There’s an organ in your body that most people don’t even know exist Yet it’s SO important that in one way or another, it can be linked to most heart-related diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease.
It’s a living, intelligent and reactive system. It protects the vessels of EVERY other organ system in your body, even your eyes and your lymph nodes. Your blood brain barrier is part of it, too.
This organ is called the endothelial cell barrier, or ECB for short.
The endothelial cell barrier is your internal body
It’s a dynamic system that also regulates the flow of almost every biologically active molecule in your body.
You could think of it as a relative of the largest organ in your body, your skin. Your skin shields you from attacks on the outside, and your ECB does a similar job on the inside.
When it’s working well, your ECB:
- keeps your blood pressure low
- regulates vascular system growth
- stops blood clots
- allows vitamins and other nutrients to reach your organs
- protects your blood and lymph vessels
- synthesizes, converts and activates hormones
- normalizes blood supply to your organs
- activates microbe-killing white blood cells
- reduces inflammation
- suppresses heart-damaging genes
- reduces swelling, pain and stiffness(1)
But the ECB is becoming weakened and dysfunctional in most Americans. One of the reasons is your ECB’s worst enemy, inflammation.
Inflammation damages your ECB and your health
When any part of your ECB becomes inflamed, it’s vulnerable to all kinds of damage.
For example, part of your ECB system is the lining of your blood vessels. Inside these delicate tubes, inflammation leads to the formation of scar tissue.
These cracks and rough, bumpy patches act like a net in your bloodstream. They catch all kinds of bad stuff that would normally pass right through. That includes triglycerides, waste from cellular metabolism, and even good things like cholesterol, fat and calcium.
These become arterial plaque, the main cause of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which can cause a heart attack.
Another cause of ECB inflammation may surprise you. It’s infections and allergens.
Your body’s own self defense system leads to inflammation
Your ECB is under constant attack from foreign invaders. Your body responds to these kinds of attacks by unleashing an army of white blood cells to surround and destroy them.
But what most people don’t know is that as they attack harmful bacteria and other microorganisms, white blood cells also release a class of hormones called “cytokines.”
Cytokines kick your immune system into high alert, signaling for “reinforcements” of white blood cells to help combat diseases.
Unfortunately, they also cause an inflammatory response across your entire body – especially in your ECB system.
This is why people who don’t floss regularly are at greater risk for atherosclerosis and heart attack. The bacteria that colonize the area below your gum line unleash a continuous, low-level flow of toxins into your bloodstream.
If they’re not cleared out, your immune system responds, causing the inflammation that can eventually lead to ECB damage.
It turns out that the presence of cytokines is directly linked to the risk of fatal heart attack. German researchers looked at over 150 patients suffering from chronic heart failure. They found that high concentrations of cytokines in the bloodstream were the strongest predictor of death.(2)
4 simple steps to keep your ECB in tip top shape
Fortunately, you can fight the buildup of cytokines and help keep your ECB system clean and free of inflammation and damage – safely and naturally – in four easy steps:
Step 1 – Crush cytokines with CoQ10:
CoQ10 is the number one antioxidant for fighting inflammation in your gums. There are two reasons for this. The first is that CoQ10 is one of the most powerful antioxidants we know of. And studies show that antioxidants dramatically lower cytokines in inflamed gum tissue.(3)
The other reason is that inflammatory cytokines can cause dysfunction in the energy-producing centers of critical immune cells called PBMCs (peripheral blood mononuclear cells).
Two kinds of PMBCs you may have heard of are kinds of white blood cells called “T-cells” and “natural killer” cells.
The engines that power these immune defenders need as much energy as possible to fight off infectious diseases. And the fuel they use for energy is CoQ10.
PMBCs from people with gum disease are known to be deficient in CoQ10.
To reduce cytokine production and stop this from contributing to heart disease, I recommend that everyone take CoQ10 regularly as a constant source of new energy for your cells. Especially the form of CoQ10 called ubiquinol, that’s 8 times more potent than regular CoQ10.
Step 2 – Shut down inflammation with Omega-3:
The omega-3s turn off excess inflammation like flipping an “off’ switch. Recent science backs me up on this …
Research into omega-3s uncovered their two most powerful inflammation fighting compounds: resolvins and protectins. Groundbreaking studies show these omega-3 components go to work almost immediately to relieve inflammation.(4,5)
They’ve also been shown to drastically reduce the levels of pro-inflammatory factors like cytokines.(6)
(I can’t think of a fresher, more potent source of omega-3s than Sacha Inchi nut oil. The potent omega-3s in Sacha Inchi are easy to digest and fully absorbed by your body. Its quick response time means it creates direct benefits you can feel right away.)
Step 3 – Reverse inflammation with foods high in antioxidants (high ORAC values):
The ORAC scale was designed to help compare the antioxidant power of different foods. The higher the ORAC value of a food, the more power it has to stop inflammation.
In one study, they measured high levels of inflammatory cytokines in the brains of aging animals. Then they gave the animals the high-ORAC superfood spirulina and watched in amazement as it dramatically lowered their cytokine levels.(7)
Other high-ORAC foods include acerola cherries, elderberries, pecans and walnuts, and the herbs sage and basil. And don’t forget ginger root and the spices turmeric, cinnamon and clove.
One of the most powerful antioxidants you can get that will drive down cytokine levels is resveratrol. It’s found naturally in grapes, blueberries, and cranberries, but it’s difficult if not impossible to get enough from food alone. A 50 mg supplement per day is a good antioxidant dose.
Step 4 – Stamp out cytokines with a secret from China:
They call it Golden Thread in the East, but in the West, we would call the herbal extract berberine, an anti-inflammatory.
Berberine (BBR) is a flavonoid from the root of the coptis chinensis plant. Two of its main uses are to treat skin inflammation, and to reverse inflammation in your ECB. But scientists didn’t know why it worked until they discovered that berberine squelches your body’s production of inflammatory cytokines.(8)
The flavonoid helps your body fight many causes of ECB irritation and inflammation, including high triglycerides, excess fat, and improves your ECB system function.
Berberine is also known to reduce inflammatory symptoms of arthritis. That’s because it stops your body from producing COX-2, an enzyme responsible for causing pain and inflammation.
You can find the dried roots of coptis chinensis at most Asian specialty stores. They even have the dried root powder available online. There is also some berberine in turmeric, barberry and its cousin, the Oregon grape.
To supplement with capsules, take from 200 to 500 mg or berberine extract per day.
1 Bassenge E. “Endothelial function in different organs.” Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 1996 Nov-Dec;39(3):209-28.
2 Rauchhaus et al. “Plasma cytokine parameters and mortality in patients with chronic heart failure.” Circulation. 2000. 102:3060-3067.
3 Chae HS, Park HJ, Hwang HR, et al. “The effect of antioxidants on the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and orthodontic tooth movement.” Mol Cells. 2011 May 12. [Epub ahead of print]
4 Ariel A, et al. The docosatriene protectin D1. J Biol Chem. 2005 Dec 30;280(52):43079-86.
5 Chiang N, et al. Cell-cell interaction of omega-3 fatty acid. Methods Mol Biol. 2006;341:227-50.
6 James MJ, et al. Dietary inflammatory mediator production. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;71:343S-8S.
7 Carmelina Gemma, Michael H. Mesches, Boris Sepesi, et al. “Diets Enriched in Foods with High Antioxidant Activity Reverse Age-Induced Decreases in Cerebellar Î²-Adrenergic Function and Increases in Proinflammatory Cytokines.” The Journal of Neuroscience, July 2002; 22(14): 6114-6120.
8 Ronny Enka et. al. “Differential effect of Rhizoma coptidis and its main alkaloid compound berberine on TNF-Î± induced NFÎºB translocation in human keratinocytes.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, January 2007;Volume 109, Issue 1, 3;Pages 170-175.
Dr. Al Sears is fast becoming the nation's leading authority on longevity and heart health. His cutting edge breakthroughs and commanding knowledge of alternative medicine have been transforming the lives of his patients for over 15 years.
Dr. Sears currently owns and operates a successful integrative medicine and anti-aging clinic in Wellington, Florida with over 15,000 patients. Over the course of his career, he has developed his own approach to heart health, longevity and anti-aging medicine - combining the best of modern medical science with natural holistic techniques and treatments.