NF-kB and Inflammation - Finding the Longevity Balance
The NF-kB longevity pathway regulates the inflammatory response in our bodies as well as many other critical processes. But when levels become out of balance it can have detrimental effects on our health and longevity. Find out how to regulate this pathway through a healthy lifestyle and natural supplements that benefit one’s health.
Did you know that cells would not be known as the basic units of life if genetic expression never took place? Yes, the genetic expression (how the instructions in the DNA are converted into proteins) is a critical process that leads to the formation of functional products like proteins which in turn dictate what a cell can and cannot do.
Gene expression is not a random process. It is a well-coordinated orchestra of events that ensures genetic information is expressed in the right cell, in the right amount, and at the right time over the life of an organism. The on and off controls are regulated by a protein complex known as a transcription factor (TF).
In this article, we shall look at the longevity pathway NF-kB, one of the most critical transcription factors, what it does, how it is activated, and what inhibits it. This will help us understand the impact it has on aging and lifespan.
Interested in living a long and healthy life? You might enjoy reading The Longevity Pathways - How to Live a Happy, Healthy and Long Life.
What is NF-kB?
NF-kB is an abbreviation of “Nuclear Factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells.” It is a protein complex (a family of proteins) that regulates DNA transcription, the production of cytokines, cellular growth, and ultimately apoptosis or programmed cell death.
How your immune system responds in the wake of infections or stimuli such as free radicals, stress, and bacterial antigens is highly dependent on NF-kB and it’s one of the main regulators of the inflammatory response. It has also been found that NF-kB plays an important role in synaptic activity, a process that is linked to the nervous system and memory.
But irregularities in NF-kB activation have been linked to conditions like autoimmune diseases, cancer, malfunctioning immune system, inflammatory diseases, and viral infections. Also, increased levels have been found in a variety of tissues with aging and are associated with many age-related degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
What is the NF-kB Pathway?
In a nutshell, the NF-kB pathway is the entire chain of processes that occurs in the activation of NF-kB. It’s the key mediator in triggering the inflammatory response.
We have always believed that aging is an inevitable random process that comes to everyone at different times. Cells age, the DNA repair process starts becoming erroneous, and eventually, we become old. On the contrary, this is a highly controlled process with a bunch of complex proteins at the center of it, one of which is NF-kB. It’s been proposed as being one of the key mediators of aging.
The NF-kB pathway has many roles in the body system. For instance, it helps stimulate antibodies thus waking up your immune system in response to a stimulus. It’s one of the main regulators of the inflammatory process. And, as a transcription factor, NF-kB facilitates the copying of DNA information into RNA as part of the process of making proteins.
It’s also present in the hypothalamus, a neuron rich area at the base of the brain. Here, studies have shown that it controls several processes one of which is aging. As the subjects grew old, the level of NF-kB increased pointing to a positive correlation between the aging process and the accumulation of NF-kB.
Those subjects with decreased NF-kB levels not only lived longer but also had stronger muscles, better memories, and much stronger skins. So, the research seems to indicate that the aging process does not stop but it is significantly slowed down with the appropriate regulation of the NF-kB pathway.
How is NF-kB Activated?
The NF-kB pathway is highly complex. In their natural state, NF-kB proteins are inactive. When the body is exposed to free radicals, bad bacteria, viruses, or anything that it perceives as a threat, NF-kB is activated and regulates the release of genes that trigger inflammation.
Inflammation is one of the ways that our bodies fight off infection and heals injuries. The short-term red swelling that you experience after spraining your ankle is a sign that your body is healing the area. But ongoing inflammation (known as chronic inflammation) is not good and is associated with many chronic conditions and cellular degeneration.
To find out more about inflammation, read How Inflammation Affects Your Health and Causes Early Aging.
In our everyday lives, NF-kB can be activated by many things including physical stress, psychological or emotional stress, the foods we eat, viruses, bacteria, and more. Also, as we age, levels of NF-kB seem to be increased which is why it’s good to put lifestyle practices and a natural supplement regime in place to reduce inflammation and inhibit this pathway.
How Do You Inhibit NF-kB?
Because NF-kB is one of the main drivers of inflammation, you can inhibit this pathway by incorporating lifestyle changes that naturally reduce inflammation. You can also take natural NF-kB inhibitors in the form of supplementation.
Here are some of the ways that you can inhibit NF-kB and reduce inflammation:
Practice calorie restriction
The effect of calorie restriction on extending lifespan has been well researched, although the exact mechanism by which it works still remains a mystery. One of the ways that it has shown to be beneficial is that it activates sirtuins. The sirtuin longevity pathway, nicknamed the “longevity gene,” controls cellular health. It’s one also one of the key regulators of aging and processes such as inflammation. Sirtuins can inhibit NF-kB which could be one of the reasons why calorie restriction works so well.
Another factor to consider is that calorie restriction naturally reduces weight. Excess weight is associated with chronic inflammation, chronic disease, and high NF-kB levels.
Eat less inflammatory foods
The food you eat can have a significant effect on the levels of inflammation in your body. One of the best ways to bring down inflammation is to reduce your consumption of these foods. Here are the top culprits:
Refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (usually in commercially-prepared baked goods, cereals, instant meals, etc).
Refined carbohydrates like white flour, white bread, and other commercial products.
Artificial sweeteners found in “diet” sodas
Gluten and dairy products - especially if you are intolerant to these two.
Processed meat products - these products are usually packed full of preservatives and synthetic flavors that can trigger an inflammatory response
Processed fats (trans fats or hydrogenated oils) - these are fats that have had hydrogen added to them and are usually found in products like margarine.
Excessive alcohol intake
Aim for an anti-inflammatory diet
Foods that are rich in antioxidants have been shown to reduce inflammation. By eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables (think colors and greens) you can increase the foods that naturally bring down inflammation. For example:
Fruits such as berries, oranges, apples, grapes, papaya, and kiwi.
Vegetables such as butternut, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, broccoli, and spinach.
Nuts like walnuts and almonds
Increase your intake of polyphenols and antioxidants
Plant polyphenols such as resveratrol, curcumin (found in turmeric), quercetin (a plant pigment) and piperine (found in black pepper) inhibit NF-kB, activate AMPK and sirtuins. Increasing foods that contain these polyphenols will help in your anti-inflammatory diet. But it’s not always possible to take in optimal levels. One of the ways to do so is to take a natural supplement that contains these molecules. Our product Preservage as been specifically formulated to work deep within the body to help reduce the inflammatory response.
Eat more fatty fish
Fatty fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that bring down inflammation. Of course, if you are not partial to fish, one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids is krill oil - it has no fishy aftertaste! Numerous studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and ease the symptoms of inflammatory conditions. Krill oil is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, choline, and astaxanthin - all known to have natural anti-inflammatory properties. Interestingly, in one study astaxanthin was shown to inhibit the NF-kB pathway in subjects that had inflammation of the eyes.
You can find out more in: What is Krill Oil and Why Is It Good For You?
Moderate exercise has been shown to inhibit NF-kB and activate sirtuins and AMPK. AMPK is a longevity pathway that is known as the “master switch” of cellular metabolism and also inhibits NF-kB.
Also exercise naturally brings down stress levels which are NF-kB activators.
Including regular exercise into your daily routine is one of the best ways to improve your health and increase your lifespan.
Practice stress management
Physical and psychological stress triggers an inflammatory response and the associated increased levels of NF-kB. Although acute stress can be beneficial and gives us the energy we need to complete tasks, ongoing chronic stress can be extremely detrimental to our health. We’ve all seen people going through challenging times literally “age before our eyes.” Learning how to handle your stress is one of the key ways to inhibit NF-kB and bring down many other physiological responses that can cause early aging and chronic disease.
To find out more, read: Five Easy Anti-Aging Hacks to Increase Your Longevity.
Get sufficient sleep
A small study to measure levels of NF-kB in relation to sleep found that in the morning after a night of sleep loss, NF-kB activation was significantly higher. Interestingly, it was shown to be more significant in females than in males. However, the results were sufficient to bring researchers to conclude that a lack of sleep may well increase inflammation and that more research was needed in this area particularly related to sleep and age-related inflammation.
We all feel much better after a good night’s rest and it’s one of the secrets to feeling youthful and energetic. To find out more about sleep and how to reset your sleep-wake cycle, read How to Feel Younger- Take Care of Your Circadian Rhythm.
The NF-kB pathway is one of the most important chains of processes in the human physiological system. Through this pathway, genetic information is expressed and proteins are formed that determine cell survival, memory, immune system responsiveness, apoptosis (programmed cell death) among other age-related conditions. As with all longevity pathways, it needs to be kept in balance because levels of NF-kB tend to naturally increase with age and increased inflammation is associated with aging and its related chronic conditions.
There are a number of lifestyle changes that you can make that will reduce inflammation and inhibit NF-kB. A healthy lifestyle in conjunction with natural supplements that are designed to slow aging from deep within goes a long way to help you achieve an active, fulfilling life long into the golden years.
"I think science has begun to demonstrate that aging is a disease. If it is, it can be cured."
- Tom Robbins (American author, age 88)
The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or health provider before starting a new health regime or program. Do not ignore medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you’ve read on this site or any Youth & Earth product.