Traditional medicine and natural remedies have been around and used for preventing or reversing many diseases and conditions, including heart disease. Here are some of the good ones.
Heart Disease and Inflammation
Recently, the connection between both of them has been solidified. Evidence exists that inflammation may even play a larger role in heart disease than even high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL).
Furthermore, from the medical and oral health literature, the link between gum disease (inflammation) and heart disease has been clearly linked. Researchers have clearly established that poor oral health leads to inflammation of the gums and soft tissues in the mouth. This inflammation increases the risk of heart disease.
Armed with the knowledge of the major importance of reducing inflammation within the body, anyone conscious of their health and longevity should focus on methods to cut down inflammation. Specific dietary factors and natural sources of anti-inflammatories are the perfect way to reduce inflammation.
How Heart Disease Affects our Body?
Heart disease as most physicians define it is much broader and affects more than just the heart. Through a complicated process that involves inflammation at its core, the blood vessels are adversely affected.
Over time the vessels walls deteriorate and the inside path blood takes (lumen) becomes blocked. In simplistic terms, think of a drinking straw that is partially blocked and how difficult it is to drink from it in that blocked state. These effects are cumulative over time and result in devastating conditions such as heart attack and stroke.
The digestive tract can also be affected by this condition. If the blood vessels supplying the intestines are blocked and blood flow is limited, the patient will experience pain that is generally worsening by eating.
Over time, heart disease can weaken the walls of blood vessels and result in enlargement of vessels called aneurysms. Age and high blood pressure also contribute to the development of aneurysms.
Most men fail to realize that sexual dysfunction is a result of heart disease. The blood vessels of the genitalia are also affected.
How to Know If You Have Heart Disease?
Symptoms vary depending on the individual. Women may have different symptoms than men. Here are some symptoms that suggest this condition:
- Chest discomfort, pain, tightness or pressure - especially if occurring during activity
- Shortness of breath
- Leg or buttock pain that occurs during activity and is relieved by rest (this is called claudication)
- Discomfort radiating up the neck, jaw or into either shoulder or arm
- Unusual fatigue
- Sexual and erectile dysfunction in males
- Unexplained nausea especially in elderly or diabetics
- Severe abdominal pain or pain radiating to the back
- Stroke symptoms such as numbness or slurred speech
What are the Goals for Treating These Conditions?
The goals of treatment are an overall reduction of inflammation. Physicians can measure inflammation by using several markers in the blood - ESR and CRP.
ESR = erythrocyte sedimentation rate and CRP is C reactive protein. These can be followed during treatment as a decrease is a sign that therapy is working as intended. Very high levels of either or both of these suggest that there is a serious level of inflammation occurring within the body and signifies a threat to a person’s health.
The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life, improve function and decrease the effects of inflammation while minimizing the risk of heart disease.
Which Medicines from Natural Sources Work for Heart Disease?
Fish Oil Supplements
Consumption of fish or fish oil supplements are high in Omega-3-fatty acids. Scientists and medical researchers know these compounds are beneficial in reducing inflammation.
These effects have also been well documented for patients with heart disease. Doctors have found that consuming approximately 250 mg/day reduces the risk of dying from heart disease including sudden death from heart disease. At these doses, there does not appear to be any significant risk.
The other option is to eat one or two servings of an oily fish per week. People at high risk for heart disease should consider regular fish consumption or supplements as a natural strategy to help prevent it.
Patients often complain of a bad taste or “fishy” burps when using supplements. Refrigerating the supplements can help minimize that effect.
Part of the disease process of heart and vascular (blood vessel) disease is the accumulation of build up inside the vessel channel. Platelets, the cells that help clot and stop bleeding, play a role in this process.
We know that ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory and has shown to inhibit platelet function. This action may help prevent heart disease.
A word of caution - for those taking blood thinners or with a tendency to bleed easily, ginger consumption can increase the risk of bleeding.
Another natural remedy includes the use of turmeric, a spice, in cooking. Patients may also take 1-2 capsules daily as a supplement. Curcumin is the anti-oxidant extract and a major component of turmeric. Through its chemical and anti-oxidant properties is helps maintain cardiovascular and colon health.
Studies have shown that by lowering the bad cholesterol (LDL), turmeric may help prevent heart disease.
Turmeric also acts on platelets and helps prevent them from clumping together. There is some anecdotal evidence that supports a decreased risk in forming dangerous blood clots.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. A simple way to utilize this is by adding it to spice up a variety of food dishes.
Silkworms posses an enzyme that breaks down proteins. This enzyme is called serrapeptase. Reports throughout the alternative medicine literature support a beneficial decrease in inflammation and pain.
The medical literature has shown mixed reviews mostly because the investigational trials contained small numbers of patients or the studies were designed poorly.
Natto is a popular Japanese food that is made from boiled soybeans that have been fermented. The fermentation process is carried out using a bacterium called Bacillus natto.
Nattokinase is then extracted from natto and has been shown to speed up chemical processes. This enzyme has been used widely for hundreds of years and was discovered by Dr. Sumi at the University of Chicago.
Nattokinase is believed to work by inhibiting inflammation and acting as a natural blood thinner. For this reason it is believed to help prevent heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
As a natural remedy, it has been used for treating the pain associated with fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue and pelvic pain syndromes.
Other Approaches to Help and Speed Up the Healing Process
Diet and Exercise
Diet and exercise are the most underutilized activity in attacking health problems. Many people lose interest or quit prematurely.
Mindset is the key. Approach these as a lifelong lifestyle modification and not a quick fix. Because the results come slowly, many people give up before the true health benefits are realized. Consistency and dedication are key as medical research shows that 30 and preferably 60 minutes of daily exercise has proven health benefits.
Through lifestyle modification, natural products and whole foods disease processes can be reversed and even eliminated. The number of patients experiencing resolution of adult onset diabetes through diet, exercise and natural foods is well documented.
Scientists, physicians and researchers are learning more and more every day about the healing powers of natural anti-inflammatories and food products.
Prescription medications can help control symptoms and diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes, but it is important to understand that these medicines do NOT cure anything. They are only aimed at treating the symptoms or the results of the disease itself (lowering blood sugar from diabetes).
Yoga, Tai Chi and Meditation
Yoga, Tai Chi and meditation are adjuncts to a health diet and lifestyle modification. These traditional forms of exercise have proven health benefits including stress reduction.
Intense physical exercise will improve fitness and stamina, but it also generates inflammation in the body. Adding gentle forms of exercise such as Yoga can help balance these effects. Looking at the demographic statistics on death, it is clear that traditional Asian cultures are doing something right.
What many fail to realize is that Western medicine is actually the new kid on the block. Traditional medicine and natural remedies have been around for thousands of years. While modern medicine has advanced at a rapid technologic pace, many of the disease processes remain unsolved.
Applying the evidence from hundreds of years of use may allow the incorporation of natural and traditional remedies to finally discover the solution to prevent or reverse many illnesses.