20 minutes of moderate exercise into your day can go a long way toward reducing systemic inflammation. Here are some suggestions to help you motivate:
- Choose simple exercises like brisk walking, and don’t push yourself too hard.
- Try using a fitness tracker that allows you to set daily exercise goals. You’ll be less likely to skip your evening stroll if it means hitting your step count for the day.
- Find a workout buddy who will keep you company and hold you accountable.
- If you prefer to exercise solo, online groups can be a nice way to connect with others. You may even discover a group for fellow Lyme disease patients who are also fitness enthusiasts.
- Make it fun! Crank up some music and dance, or go for a scenic hike.
Chronic inflammation is a problem for many people, and it can be debilitating for Lyme disease patients. Now that you know it only takes 20 minutes of daily exercise to reduce inflammation in the body, you can take steps to incorporate this positive lifestyle change into your treatment plan.
Beloved for its sweet and tangy tropical flavour, pineapple is a favourite fruit of people all over the globe. In fact, per capita consumption of fresh pineapple is on the rise, thanks in part to the increasing availability of pre-cut fresh pineapple in supermarkets. The average use of pineapple per person was over seven pounds in 2016–2017, an increase of 4% over the previous year. Costa Rica, the world’s largest supplier of pineapple, ships around 200 million cases of pineapple per year, with roughly half going to the United States and the other half to Europe.
In addition to its singularly delicious taste, pineapple is also highly nutritious. Pineapples contain an impressive amount of nutrients like vitamin C and manganese, and they’re rich in antioxidants. When it comes to health benefits of the various constituents found in pineapple, though, it’s an enzyme called bromelain that rises above the rest.
What is bromelain?
Derived from the stem and fruit of the pineapple plant, bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme. Also known as protease, proteinase or peptidase, proteolytic enzymes are any group of enzymes that work to break down long, chainlike molecules of protein into their building blocks: peptides and amino acids.
Pineapple has a long history of medicinal use, and bromelain is widely believed to be its most active medicinal ingredient. While bromelain helps the body in a number of ways, its two primary benefits are:
When taken with food, bromelain can act as a digestive enzyme. It breaks the protein you eat into smaller components, allowing them to be more easily absorbed by the small intestine. The ability of bromelain to promote healthy digestion may be especially helpful for those with pancreas problems. The pancreas is responsible for making digestive enzymes in the body, but some people have a condition called pancreatic insufficiency, which means that the pancreas isn’t able to make the amount of digestive enzymes necessary to properly break down food. Bromelain is so good at breaking down tough proteins that it’s actually used as a commercial meat tenderiser!
When taken in between meals instead of with food, bromelain may function as an anti-inflammatory, reducing inflammation throughout the body. The ability of bromelain to reduce inflammation has been widely studied. Some of the many inflammatory conditions bromelain has been used to treat include arthritis, joint pain, tendonitis, sinus swelling and inflammatory bowel disease. Bromelain has also been found to speed recovery from surgery, injury and other trauma.
How can bromelain reduce inflammation in the body?
Proteolytic enzymes like bromelain work to fight inflammation in a number of different ways. Some of these mechanisms are:
- Improving circulation by thinning the blood, allowing for more efficient transport of oxygen to, and removal of waste from, inflamed tissue
- Reducing swelling of mucous membranes
- Breaking down proteins and cellular debris at the injury site, speeding their passage through the lymphatic system and thus reducing swelling more quickly
What does the science say about bromelain and inflammation?
When it comes to the question of whether bromelain can effectively reduce inflammation in the body, the science speaks for itself. Researchers have conducted many, many studies to examine the relationship between bromelain and inflammation, with promising results.
- A review of clinical evidence for the use of bromelain as a treatment for osteoarthritis found that, based on its ability to relieve inflammation and reduce pain, bromelain may present an effective alternative to conventional treatments like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- A study comparing the effects of an enzyme supplement containing bromelain and diclofenac, a prescription anti-inflammatory drug, found that 90mg of bromelain three times per day was as effective as 50mg of diclofenac twice a day for relieving symptoms of knee osteoarthritis like joint swelling, tenderness and pain.
- Research indicates bromelain can be highly effective for treating sinusitis, a condition characterised by painful inflammation of the sinuses that is often associated with upper respiratory infections and allergies. In one study, bromelain resolved inflammation of nasal mucosa in 85% of adults with sinusitis, compared to 40% of those who received a placebo treatment.
- Studies have shown bromelain can help reduce post-operative swelling in surgical patients, helping to accelerate recovery. Athletes are also turning to bromelain to soothe sore, stiff muscles after exercise.
Why is reducing inflammation important in the treatment of Lyme disease?
For patients with chronic Lyme disease, inflammation can impact virtually every system in the body. Joint inflammation is particularly problematic for Lyme patients, and swollen and painful joints are among the most common and debilitating symptoms of Lyme disease.
For Lyme patients struggling with inflammation caused by their disease, bromelain may provide the relief they seek without the potentially damaging side effects that often accompany conventional treatment options.
Inflammation is said by some to be the root of all illness, and it certainly plays a role in Lyme disease. Lyme patients seeking to reduce inflammation may want to consider adding bromelain to their treatment plan.
As we move into the month of May, spring is in full swing and summer is visible on the horizon. This time of year is also significant for Lyme patients and their families, since May is Lyme Disease Awareness month. Lyme activists around the world use the 31 days of May to engage in a variety of activities designed to promote awareness about the disease and raise funds for its continued research. Lyme is a controversial subject that needs all the attention it can get; as it’s still not fully legitimised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical opinions and expertise on it vary wildly across the world. As relevant as Lyme Disease Awareness Month is, some proponents are suggesting moving it from May to April. Why is that, and is it a good idea?
May was traditionally targeted because mid-spring is the season where ticks come out in force, and remain out in force until the fall. This is their prime season for dissemination, as when the weather turns colder, they cannot survive. Lyme is spread through these tick bites, from ticks infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria; as people head outdoors more in the warmer weather, the likelihood of being bitten by a tick increases dramatically, especially in rural areas. Ticks favour woodlands and tall grass, where they latch on to hosts through a process known as ‘questing’. Essentially, it involves the tick hanging onto a blade of grass or branch with its back legs, while extending its front legs forward in the hope of hooking onto an animal or human passing by.
The whole aim of Lyme Disease Awareness Month is to inform people about the dangers of Lyme, and the risk of exposing themselves to ticks. However, some experts are suggesting that May might be too late in the year to raise Lyme awareness, and that April is in fact the key month to alert the general public about the inherent dangers associated with the disease, and detail exactly how they might catch it. Due to global warming, many ticks are active earlier in the year, due to the warmer weather. They are also surviving longer than usual into the fall. An increased period of activity in the spring, summer and early fall means that ticks also have more opportunity to migrate further, creating further risk to people outdoors.
But why is it so important to inform people before they might contract Lyme disease? This has to do with the dangers of chronic Lyme, an advanced form of the disease which presents with different symptoms than the acute stage. The latter only lasts for a number of days to weeks, and symptoms are very similar to the common flu. They might not be especially severe, and can easily subside without the patient thinking they have anything seriously wrong. Acute Lyme is also accompanied by a bullseye rash in many cases, and although this is a definitive symptom of the disease, it is also easily missed. If acute Lyme is detected while the flu-like symptoms are still present, then it can be fairly easily dealt with via a course of antibiotics. If it is overlooked and given the opportunity to develop into chronic Lyme however, the symptoms can be far more severe and debilitating.
If a patient is bitten by a tick in April and passes through the acute Lyme stage, it is too late to treat the disease successfully. Giving the Borrelia bacteria any chance whatsoever to establish a chronic presence in the system can result in many years of recurring symptoms. This is compounded by the fact that chronic Lyme varies wildly from patient to patient; symptoms can include any variation of joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, neurological problems and cardiac issues, ranging from mild to severe. On top of this, it may take symptoms months or even years to emerge. Because chronic Lyme is essentially an interplay between the bacteria and the immune system, with many symptoms being actively caused by an overactive immune response, it’s incredibly hard to both diagnose and treat.
Treatment still includes a round of antibiotics to allay the main infection, but tackling the malfunctioning immune response requires a totally different approach. It can take a long time to fully reduce the chronic inflammation symptoms, but natural supplements, balanced with the right diet, can help support treatment. Make Well offers a wide variety of all-natural supplements that can help support the long-term treatment of chronic diseases such as Lyme. Treatment can be a long process; this is why catching Lyme in the acute stages is of paramount importance for both doctors, and potential patients.
When it comes to Lyme disease, the best prevention is information, as early as possible. Lyme cases are on the rise every year, which is alarming in one sense, yet reassuring in others. Although it shows that instances of the disease are increasing, it also indicates that it’s becoming more validated in the eyes of patients; people are becoming more and more aware of Lyme, and are reporting it more to their doctors. Starting the awareness drive earlier in the year makes a lot of sense, as it gives people time to inform themselves about the risks and dangers, and make allowances for any potentially dangerous activities or excursions they may be planning. It’s also important to bear in mind that Lyme disease has been detected on every continent in the world, in many countries in Europe, and in every state in America. Spreading as much information as possible is the goal of Lyme Disease Awareness Month; the earlier this happens in the season, the better.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with a chronic disease, you know how difficult it can be to feel fully functional while struggling to manage symptoms. In fact, the trouble often starts well before a diagnosis is made.
Because the symptoms of chronic disease often resemble other, less serious illnesses, it may take the people experiencing them a long time to figure out anything is wrong. They may think they’re simply struggling with a particularly nasty cold or hard-to-shake flu. Sometimes it can take months or even years for a person to realise what they’re dealing with is more than just a minor, temporary condition.
Even after accepting that something serious is going on health-wise, people with chronic illness often have a hard time finding a physician who believes them, who’s willing to listen rather than just dismissing the patient’s concerns. And even the most well-meaning doctor isn’t necessarily capable of spotting chronic disease, so misdiagnoses are common.
Once you know what you’re dealing with, the challenges of managing your symptoms begin to come into focus. You may find yourself inundated with conflicting information, or your practitioner may be offering you medications that you’re not comfortable taking long-term.
For patients with chronic illness, supplements can be a lifeline for helping to manage symptoms. With a long history of traditional use, herbs and other natural products provide a gentle alternative to conventional treatments for chronic disease. Let’s take a look at one relatively unknown herbal treatment option: gotu kola.
What is gotu kola?
Gotu kola, also known as Asiatic pennywort or by its botanical name Centella asiatica, is a perennial herb that is native to China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, the South Pacific, Indonesia and South Africa. Gotu kola belongs to the Apiaceace family and is commonly used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
In China, gotu kola is sometimes called ‘the fountain of life’ because a legend says a herbalist who ate gotu kola lived for more than 200 years. Gotu kola is a popular food in many Asian countries, where it’s treated like a salad green and eaten raw.
How can gotu kola help in the fight against chronic disease?
In addition to being highly nutritious, this herb possesses a number of properties that may be helpful for patients dealing with chronic disease. Here are some of the health benefits of gotu kola.
Promotes wound healing
Science suggests gotu kola can help speed the healing of various skin wounds. Experts believe its wound-healing power can be attributed to its ability to improve antioxidant activity in the tissue while also having a positive effect on collagen production, which is necessary for healthy skin. In one study, researchers treated a number of different wound types – including excisions, abrasions and infections – with a hydrocolloid wound dressing loaded with gotu kola. They found that, compared to a commercial healing product, the gotu kola dressing improved healing in all the wound types studied.
Make Well understands the importance of wound healing for patients with chronic disease, which is why we’ve formulated our MRG derm to feature gotu kola. MRG derm has specifically been developed to address patients suffering from Morgellons disease; these patients often experience slow-healing wounds and ulcers on the skin.
Eases anxiety and reduces stress
Gotu kola has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat turbulent emotions for thousands of years, and modern science supports this use. Gotu kola appears to relieve symptoms of anxiety by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine. A study of patients with generalised anxiety disorder found that 500 milligrams of gotu kola taken twice daily for 60 days significantly reduced both anxiety and stress.
Anxiety is also a common symptom of many chronic illnesses, not to mention that the difficulty managing chronic disease can cause patients a lot of anxiety. Stress levels, too, tend to be high in people with chronic disease, which is troubling since stress itself is associated with so many serious health problems. Gotu kola can be a natural option for effectively alleviating anxiety and stress.
Gotu kola appears to boost blood flow throughout the body. It has been shown to help improve circulation in the legs for people with varicose veins and may even be useful for preventing the blood clots that sometimes occur when people travel on long-distance flights. Improved blood flow can also help wounds heal more quickly, which may be why gotu kola is so useful for wound healing.
For patients with a chronic illness that prevents them from being as active as they’d like, gotu kola could help get blood flowing, improving circulation and reducing symptoms like swollen ankles. Gotu kola has further been investigated successfully for its antithrombotic effects in a few studies.
Although not particularly well known outside of wellness circles, gotu kola is an exceptional herb with a wealth of healing potential, particularly in the fight against chronic disease.
For people struggling to manage the symptoms of chronic disease, it can be hard to know where to turn. Reliable sources of information are few and far between, and the advice they offer is often conflicting. Working with practitioners can be helpful, but even if you’re able to find one willing to diagnose your chronic illness, they’re not always knowledgeable about treatment.
Symptom management may be particularly difficult for people with chronic illness who are interested in a more natural approach. If you don’t want to treat your fatigue, pain and other issues with conventional medication, what other choices do you have?
Luckily, there are a number of natural supplements that, when incorporated into a chronic disease treatment plan, can go a long way in relieving symptoms and improving overall quality of life. These include green ‘superfoods’ like chlorella.
What is chlorella?
Chlorella is a genus of green microalgae. While there are over 30 known species of chlorella; the two most commonly found in supplements are Chlorella vulgaris and Chlorella pyrenoidosa. Chlorella gets its vivid green colour from chlorophyll, of which it is a rich source. In fact, chlorella contains more chlorophyll per gram than any other plant.
In addition to chlorophyll, chlorella contains an abundance of other nutrients, helping it earn its ‘superfood’ status. These include:
- Vitamin C
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin B12
- Amino acids
- Beta carotene
Because of this impressive nutritional profile, chlorella supplements may help fill in gaps for people who aren’t able to get everything they need through diet alone. This supplemental nutrition can be especially helpful for people with chronic disease whose symptoms prevent them from having enough energy to cook balanced meals on a regular basis.
How can chlorella help in the fight against chronic disease?
Chlorella has been heavily studied, and scientists have uncovered a number of characteristics that may help in the fight against chronic disease. So what are the health benefits of chlorella? Here are a few.
Aids in removal of heavy metals and other toxins from the body
Chlorella appears to possess a unique ability to detoxify the body by aiding in the removal of heavy metals and other harmful compounds. Research indicates chlorella reduces the amount of toxins like mercury by wrapping itself around them and preventing them from being reabsorbed. Heavy metal toxicity can have serious implications for many different body systems, potentially exacerbating symptoms of chronic illness, and is further involved in reducing the success of antibiotic treatment. While avoiding contamination is important for everybody, people with chronic disease may find chlorella’s detoxifying potential particularly notable.
Strengthens the immune system
Chlorella has also been shown to boost immunity. In one study looking at healthy individuals and their immune response to chlorella supplements, participants showed improved immune response. Researchers attributed this improvement to increased activity in a type of immune cells known as ‘natural killer’ (NK) cells, which perform a critical role in immune function. Compromised immunity is a concern for many patients with chronic disease, so supplements like chlorella that help strengthen the immune system can be a powerful addition to chronic disease treatment plans. However, those with autoimmune disorders should consult with a doctor before using chlorella, since increased immune function may cause their condition to worsen.
May help relieve chronic illness symptoms like pain and tenderness
A pilot study published in 2000 examined the question of whether chlorella supplementation could produce any improvements in patients with moderately severe fibromyalgia symptoms. After taking chlorella supplements every day for two months, participants experienced a statistically significant reduction in palpable tenderness, representing a 22% decrease in pain intensity. Although more research is needed, these results demonstrate the potential of chlorella to support people with chronic diseases like fibromyalgia.
What are the dangers of chlorella?
While chlorella possesses many beneficial properties, it can sometimes do more harm than good. Depending on the origin of the product people buy, chlorella may actually have negative effects on the body due to contamination. And, as with any supplement, quality can vary wildly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Make Well takes these contamination concerns seriously, making them a top priority in terms of customer policy. This is why the chlorella (Chlorella pyrenoidosa) in our DTC plus is thoroughly tested for pesticides, toxins and heavy metals.
Other things to watch out for with chlorella include side effects like nausea or other digestive symptoms, as well as a rash or itching in those who may be allergic to it. Because chlorella supplements can sometimes contain high levels of vitamin K, people taking blood-thinning medications may want to avoid supplementing with chlorella. However, the chlorella algae is a freshwater algae which, contrary to its saltwater counterparts, is low in iodine and can also be administered in patients suffering from hyperthyroidism.
With its superfood status and variety of health benefits, chlorella has great potential to help in the fight against chronic disease. When using a reputable product like the ones produced by Make Well, people with chronic illnesses like Lyme disease and fibromyalgia may find that chlorella supplements work well to relieve symptoms and support overall health.