Haims: Inflammation at the core of almost every chronic disease (column) | VailDaily.com

Haims: Inflammation at the core of almost every chronic disease (column)

Judson Haims
Special to the Daily

A while back, I borrowed my wife's car while mine was in the shop. Unfortunately for me, I was on the phone when I filled it up with gas and was not paying attention. When the tank was full, I placed the gas nozzle back in its holder, took a quick glance at the price and got back in the car.

About two blocks away, I started thinking that the cost to fill the tank seamed a bit cheap for diesel fuel. When I opened my wallet to look at the receipt, my heart skipped a beat. Oops: Regular gas in a diesel engine was not going to be good. Thoughts of killing my wife's car and the associated repair costs caused panic to set in.

After pulling over to the side of the street, I sat for a few moments. I wondered to myself how much regular gas I had I put in the tank. Maybe, if there were more diesel in the tank than regular gas, then I would be OK and not have to tell my wife. Unfortunately for me, I had just filled three-quarters of the tank with the wrong gas.

I wound up calling a mechanic shop nearby and was told that, while there was no guarantee, driving the car another half-mile to the shop "might" not cause irreversible harm. By the time I got near the mechanic shop, I could tell the car wasn't running well. I was seeing the cause and effects of my error.

While I'm happy to share my misfortunes with you, and even give you a laugh at my expense, this article is not about me or the fuel I mistakenly put in the car. Rather, it is about the poor fuel choices we put in our bodies and the havoc it wreaks.

If you have not been paying much attention to the news, or your doctor, then poor food choices are killing us at an alarming rate. Dietary risks are the third-leading cause of death in the United States — taking a back seat to No. 1 tobacco and No. 2 high body mass. In fact, poor diet causes 1 in 5 deaths worldwide, according to the Institute for Health and Evaluation.

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This past weekend, I had the opportunity to hear a couple of today's leading medical scientists speak in Aspen. Michael Callahan, M.D., an expert on regenerative medicine and gene-encoded therapeutics who has spent eight years with the Food & Drug Administration, along with Atta Behfar, M.D., Ph.D., director of advanced heart failure, cardiac regeneration and interventional cardiology at Mayo Clinic.

While each scientist specializes in various fields of research, one common subject was that unwanted, persistent and high levels of inflammation are exacerbating many chronic diseases in the gut (inflammatory bowel disease) and joints (rheumatoid arthritis) and irritating the cells of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

Inflammation also leads to hyperglycemic blood levels (diabetes), inflammatory leukocytes such as neutrophils, monocytes, macrophages and eosinophils (cancer), atherosclerosis (cardiovascular diseases) and neuroinflammation caused by toxic proteins such as beta-amyloid (Alzheimer's).

When a scientist like Callahan explains how poor food choices cause inflammation and, therefore, harmful cellular changes to our bodies, it's worth taking heed.

Sugar, saturated fats (dairy, fatty meat), refined carbohydrates (fruit juices, pastries, white bread) and processed meats (sausage, deli meats high in sodium) exacerbate inflammation. Fruits (berries, oranges, tomatoes) olive oil, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale), nuts (almonds and walnuts) and fatty fish (salmon, tuna) combat inflammation.

The cause and effect of poor food choices is not as noticeable as putting in the wrong type of gas in your car. Unfortunately, poor food choices will most likely degrade your quality of life substantially — then kill you.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or visit http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.