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Taken From Dr Campbell-McBride’s writings


What is Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory condition. From the beginning to the very end of the formation of every atherosclerotic plaque in our blood vessels is inflammation. When we injure ourselves or have an infected wound the place becomes hot, painful, red and swollen.  This is inflammation. The injured cells release a whole group of chemicals ( histamine, leukotrienes and others), which send a message to the white blood cells ( body soldiers) to come and deal with the “villain”.  At the same time they stimulate production of various proteins, such as fibrin, which wall off the damaged area, so the damage does not spread. The white blood cells arrive and destroy the invader.  In order to remove it from the scene, a particular group of white blood cells, called phagocytes and macrophages, “swallow up” all the debris of the villain and the damaged tissues, “digest” them and remove them from the area. When the site of the injury is “clean” the inflammation gradually stops and gives way to the repair.

The process of repair involves the growth of so-called granulation tissue, made of collagen, local cells, other repair materials and cholesterol.  Collagen is the most common protein in the body (about a third of our body).  It is strong and flexible and in away holds our tissues and organs together. Any repair process involves the growth of collagen fibers through the damaged tissue.  Cholesterol is a healing agent in the body.  Together with collagen, it is an integral part of any scar tissue in any wound after it has been repaired.  As the repair proceeds new blood vessels grow through the repaired tissue, initially giving the scar a bright red color. As collagen accumulates and constricts the newly grown blood vessels, the scar becomes tougher and whiter in color.  That is when the repair process is complete. Inflammation and repair work in harmony. This is how Mother Nature has designed the process when injury is inflicted upon any tissue or organ. 

However,  because of diet, this normal process goes wrong, leading to disease called atherosclerosis or the formation of never-healing lesions called atherosclerotic plaques on the inside walls of our blood vessels.  People commonly think that an atherosclerotic plaque is a lump of fat and cholesterol stuck to the wall of the artery. This is wrong.  An atherosclerotic plaque is like an ulcer, an erosion on the inside wall of the artery, covered by a mixture of debris, calcium, fibrin, foam cells, sclerotic tissue and chemically damaged fats mostly unsaturated. The development of an atherosclerotic plaque is an out-of-control inflammation.


Our vascular system is the transport network in our bodies.  

Whatever damaging agents we have in our bodies, whether they are produced by our own tissues or got in from the outside, sooner or later finish up in the bloodstream.  These may be microbes, parasites, free radicals, various toxic substances, drugs, trans fatty acids, etc. That first attack the inner lining of the blood vessel called the endothelium. Normal, healthy endothelium does not allow any blood cells to attach themselves to it.  However, an injured endothelium immediately “calls” white blood cells to it and inflammation begins.  In a healthy situation everything goes according to Nature’s plan : inflammation gets rid of the “villain”, the repair process heals the damage and your artery is left as good as new. 

Unfortunately, in atherosclerosis we do not have a straightforward inflammation.  It is a chronic festering, never-ending inflammation which competes with the process of repair.  Sometimes the repair wins for a while but then inflammation catches on and destroys the newly formed repair tissue in the arterial wall.


The formation of an atherosclerotic plaque has 3 stages: 

Stage one.  A damaging agent in the blood stream attacks the endothelium.  Injury to the endothelium attracts white blood cells, which invade the site of the injury and go underneath the endothelium into deeper layers of the vascular wall.  Like soldiers, their function is to destroy the damaging agent and clean the site.  The macrophages, swallow the debris of damaged tissue, microbes, toxins and chemically damaged fats and swell to a large size called foam cells.  White blood cells start multiplying at the site of the injury and new ones arrive from the blood stream to deal with the ‘villain’ that caused the injury. This is inflammation in full flow.

Stage two.  While the inflammation is tearing things apart, the process of repair starts.  Arteries have muscular walls.  These artery muscles are made of smooth muscle cells and considered to be the agents of repair.  They grow through the whole plaque and deeper into the wall of the blood vessel, making the plaque more permanent and well established. As the body repairs the damage, it stimulates the growth of collagen fibres through the plaque.  The collagen forms a fibrous cap on top of the plaque, sealing it off.  When the inflammation stops and the repair process takes over, the plaque becomes sclerotic and calcium may settle in it.  In effect, it is a scar inside the artery, which forms after the injury has been repaired.  If the size of the scar is small it may remain in the blood vessel without doing harm.  If these scars are extensive, they may disfigure and narrow the artery and interfere with blood flow.

Unfortunately, in atherosclerosis the inflammation does not stop, it goes on and on.  The repair and the inflammation continue alongside each other, which allows the plaque to grow bigger.  If, at any stage, the plaque occupies half of the vessel lumen or more, then it may partially obstruct the blood flow, causing various symptoms, such as poor circulation in the arms and legs, reduced blood flow to the brain which leads to poor memory, cognitive and neurological problems; damage to kidneys, leading to high blood pressure, and many other chronic symptoms, depending on which organ is affected.  If the coronary arteries are affected, the person will suffer from angina – severe chest pains caused by the lack of blood supply to the heart muscle.

The muscular walls of arteries can contract or relax.  If the artery is already half obstructed by an atherosclerotic plaque, then the spasm may close it up all together.  Depending on how long the spasm lasts, the tissues which the arteries feed, will starve.  If it is an area of the brain, the person will suffer a transient stroke. If the spasm is short, then the stroke may be mild; if the spasm lasts longer, then the damage from the stroke may be more serious.  If the spam happens in the coronary arteries, the heart muscle will starve.  If they are short, they may not cause a heart attack, but will damage a part of the heart tissues, leading to abnormalities in the heart beat called arrhythmia.

If the spasms are long they may cause serious damage to the heart muscle and sudden death.

The 2nd stage of plaque development can last for many years. At this stage the progression of an atherosclerotic plaque will stop only if the inflammation stops.  If the repair wins, the artery wall will heal without our even knowing there was a plaque there. If the inflammation is rekindled after a period of time, the plaque progresses to its third and final stage.

Stage three.  If the inflammation persists, the plaque accumulates a crumbly, fatty core made out of dead white blood cells, debris of tissue, toxins and oxidized, chemically changed fats and cholesterol.  This core is similar to the accumulation of pus in an infected wound – an abscess.  If an abscess is not drained it will erode surrounding tissues and burst.  In the same way, ongoing inflammation in the atherosclerotic plaque stimulates production of certain enzymes called collagenases, which start dissolving collagen.  As the fibrous cap on top of the plaque is largely made out of collagen, it becomes thin and weak and eventually ruptures.  In a matter of seconds the blood coagulates, causing thrombosis, and the artery gets blocked.  This leads to deadly complications of atherosclerosis – the heart attack and stroke.


What causes Atherosclerosis?

The endothelium is a thin layer of cells that lines the inside walls of our blood vessels: arteries, veins and capillaries, as well as our heart.  It separates the flowing blood from the rest of the body, and if its total mass were laid flat it would cover approximately a tennis court.  It is a major player in the communication between anything in the blood, with the rest of the body.  It controls blood coagulation, blood clots, the state of the blood cells and surrounding tissue cells, playing a part in their appropriate growth, maturation and movement.  It controls the muscle tone of the walls of the blood vessels and the heart, produces many hormones to communicate with local cells, nearby tissues and the rest of the body.  It is one of the major regulators of our homeostasis.  It regulates blood pressure, blood sugar, blood electrolytes and many others.  It is a major regulator of immune responses in the body, orchestrating the behavior of white blood cells and other aspects of immunity. Its most important function is the response to any injury we sustain;  endothelium is a major player in inflammation and repair in the body.

Anything harmful we allow into our bodies gets into our bloodstream quite quickly.  Once in the bloodstream, these substances attack the endothelium. When the endothelium is busy defending itself from being attacked and injured, and busy launching inflammation and repair, that is when the scene gets set for developing atherosclerosis: white blood cells invade the damaged endothelium and inflammation begins, ultimately leading to the formation of an atherosclerosis plaque. 


What attacks and injures endothelium?

a. Man-made chemicals especially in the use of personal care products (toothpaste, shampoos, bubble baths, shower gels, make-up, perfumes, deodorants and other lotions and potions) because our skin absorbs most things we put on it almost instantly. Laundry, dish washer detergents, and house cleaning chemicals are also very toxic. Use natural, non-toxic alternatives.

b. Prescription and over the counter drugs are all toxins.

c. Industrial pollution, pesticides and other agricultural chemicals end up in our water and cause endothelial dysfunction.

d. Processed foods which are generally nutritional empty and full of added chemicals, also cause endothelial dysfunction.

These foods are full of chemically altered proteins and carbohydrates, damaging trans fats, flavorings, preservatives, and others. Processed foods do not nourish our bodies, instead they pollute and destroy them.

e. Abnormalities in the gut flora will flood the body with hundreds of toxins and dangerous microbes.

f. A sedentary lifestyle, leads to a lack of sun exposure which does not allow the endothelium to heal itself after any injury. Similarly, excessive stress and electromagnetic pollution, radiation, and other influences lead to endothelial dysfunction.


The Dangers of Processed Carbohydrates

Nature provides us with plenty of carbohydrates in the form of fruit, vegetables and grains.  When we eat them in their natural unprocessed form, the carbohydrates get absorbed slowly, producing a gradual increase in blood glucose, which our bodies are designed to handle.  The carbohydrate part of whole natural foods does not all get absorbed; a large part of it is ingestible by the body which limits the amount of glucose molecules entering the body.

The body has solid mechanisms for controlling blood sugar level.  The most important is a hormone called insulin, produced by the pancreas.  After any meal carbohydrates absorb as molecules of glucose and raise the blood sugar level. Glucose cannot leave the bloodstream and enter the cells without the help of insulin which lets the glucose in.  Once in the cell glucose is used for producing energy, building cellular structure and other functions.  Any excessive glucose converts into fat and stores it in your tissues for future use. When the blood sugar goes down to normal level, the production of insulin stops and its blood level also goes down to normal.

However, with the creation of processed carbohydrates, all carbohydrates in the foods get absorbed almost fully, putting excessive amounts of glucose into our bloodstream, which our physiology has not been designed to handle.  In addition, processed carbohydrates pile all the glucose in very quickly producing an unnaturally rapid increase in blood glucose.

A person, who loads his body with processed carbohydrates throughout the day loads his body with massive unnatural amounts of glucose.  Processed carbohydrates are breakfast cereals, crisps, biscuits, crackers, breads cakes, ice cream pastries, pasta, milk chocolates, sweets, popcorn, jams, condiments and sugar and anything that contains it, preserved fruit and vegetables, soft drinks ( sodas and pops), processed fruit juices, and frozen precooked meals, with starches and batter.   This is the main villain for the development of atherosclerosis which is a situation where the blood is full of sugar (glucose) and full of hormone insulin (hyperinsulinemia) called metabolic syndrome.  It is a common condition due to our eating habits, and in many cases, it starts developing in childhood. 

Excess sugar in the blood causes free molecules of glucose to attach themselves to protein in the blood, making those proteins very sticky.  These proteins stick to the walls of the blood vessels, damaging them and starting the atherosclerosis process.  Apart from that they get into small arteries and capillaries, blocking them as in the retina of the eyes, causing blindness, in the capillary bed of the kidneys causing kidney failure, accumulating in the capillaries of the brain causing Alzheimer’s disease or accumulating in the capillaries of male sex organs causing impotence. This is why diabetics are prone to blindness, kidney failure, impotence or memory loss.

Any substance, when put into the body in excess on a regular basis will start destroying the body.  When glucose keeps pouring into the body huge amounts, the person ends up with permanently high levels of insulin in their blood – hyper-insulinemia.  When there is too much glucose coming in and too much insulin to push that glucose into the cells, the cells protect themselves from too much glucose by becoming insulin resistant. As a result, the pancreas produces more insulin and hyperinsulinemia becomes more and more severe.  Hyperinsulinemia creates a pro-inflammatory environment in the body. It alters the biochemistry in such a way that inflammation is encouraged and cannot be terminated.  When we injure our endothelium, inflammation begins in the vascular wall, and because of hyperinsulinemia it cannot stop. The whole process is a kind of quiet, insidious inflammation that we are not aware of.  It sets off the whole process of initiation and growth of the atherosclerotic plaque, all the way to its fatal third stage leading to a heart attack or stroke.

Metabolic syndrome is the basis of type 2 diabetes. That is why diabetics suffer from atherosclerosis and die from heart attacks and stroke more than anybody else.  Metabolic syndrome also encourages other degenerative conditions in the body like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease and other auto-immune conditions.  Atherosclerosis and heart disease were virtually unknown until processed carbohydrates were invented.


Chronic Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium is a mineral we cannot live without. It is involved in about 300 metabolic reactions in the body.  Every cell, every tissue and every organ needs  lot of magnesium every second of our lives.  Unfortunately, because of our highly processed carbohydrate diet, it does not provide very much magnesium which is mainly found in green leafy vegetables, and nuts. Other foods contain magnesium in smaller amounts. Modern/industrial farming techniques strip the soils of magnesium. So does a diet of processed carbohydrates as processed carbohydrates overload the body with glucose, stripping it of whatever glucose it has because in order to metabolize one molecule of glucose, we need at least 28 molecules of magnesium.  Also as we pollute ourselves with man-made chemicals, we create more magnesium deficiency in the body which causes inability of muscles to relax causing spasms with serious symptoms like cramps, tremors, seizures, eye twitches, migraines, bronchial spasms, asthma, endothelial dysfunction, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, poor concentration, panic attacks, mood disorders, spastic colon and peripheral artery spasms or heart muscle spasms which may cause sudden death especially in the case of athletes.