In part one I discussed the problems associated with eating hydrogenated (trans) fats. Hydrogenated fats have no place in a healthy diet, and if not eliminated 100%, problems can, and usually do, arise. Trans fats are implicated in many disease processes as they have a negative impact on all tissues in the body, especially targeting the digestive, cardiovascular, immune, nervous, and hormonal systems.
I made a rather big deal about the less than stringent view on trans fats consumption. Inflammation is the major problem when it comes to eating these man-made foods and inflammation is present in every disease process.
That leads us to dealing with the inflammation. Unfortunately most people turn to their favorite non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), whether that is aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen (Aleve). This is the easy way out of short term pain and discomfort, but it does not come without a price.
Let me quickly review: Prostaglandins are fat-derived hormones that regulate and modify many body functions including inflammation. NSAIDs work by blocking both the pro-inflammatory as well as the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Inflammation is reduced because of the high level of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins caused by trans fat intake, as well as other dietary and lifestyle factors that I will not discuss here. The NSAIDs also reduce the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. These levels are already very low, (usually from trans fat intake, excessive carbohydrate intake, and other dietary concerns), regardless of an individual’s intake of certain healthy fats from healthy fats such as fish oil, flax, vegetables, and nuts & seeds.
Medical science now recognizes the dangers of NSAIDs in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Upset stomach, bleeding, and ulcers are common problems from using NSAIDs to varying degrees. Even in small doses, NSAIDs cause some form of GI bleeding. There are usually no warning signs to let you know that damage is being done. The American Gastroenterological Association notes that, “Bleeding alone from NSAID use results in nearly 103,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths each year in the United States. That’s more deaths than from AIDS and more than four times as many deaths as those from cervical cancer each year in the U.S.”.
Over one-half of the immune system is located in the GI tract under what is called the Gut Associated Lymph Tissue (GALT). This would lead us to rationalize that the gut is not just important for digestion, but a healthy immune system. NSAIDs decrease gut immunity and that often leads to digestive disturbances from yeast overgrowth to increased susceptibility to food allergies and other pathogens.
And there are more problems which result from NSAID use. They have been shown to decrease folic acid activity and interfere with vitamin C activity. Obviously, these are important nutrients. Folic acid is responsible for the health of red blood cells, a proper functioning nervous and cardiovascular system, as well as in repair of cartilage and tissue. Vitamin C, one of the most beneficial anti-oxidants, is necessary for a healthy immune and endocrine system, as well as general overall health.
Oh wait, there’s more! Next time you want to pop some ibuprofen before a race because you think you’re going to recover faster, think about this. In some people NSAIDs actually cause more inflammation than the inflammation originally caused by the prostaglandins which NSAIDs block. Did you read that right? Is that possible? Yes and yes. Leukotrienes, which are potent pro-inflammatory mediators, are responsible for these actions and they can be 10 to 1000 more inflammatory than the prostaglandin which you were trying to block with the NSAID! Leukotrienes are implicated in inflammatory processes such as irritable bowel and asthma. Think about how many people you know, maybe yourself, who take these drugs everyday and have symptoms that nobody can figure out.
Lastly, for the icing on the non-hydrogenated cake, realize that NSAIDs decrease the availability of sulfates in your body. Sulfates are used by your liver to break down hormones such as estrogen and cortisol. Sulfates are depleted from NSAID use very rapidly, leading to impaired detoxification. Sulfates are also needed for joint cartilage synthesis for repair of injured joints. It doesn’t seem all that logical to be taking NSAIDs to help with an injured joint when it is going to deplete the necessary nutrients needed for that joint to heal. Throw in the possibility of more inflammation and impaired GI absorption, and you’re looking at a long recovery – or maybe a recovery that never comes. Read more about joint health and sulfates here at SockDoc.
The basis of this two part article is to put the facts out there on what trans fats and NSAIDs will do to your body. You’ve got to be responsible for your own health and hopefully you will think twice before you eat something hydrogenated or are told by a friend, physician, or voice inside your head to pop a NSAID to get through the day. Healthy Omega 3s (fish oil & flax) and Omega 6s (nuts, seeds, vegetables) fats act as natural anti-inflammatory medications. Remember this: Aspirin is not a vitamin and margarine is not a food.