The Many Ways Chronic Inflammation Threatens Your Health, and How Citrus Peel Can Help

inflamed elbowIn our first article on the benefits of citrus peel, we learned that traditional Chinese Medicine has known about the benefits of citrus peel for thousands of years[1], and that Chemists have recently identified a handful of compounds in citrus peel[2] (Hesperidin, Nobiletin, Limonene, and Alpha-Pinene) that have demonstrated an amazing array of benefits, including healing burns and achy joints, preventing bone loss, preventing premature aging in skin, muscles, bones, keeping your nerves and your brain in top shape, protecting your body from the effects of stress, improving digestion, and preventing big killers like cancer and heart disease.

Since a list this big and broad sounds too good to be true, we decided to take a closer look at five areas that medical researchers have identified to be likely causes of many diseases and maladies, and see if the agents in citrus peel had any effect on them. Those five areas were:

  1. Glycation
  2. Oxidation
  3. Inflammation
  4. Neural Degeneration
  5. Gut Health

Our first article explored how some of the active agents in citrus peel were able to help preserve your body’s prime and offset the aging process by preventing the glycation process by 75%[3], and combating free radical damage (oxidation) in organs and tissues. [4],[5]

Now, we’re going to dive headlong into one of the greatest causes of discomfort and disease in the modern world: stress and inflammation.

How Stress Damages Your Body

Stress is so deeply woven into the fabric of modern life that complaining about it is almost cliché; we barely have compassion for people suffering from it, because, hey dude, that’s life. Suck it up.

That’s a shame, because it’s probably going to kill them. And possibly you. Chronic stress, and the inflammatory response to the effects of stress, have been implicated in:

  • Heart disease and stroke [6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13]
  • Obesity, especially central abdominal obesity (which is implicated in both heart disease and diabetes) [14],[15],[16],[17]
  • Any of the 200 autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and hundreds of others) [18],[19],[20],[21]
  • Increasing your risk of cancer[22],[23],[24],[25],[26],[27],[28],[29] and making cancer worse once you have it[30],[31],[32],[33],[34]

Not a pretty list of threats, is it?

Even if your health doesn’t go that far down, ongoing stress can also make you at risk for significant digestive disorders (ulcers, acid reflux, intestinal infections) debilitating fatigue (the kind where you can’t get out of bed), and emotional disorders (depression, anxiety, anger). It can rob you of memory and motor function, ruin your sex life, and become a powerful trigger for addictive habits (drinking, smoking, over-eating, pornography, drug abuse, etc.)[35],[36],[37],[38]

So, for as commonly as people bitch about it, the true nature of stress is anything but cliché. I don’t care how many cute blog posts have been written about it, or how many leaflets have been printed with pretty yoga-women posing in nature with their eyes closed, offering tips on stress reduction. The point remains: very few people appreciate the full extent of this problem.

One of the chief ways that chronic stress can cause you serious physical harm is that the inflammatory response is part of your body’s stress response.[39],[40],[41] That means that chronic stress leads to chronic inflammation.

That’s a very significant, often-overlooked point. Medical research is continuing to discover links between chronic, low-level inflammation and many of the diseases of civilization[42] (what some are beginning to call “diseases of homeostasis” – diseases that result from being out of balance for too long.)

Too-Much-Too-Often is the Problem

It’s not that stress and inflammation are inherently bad. They’ve got their part to play. It’s just that the stress response and the inflammatory response are both supposed to be short, like a well-organized military strike: Get in, get it done, and get out. The stress responses releases hormones that are very useful in a life-or-death, fight or flight scenario. When released, your body is expecting two things to be true[43]:

  1. You are about to use explosive amounts of intense physical energy with your body.
  2. You are going to relax and recover once it’s over.

A short stress response followed by a burst of intensity and some downtime aids recovery and healing. A short inflammatory response brings blood and nutrients to stressed tissue and helps with healing.

But what happens when there’s no burst of intensity, and no downtime? Your body goes out of balance (homeostasis) and gets confused. [44],[45] There’s no hard working tissues sending out an SOS, so inflammation becomes chronic and unfocused. This state degrades tissue over time, and eventually, something breaks.

And the vaaaaaast majority of things in the modern world that trigger a stress response require no burst of physical energy, and provide no downtime. We aren’t being confronted with slavering saber toothed tigers or running from guys with stone spears, dirty loin cloths, and 3 teeth. But the stress response gets triggered anyway.

Biochemically, you don’t have a “long line at the MVA” stress response. You only have the saber-toothed tiger stress response. And we have created a world in which stressors invade at all hours of the day without respite. We are dominated by the incessant demands of work and the endless pressure to perform, to prove our worth, to get ahead, to demonstrate our productivity to roving micro-managers by moving fast, looking busy, and filling out reams of unnecessary forms.

Ironically, even our forms of recreation are filled with stressors: Movies, TV, and pop music are filled with forms of over-stimulation designed to trigger an adrenaline rush, and our recreation is usually filled with sedentary forms of overeating and excessive drinking.

Stress Has Many Faces

Keep in mind, stress doesn’t just mean the psychological stress of cramming at midnight for tomorrow’s exam over burned coffee and hot pockets. Stress can also be:

  • Chemical — like ingesting too many pesticide residues.
  • Biological — like succumbing to an infection, or having a candida overgrowth in your gut.
  • Structural — like overworking a muscle, hyper-extending a joint, or bruising a bone.

Stress is also exacerbated any time there’s too little renewal. So lack of sleep, lack of nutrition, and lack of time in healthy relationships will weaken you further.

Wow, this article’s turning into a real upper, isn’t it? Don’t worry, there’s some good news ahead.

What Can You Do?

Since stress has so many causes, reducing stress goes way beyond the scope of this article, and always needs to be tailored to your personal situation. But once stress becomes physical and triggers chronic, low level, inflammation, that gives us a single target. That’s something we can start to address.

And we have something for it: Citrus Peel shines brightly in its effects on inflammation in many of its forms.

Citrus Peel Has Potent Anti-Inflammatory Effects

The nobiletin in citrus peel has been shown to reduce inflammation better than indomethacin, a non-steroidal drug used to reduce inflammation in gout and arthritis.[46] The body seems to like to use nobiletin for this. It readily converts nobiletin into its own anti-inflammatory agents that are even more powerful.[47]

Both nobiletin and Alpha-pinene have also worked an anti-histamine for allergic reactions [48],[49].

Reducing Joint Inflammation and Preserving Joint Cartilage

Significantly, this pair is also effective at reducing joint inflammation[50].

They’re also able to spare joints from wear and tear by preventing the breakdown of cartilage[51], [52]. You should note here that you can’t regrow cartilage you’ve already lost. If you want to protect your joints from arthritis, you’ve got to start while the cartilage is still there.

Tissue Healing

The Limonene in citrus peel is also a potent fighter of inflammation.[53] Because the anti-inflammatory effects are non-toxic, it aids in tissue repair and healing on skin[54] and epithelial tissue.[55]

That’s significant–you’ll find epithelial tissue on the insides of your lungs, your entire gastrointestinal tract, your reproductive and urinary tracts, all of your glands, parts of your eye, and the inner linings of your heart and your blood vessels.

Why Should a High Contact Athlete Care About Inflammation?

Let’s say you don’t think you’re susceptible to any of the disease states linked to chronic inflammation. Let’s say you’ve got a good grip on stress reduction techniques and a fairly balanced life. Do you have any reason to be concerned with the effects of inflammation?

Yes you do, because you’re producing inflammation every time you train, and especially if you overtrain. Your central nervous system and your tissues have to handle your training stress on top of whatever stress load and inflammation is already in your system. If there’s too much, your body’s response to your training won’t be what it could be.

Further, your typical choices for anti-inflammatory aids are poor. Your standard choices and NSAIDS like ibuprofen, Tylenol, and aspirin.

Why Not Just Pop Some Aspirin or Ibuprofen?

The first reason athletes shouldn’t reach for NSAIDS as a first solution is that they don’t work as a recovery aid for normal wear-and-tear and soreness. Athletes report no difference in soreness when taking NSAIDS after training, and their blood markers of inflammation actually increase. [56]

More seriously, there’s a significant risk of intestinal injury for athletes taking NSAIDS.[57] This shouldn’t be all that surprising – Bleeding ulcers from NSAIDs kill tens of thousands of people each year. Even low-dose aspirin therapy, over the long haul, almost doubles the likelihood of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage[58].

NSAIDS also hit your kidneys hard and increase your risk of kidney failure as you age. [59],[60]. It’s estimated that nearly 15% of the people are receiving kidney dialysis because of damage from Tylenol and aspirin.

Finally, there’s an increased risk of heart disease with NSAIDS. [61],[62],[63] If you already have some of the symptoms of cardiovascular disease, your risk goes up tenfold. NSAIDS also increase your blood pressure, which is itself a risk factor in cardiovascular disease.[64],[65]

Popping an NSAID once in a while for a headache isn’t going to kill you. But why not take something more effective, with no toxicity, and a multitude of other benefits? Seems like common sense to me.

If you’d like to try some citrus peel for yourself, I recommend our new green tea and citrus peel blend. We also have excellent Qing Pi and Chen Pi available. You can get it ground if you like, which makes it a cinch to add to teas and smoothies.

Up Next …

In the next article, we’re going to look at all of the ways citrus peel helps fight neural degeneration.

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John Wenger

John Wenger

Contributing Author
John Wenger is a certified personal trainer with extensive personal experience in performance enhancement and physical transformation, and has been a respected researcher in health, fitness and peak performance for 15 years.

One response to “The Many Ways Chronic Inflammation Threatens Your Health, and How Citrus Peel Can Help”

  1. Hi Christine. The best product we have for arthritis is Ancestors Advanced topical formula. It is excellent for reducing pain and improving joint function. As for the citrus peel, yes, you can grind this (or purchase already ground) and place in a capsule to take it that way.

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