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I first became equated with the term “Vitamin M” when I was a flight surgeon with VMAQ4, a Marine Corps Prowler Squadron (EA-6B) out of Cherry Point, NC. I did several things during that 2.5 year tour including racking up hundreds of flight hours, attending NASA’s DOD manned space flight support course and covering multiple shuttle landings out of Cocoa Beach, FL , and YES, handing out tons of vitamin M (Motrin).
Marine Corps Jet pilots work hard and play hard so it is not uncommon to see soreness from hours of flying, pulling G’s, working out, hangovers, and the occasional injury. It was a great honor to serve in this capacity and significantly influence my focus on health and performance (going from healthy to optimized) vice the standard western medicine paradigm of a focus on disease (taking patients from disease to well). The former is a focus on a positive (attaining optimal health), whereas the latter is a focus on a negative (preventing or treating disease). And just as a fear of death is philosophically and psychologically different than a love of life, these two approaches are entirely different in their foundations, and in their effects. If I knew what I know today, I wouldn’t have been dispensing all that Motrin. I would probably advise the use of SPM’s (Specialized Proresolving Mediators).
We all know that inflammation is a big deal when it comes to our long-term health. We now have anti-inflammatory diets, anti-inflammatory supplements, mindfulness to fight inflammation, and, of course, anti-inflammatory drugs like Motrin, Naprosyn, Toradol and the like.
But inflammation is a natural process that is designed to either fight off external badness like bacteria or enable repair of injured tissues such as in acute trauma and even the “good” microtrauma with exercise that illicits improvements in strength, stamina, endurance and the holy grail of muscle growth.
Inflammation becomes deleterious when it becomes chronic in nature or goes on longer than it reasonably should to support repair. Chronic low-grade inflammation is associated with many of the diseases that afflict western society, many of them life-style mediated. Some of these include metabolic disorders such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, and even the chronic low-level stress that affects most of our lives and lowers our normal hormone levels, thereby accelerating the aging process.
The old school thought is that the resolution of inflammation is a passive process that occurs over time and that we can block inflammation with drugs such as Motrin in order to alleviate pain and promote healing. New data suggest that this resolution phase of inflammation is actually an actively programmed biochemical process with the body producing chemical signals called Specialized ProResolving Mediators (SPMs). These natural chemicals are derived from Omega-3 fatty acids and help speed the resolution of inflammation. Having a diet high in fish oil is one way to elevate the levels of SPMs; however, SPMs can now be obtained in supplement form as well.
So how would this benefit us with respect to health and performance? Well, the normal process of inflammation involves an inciting event – trauma, infection, or over-exertion (Over-reaching for you sports med types). This leads to the recruitment of cells involved in repairing the damage.
Once a critical level of repair is reached, SPMs are synthesized to counteract the inflammatory process. Anti-inflammatory drugs simply block the initial inflammation process so they may help pain but will actually counter the programmed repair process so that the length of time it takes to recover can be longer than without their use. SPMs use the body’s natural resolution pathway to speed healing – so the theory goes. Using SPMs could allow us to more readily naturally optimize hormone levels, sustain a greater workload, and improve fitness faster, or in general improve the health of those with chronic inflammatory disorders.
We are just beginning to use SPMs where I currently work and reviews are very favorable. The benefit is subtle, and long-term, vice an immediate feeling of wellness. Current Intel shows that there is only one manufacturer at present but there are several suppliers including ProResolve and Metagenics.
To date, there is no research on long term effects given the novelty of these compounds, but given that they are derived from essential fatty acids the likelihood that they are safe is very high. As always, consult with YOUR physician before you use any supplement, particularly if you do have any chronic disease or comorbid condition. If you use SPMs and find they work for you please let us know.