Richard G. Petty, MD

A New Way of Looking at – and Treating – Inflammation

Diseases of both large and small blood vessels are two of the biggest problem facing people with diabetes. Not only is it a huge clinical challenge, but also nature sometimes does our experiments for us. The high rates of coronary and peripheral vascular disease in diabetes can be seen as a kind of experiment of nature: a recognizable set of chemical abnormalities that might shed light on vascular diseases in general. It was those twin factors: a huge clinical problem, and an experiment of nature, that lead me to pick the topic of my research doctorate. 

When I was working on my research doctorate in the mid 1980s, I came across a lot of old research that seemed to show links between inflammatory and autoimmune conditions like systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatic fever, and the eventual development of coronary artery disease. There was also a lot of old and largely forgotten research about the link between some viral infections and the development of coronary artery disease and acute coronary artery occlusions, because some infections can make blood more “sticky.” Inflammation evolved as one of the body’s defence mechanisms.

So I made the proposal – revolutionary at the time – that diabetes, coronary artery disease and a range of other illnesses might be inflammatory rather than degenerative. I soon found inflammatory markers in people with diabetes, that helped predict when someone was running into trouble with their eyes, kidneys or heart.  Even with stacks of data, I had to spend a lot of time defending that position, because it also implied that some illnesses thought to be irreversible might not be.

With the passage of time, it has tuned out that I was probably correct. Chronic inflammation, wherever it starts, mat have long-term effects on the body and on the mind. Chronic inflammation increases the risk of diseases of many blood vessels, as well as causing anemia, organic depression and cognitive impairment. Here is a partial list of common conditions in which inflammation is a prominent factor:
1.  Rheumatoid arthritis
2.  Systemic lupus erythematosus
3.  Fibromyalgia
4.  Chronic infections
5.  Insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome
6.  Arteriosclerosis
7.  Diabetes mellitus
8.  Hypertension
9.  Asthma
10. Inflammatory bowel disease
11. Psoriasis
12. Migraine
13. Peripheral neuropathy
14. Alzheimer’s disease
15. Autism
16. Gingivitis
17. Cystitis

The reason for raising the issue is not to say “told you so!”

It is instead that we need to think about inflammation a little differently. There is a mountain of information about the physical aspects of inflammation. We can stop at the simple description of inflammation as a condition in which part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, and usually painful, or we can look below the surface: we can examine inflammation not only as a physical problem, but also as a psychological, social, subtle and spiritual problem. Why bother? Because the deeper approach allows us to understand and to treat and transcend inflammation as never before.

I am going to write some more about specific ways to address inflammation and what it means in future articles. I would also like to direct you to the book Healing, Meaning and Purpose, in which I talk about specific approaches in more detail.

But I would like to start with this.

In Ayurvedic and homeopathic medicine, inflammation is a sign of an imbalance in the vital forces of the body, and the traditional Chinese system agrees: here inflammation is usually a manifestation of an excess of Yang Qi, or a deficiency of Yin Qi. Most of our lives are seriously out of balance: Yang Qi is like a rampaging lion that has been stimulated by:
Acidic foods;
Environmental toxins;
Unwanted sexual stimulation:
Discordant music:
Constant demands from others:
Toxic relationships;
Years spent in front of television sets and limitless multi-tasking.

It should be no surprise to learn that all of these inflammatory conditions are increasing rapidly throughout the Western world. Not because we are getting better at identifying them, or we are living longer, but genuinely increasing.

It is wrong to put all the blame on poor diets or inadequate exercise. The problem is more subtle and is a reflection of distorted Information being fed to our bodies, minds, relationships, subtle systems and spiritual relationships.

The great news is that this simple conceptual shift gives us a whole load of new tools for handling these problems, and for using them as catalysts to growth.

In the next few weeks, I am going to drill down and give you some specific guidance that ties into the material in Healing, Meaning and Purpose and the next two that are on the launch pad.

Fasten your seat belt!

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A Breakthrough in the Pharmacological Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy

One of the most distressing complication of diabetes is damage to the retina of the eyes. It is more likely to occur in people with poor metabolic control, but no diabetes sufferers seem to be totally immune from it. But there is no question, that in contrast to some diabetic complications, the level of blood glucose is closely related to the risk of getting retinopathy.In people of working age living in the Western world, diabetes is the number one cause of blindness, and blindness is twenty times more common in people with diabetes than in those without it.

It is such a major problem, that I had the privilege of spending several years working on the problem at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London, and diabetic retinopathy was a key part of my doctoral dissertation.

So if something new turns up, I always prick up my ears.

Well, we do seem to have something new. The trouble has been that there are complex mechanisms underlying the effects of diabetes on causing complications like retinopathy. At the American Diabetes Association’s 66th Annual Scientific Sessions in Washington, DC Eli Lilly announced on June 11th, that a study headed by Aaron Vinik of The Strelitz Diabetes Institute at the Eastern Virginia Medical School, in Norfolk, Virginia of a new medicine called ruboxistaurin, almost halved the rate of the development of diabetic retinopathy over a two year period. This is astonishing, though it is important to point out that the medicine did not abolish the problem, and it was funded by the manufacturer. The medicine works by a completely new mechanism. In people with diabetes, high levels of glucose are one of the triggers of a cascade of chemical reactions in the cells of the retina, that turn on a chemical messenger called protein kinase C-β.

Though this is only a first study, and the medicine does not help with diabetic neuropathy, this is a very promising finding. Not least because most of us have failed to achieve much benefit from unorthodox medicine. I have colleagues who tell me that they have helped people with retinopathy with homeopathy and different kinds of electrical stimulation, but I’m just not sure how good those other treatments are. My guess is that if they were really effective, that independent research foundations would be falling over themselves to do research on them. But I could be convinced otherwise!

Ruboxistaurin, added to psychological, social, subtle and spiritual approaches is already looking like a very promising option for preventing problems.

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