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Dr. Barry Sears
Dr. Barry Sears
President of Zone Labs
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Read Why It Hurts: Part One

Read Why It Hurts: Part Two

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Why It Hurts

Dr. Barry Sears
Zone Living – In part three of the “Why it Hurts” series, Dr. Barry Sears considers the effects of inflammation on breathing and digestion.


You may think your skin is the only protection you have from the outside world. But you also have an internal “skin” that is in constant contact with your surrounding environment. Just think of your lungs. Every time you inhale oxygen, you suck in whatever pollutants and potential allergens are floating in the air surrounding you. It would be nice if you could extract the oxygen without its fellow travelers. I consider your lungs to be part of your internal skin because they’re barriers against toxic agents that assault your body from the outside world. These barriers can be subject to the same inflammatory insults to your skin.

Three distinct lung conditions all stem from inflammation: asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. Together they are known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). My dietary program can provide benefits to help bring each of these three conditions under control.


Asthma is a condition in which your bronchial passages constrict so much that you can hardly breathe. Asthma attacks can be triggered by a number of offenders, including pollen, molds, animal furs, and even exercise. The initial trigger may vary from person to person, but the lungs respond in a universal way: they overproduce “bad” eicosanoids. The primary mediators of asthma are leukotrienes. Production of these eicosanoids will not be affected by drugs such as aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This is because leukotrienes (pro- inflammatory eicosanoid) are produced by enzymes that are not inhibited by aspirin or NSAIDs. Corticosteroids, on the other hand, do inhibit the formation of leukotrienes. For years they were the primary drug defense for severe asthma.

As I have mentioned, corticosteroids have an impressive number of very adverse side effects, including immune suppression and cognitive impairment. A far better way to reduce an overproduction of leukotrienes without any side effects is simply to reduce the amount of arachidonic acid in the lungs. This can be achieved most effectively through Ultra Refined high-dose fish oil.


As the ending –itis implies, bronchitis is an inflammatory condition of the lungs. By now you can probably surmise the best way to control lung inflammation: cut off the overproduction of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids (primarily leukotrienes). You can either use steroids (with their side effects – loss of cognitive function, depressed immune system, weight gain, and so on) or try a different approach that alters the same molecular mechanism but without side effects: my dietary program. Once again, you can use Ultra Refined high-dose fish oil as a powerful and elegant way to decrease the formation of arachidonic acid without side effects. While steroids treat the symptoms of bronchitis, my program goes after the underlying cause of the problem: excess arachidonic acid.


Of the three lung conditions caused by inflammation, emphysema is the most difficult to treat because it is like “heart failure” of the lungs. Your lungs really do begin to wither and fail, and the structural damage is often irreversible. Although there’s not much you can do to gain renewed function in your lungs, you can make your remaining lung tissue more efficient at extracting oxygen by increasing the vasodilatation of the capillaries, which increases blood flow to these tissues. What increases blood flow and decreases inflammation? You guessed it – my Omega Rx Zone dietary program.


Like your lungs, your gastrointestinal (GI) tract also meets my definition of “internal skin.” Every morsel you put into your mouth has both nutrients and potentially noxious agents like pesticides and other potentially cancer-causing agents. Considering the length of your gastrointestinal tract (about twenty feet) and the number of toxic things that enter your body when you swallow, it’s not surprising that we don’t all have overwhelming inflammation in our GI tracts.

Those who suffer from inflammation know that pain can be intense. Two of the most common inflammatory conditions that occur in the gut are Crohn’s disease (inflammation localized in the small intestine) and ulcerative colitis (inflammation that can occur throughout the GI tract). Research suggests that supplemental fish oil can benefit patients with either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

One study of patients with Crohn’s disease, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that using Ultra Refined high-dose fish oil decreased pain significantly. This study used relatively low levels (1 gram of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids per day).

Ulcerative colitis also responds well to fish oil. Researchers found that patients who took 1.4 grams per day of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (though it was the lower-quality health food grade) had a statistically significant improvement in their pain levels. As with Crohn’s disease, I believe that a higher dose of fish oil, especially if coupled with improved insulin control, would have given these patients a more dramatic improvement in their inflammatory pain.

If you have either Crohn’s disease or colitis, you should realize that you may need one to two weeks on my program before you experience a significant anti-inflammatory response that brings some measure of relief. During your initial few weeks on my dietary program, you should continue to follow a diet that is low in fiber, especially insoluble fiber (a diet that physicians usually recommend for these two conditions). This will keep you from having any physical irritation of the GI lining as it heals. But you still need to maintain the appropriate protein-to-carbohydrate ratio to control insulin (and thus reduce the production of arachidonic acid).

I realize that it can be particularly challenging to get 10 to 15 servings of fruits and vegetables a day without getting a lot of fiber. I think you can best meet this goal by consuming as your primary carbohydrate source moderate amounts of fruit and vegetable juice, from which the fiber has been extracted. I’m normally not a fan of juices, since soluble fiber and pectin are so valuable in helping to control your insulin response. However, for your gut’s sake, you can do fine without fiber for the one to two weeks as your intestines are beginning to heal from the inflammation. After two weeks, inflammation should be reduced enough so that you can go back to eating fresh fruits and vegetables and getting all the fiber that nature intended.

Pain is an unfortunate hallmark of nearly every chronic disease. But the fact is that we can control pain much more than we think. All we have to do is get our “bad” eicosanoids under control. We can do this by using powerful drugs like corticosteroids, which have some serious side effects, or by choosing my dietary recommendations as the “drug” of choice. I know what I would choose: the option that hurts least.

I think you get the picture. Virtually wherever your pain is, it comes from the overproduction of “bad” eicosanoids like prostaglandins or leukotrienes. Always striving for balance, your body also produces an equally impressive number of “good” eicosanoids that decrease pain. The trick is to achieve the right level of the “good” and the “bad.” As you now know, our lifestyles favor an overproduction of “bad” eicosanoids. That’s why you need to reach the Anti Inflammation Zone: to shift the scales the other way in order to strike an appropriate balance of eicosanoids. This process will limit the amount of insulin in your blood while providing sufficient levels of Ultra Refined high-dose fish oil.

Controlling this super hormone known as eicosanoids has 90 percent of the impact on the pain you feel – compared with a 10 percent impact by insulin (and thereby diet). This means that you need to focus most of your efforts on consuming Ultra Refined high-dose fish oil if your aim is to decrease chronic pain.

Read Why It Hurts: Part One

Read Why It Hurts: Part Two

Excerpted from The Omega-Rx Zone. Copyright © 2005 by Barry Sears, Ph.D. Used by permission.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. As with any natural product, individual results will vary.

For more information about Dr. Barry Sears, his incredible fish oil supplements, or the popular Zone Diet, please visit

If you purchase any Zone Labs, Inc. products, part of the proceeds support CBN ministries.

Dr. Barry Sears is a leader in the field of dietary control of hormonal response. A former research scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Sears has dedicated his efforts over the past 25 years to the study of lipids and their inflammatory role in the development of chronic disease. He holds 13 U.S. patents in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems and hormonal regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

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