Men’s Health Month calls for a spotlight on one especially insidious health foe–chronic inflammation. To clarify, your body’s basic inflammatory response–acute inflammation–is a natural reaction to injury, enabling your white blood cells to protect you from infection, bacteria and viruses. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand–which occurs when your pro–inflammatory immune cells are stimulated ongoing–is a different story.
It appears that this continuous, low-level inflammation, which is promoted by stresses like smoking, high cholesterol and obesity, encourages the buildup of arterial plaque–fatty deposits in the inner lining of your arteries. To add insult to injury, inflammation makes this plaque more likely to rupture and create blood clots, inviting heart attack and stroke.
How do you know if you have dangerously advanced inflammation? The most widely used means of measuring your levels is the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein test (hsCRP). High C-reactive protein is associated with a greater risk of both stroke and atherosclerosis progression and is also highly predictive of recurrent heart attacks, diabetes, and cardiovascular death.1
While there are many causes of inflammation, one may surprise you–too little sleep. You may know that insufficient sleep is associated with poor attention/performance deficits, but fewer people realize that it also increases cardiovascular risk factors like blood pressure, glucose metabolism, hormonal regulation and inflammation. Insomnia not only hikes your risk of inflammation, but of overall cardiac death as well.2
Deep sleep is crucial for repairing daily wear and tear on the body, and dreaming restores the efficiency of the brain. Unfortunately, many of us are running at a sleep deficit. In fact, insomnia–one of the most common sleep complaints–chronically affects up to 10% of Americans.
Many slumber–depleted individuals resort to sleeping pills, which is an unhealthy practice as these drugs can be habit forming. However, there are some safe, highly effective natural sleep aids. Though ingredients may vary, L-tryptophan is one to look for. In addition to being a precursor for melatonin–a hormone involved in human sleep patterns–L-tryptophan is also the primary substance that can be converted into serotonin. Increasing serotonin levels greatly enhances a person’s sense of well being and maximizes sleep.4
And guess what? You’ll be giving inflammation a powerful "one-two punch." Not only will L-tryptophan help you sleep which reduces inflammation–L-tryptophan itself is an inflammation buster. According to a 2011 study, increased inflammation is related to low tryptophan concentrations.4
Stay tuned for more information on natural lifestyle tactics to protect you from health–imperiling inflammation. For now, sweet dreams...
1 J Periodontol. 2008 Aug;79(8 Suppl):1544-51
2 Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Jan-Feb;51(4):294-302
3 Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010 Mar;34(3):387-407. Epub 2009 Aug 26
4 Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Jan 28. [Epub ahead of print]