Plant Metabolites and Chronic Diseases
Natural nutrients (or metabolites) present in plants are beneficial to humans. They can be grouped into two namely, primary and secondary. The primary nutrients (or metabolites) include carbohydrates, amino acids, fatty acids and proteins. These are generally involved with the life processes of the plant such as growth, respiration, reproduction and development. Interestingly these metabolites play similar roles in humans. On the other hand, secondary metabolites are produced in the plant after a period of active growth. In plants, the absence of secondary metabolites may not significantly affect them, however in humans their presence strongly promote good health by preventing or minimizing acute and chronic diseases.
We will briefly look into how chronic diseases develop and how plant metabolites prevent, minimize or modify chronic diseases. Some of the major contributors to chronic diseases are free radicals, inflammation and xenobiotics. Mitochondria and xenobiotics are major sources of free radicals in the body. Normally, the free radicals generated by the mitochondria support the immune system in fighting diseases. However, when mitochondria become dysfunctional, they tend to overproduce free radicals. Excess free radicals have the potential of attacking macromolecules (e.g., proteins, nucleic acids, lipids and carbohydrates), tissues and organs of the body as well as the mitochondria itself. Such attack can be regarded as a “chemical injury” on a biological structure. The injury caused by free radicals result in the recruitment of various factors including white blood cells to the injury site – with the intent of repairing and that constitute inflammation. Inflammation becomes beneficial if it is temporal. However if it is chronic, it has the ability to accelerate the production of more free radicals causing more injury to tissues and organs, and exacerbating existing conditions.
The attack of free radicals on macromolecules especially proteins can lead to misfolded proteins that produce partly functional or non-functional proteins. If the misfolded protein happens to be an enzyme, a hormone or part of a biological structure, many diseases and illness could develop (e.g. musculo-skeletal disorders, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington disease, cystic fibrosis and many other degenerative diseases). Also if the free radicals attack a genetic material, mutations could develop. Genetic mutations have been implicated in diseases like cancer and could possibly be a strong contributor to autoimmune diseases/disorders.
Plant metabolites have the ability to bring about wellness in many ways if they are consumed in a diet or are used as alternative medicine as described below.
Many plant metabolites possess antioxidant/anti-radical properties (e.g., Vitamin C, E, K, Phenolics and Terpenes). These metabolites adopt varied mechanisms including a direct reaction with the free radicals, rendering them harmless. Regular use/consumption of plant products so as to supply metabolites may be important as long as “excess” free radicals are always being produced in humans. The expected benefit is the lowering of the incidence of acute and chronic diseases.
Plant metabolites have direct effect on inflammation as they can inhibit the biochemical processes that lead to inflammation. Also because the metabolites have the ability to neutralize the potency of free radicals, they can prevent “chemical injury” which is a cause of inflammation As we mentioned earlier, chronic inflammation can cause many chronic diseases as well as accelerate the production of free radicals and vice versa.
Many plant metabolites can be processed by human enzymes. The ability of our enzymes to break down or modify plant metabolites is important because that minimizes toxicity and makes them largely safe to use. In other words, toxicity can arise if the body is unable to sufficiently process foreign substances. The products from the enzymatic transformation can be absorbed and utilized efficiently for the benefit of the body. The by-products that are generated from such transformations are also easily removed by organs specialized for excretion.
Plant metabolites are many and diverse in structure and functional groups. These properties enable them to compete with disease causing substances (e.g. xenobiotics and antigens/toxins of infectious organisms) that bind to enzymes and receptors in the body. By displacing these disease causing substances from the binding sites of enzymes and receptors in the body, they directly minimize or prevent disease. They are also able to directly react and nullify disease causing substances such as free radicals and xenobiotics as was mentioned previously. The end result is overall improvement in health.
The normal pH of blood is slightly alkaline (pH 7.4) and that promotes many useful biochemical reactions in the body. However, the pH of the blood is sensitive to plant metabolites. Acid producing plant metabolites dip the pH and vice versa. An acidic blood will not favor a “healthy” metabolism. Also, it may be grounds for initiating or enhancing chronic diseases. In other words, plant metabolites that boost alkaline pH of blood may be more beneficial in preventing or minimizing chronic diseases.
There are numerous natural products that
help with chronic diseases. Turmeric and Ginger are typical of this
group. In their fresh and natural forms they provide metabolites that
have direct effect on free radicals and inflammation.
The two also have effect on a range of chronic diseases including
degenerative diseases. Generally plant metabolites – especially
secondary metabolites contribute significantly to preventing or
minimizing chronic diseases and it is worthwhile using them as
alternative medicines or including them in our diets.
We at nnatural wellness solutions specialize in using natural products for various types of body pain, swelling and stiffness. Relief is almost immediate and lasting. Please feel free to contact us if you need support for your chronic conditions.
Optimizing Health Benefits From the Use of Natural Products
Many natural products are of plant origin and they contain secondary metabolites which can be used for preventing or improving various health conditions including Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Inflammation, Hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease and Cancer. Secondary metabolites of plants (natural products) have been the basis of many popular orthodox medicines. Here, we shall briefly discuss factors that can help optimize the health benefits from the use of natural products.
Generally, natural products which are of good quality and potency offer better health benefits. The quality of a natural product can be determined by the age at which it was harvested and it’s shelf life. When natural products are harvested at an age other than their optimal age for potency, and when the standard conditions for processing and preservation are compromised, the natural products become denatured and begin to lose the amount and variety of ingredients in them. Such natural products will not offer much health benefits.
The potency of natural products on the other hand depends on several factors. One of them is the geographical area where the natural product was cultivated and harvested. For example, a natural product (e.g., ginger) grown and harvested from tropical and temperate regions will have different degree of potency with the tropical ginger likely being more potent. The main reason for this is the varying climate and soil conditions prevailing at these different geographical regions. Plants grown in Green Houses can be conditioned to partially overcome some of these “potency issues.” Therefore knowing the source of your natural product may increase your health benefits.
Natural Ingredients are distributed to different extents in various parts of a plant (or a natural product). In some cases, the leaves may be more concentrated with the desired ingredients than the bark, stem or roots of the plant, and vice versa. Generally for ginger and turmeric, the roots/stems are thought to contain more of desired ingredients for pain and inflammation than other parts of the plant. The inner bark of cinnamon is thought to have more of desired ingredients for chronic diseases than the rest of the plant. Also the leaves of Aloe Vera contain more desired ingredients for various health conditions than other parts of the plant. Therefore identifying the right part of a natural product for our health needs is important.
The route of administration of a natural product may determine its impact on health. Natural products can be incorporated regularly in the food we eat, taken as a drink, inhaled as vapors or applied topically. Sometimes we do not have many options when only one route of administration is the most efficacious. For example, in some cases of respiratory diseases (as in sinusitis and asthma) it may be ideal to inhale vapors of selected natural products. Also for immediate relief from joint pain and other localized pain, swelling and stiffness, it may be more effective to topically apply a natural product cream.
How frequently natural products are used may determine whether they could prevent or reduce the impact of acute or chronic diseases. Generally, if we desire to use natural products to prevent or manage our healthconditions, we need to use/consume them regularly and in adequate quantities.
In many instances, selective combination of natural products can provide synergistic effects on health. For example, Turmeric, Ginger, Fish,Papaya and Pineapple are all anti-inflammatory agents and when taken regularly together, they can provide powerful synergistic effects on inflammation – a condition which form the basis of many chronic diseases. A person who uses just one of the above natural products will have fewer health benefits than the one who uses a selective combination from the above pool. That is, the more the variety, the more the favorable impact on health.
Physical Pain and Therapy
Pain is a discomfort that could be experienced from any part of the body. The basis of most types of pain is a tissue, organ or system that has experienced an injury or an impaired biochemical process. It can be classified in many ways and we shall attempt to discuss a few here.
Pain could develop suddenly but may be temporal in nature - making it an acute type (example is a strain or a sprain on a muscle or a bone fracture). It may also be recurring and persistent making it chronic – for example a progressive degeneration and inflammation of tissues at joints as occurs in some musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis, and joint and muscle pain not related to arthritis as in fibromyalgia, lupus and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Another classification looks at whether pain is coming from
a malfunctioning tissue/organ or a malfunctioning nervous system. The
former is referred to as nociceptive pain and the latter non-nociceptive pain (also sometimes
referred to as neuropathic pain).
Intensity of pain is also used to classify pain and largely depends on the person experiencing it. Sometimes a scale of 0 –
10 is used with zero (0) indicating no pain and ten (10)
being most painful.
During the natural course of aging, pain could also develop. Generally as we age the ability of the body to replace old and worn out tissues reduces. In the long run that causes minor to major disorders including thinning or degeneration of the disc in between vertebrae and thinning or loss of cartilage at the joints. These in turn can put strain on nerves or damage them. Thus, it is possible to develop both nociceptive and non--nociceptive pain in this scenario. The pain could also be chronic.
.Physical pain or in other words bodily pain takes away from our wellness and could reduce our ability to perform basic routine activities and exercises to keep the whole body in optimal condition. It is therefore important that we effectively control it. Pain management or treatment becomes challenging when one experiences a mixture of chronic nociceptive and non-nociceptive pain at the same time. Let us take for example a person who is suffering from a lower back pain as a result of: displaced vertebrae, degenerating disc, herniated disc, bulging disc or sciatica. These conditions could lead lead to inflammation and a strain or damage to nerves and muscles in the surrounding areas. We can deduce that this type of lower back pain is likely a combination of malfunctioning musculoskeletal and nervous tissues - which is complicated. Thus, this type of pain could pose a challenge to treatment or effective management.
Methods for resolving or relieving pain could be broadly divided into two, namely medical and non-medical therapies. The medical approaches include diagnosing the source of pain with the appropriate instrumentation (which involves various imaging techniques) followed by prescribing the right medication and/or surgery. The non-medical approach include use of alternative medicines - including natural remedies, homeopathy, herbal medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, general exercises and good nutrition.
Another classification looks at whether pain is targeted directly or rather, if the targeting is towards the associated symptoms. Those methods which target the pain directly attempt to reduce or eliminate pain intensity. The alternative method under this classification addresses the associated symptoms that come with the pain – for example depression, lack of motivation to perform routine activities, exercises and so on. This later method is normally adopted when the sufferer decides to live with the pain and/or avoid a complicated surgery – and there are many cases like that.
Some people employ several therapeutic approaches
simultaneously to address their pain. Others use only a single approach. The
former becomes useful when we target a chronic multi-faceted pain. However, there
are certain basic practices which help to alleviate pain irrespective of the
method or number of methods we adopt. These practices include good nutrition that
highlights food substances that help minimize pain and inflammation,
exercises including walking, stretching and range of joint motions. It also
helps to avoid sedentary lifestyles. We shall discuss more in another news letter.