Inflammation: Why it matters
WHAT IS INFLAMMATION?
Inflammation is part of the body's immune response to self-protect, clear out damage, and begin the healing process. Inflammation is beneficial. Say, for example, you sprain your ankle. Your foot swells up, right? Here's what's happening:
Your muscles are made up of bundles of muscle fibers. When the fibers are damaged, inflammatory cells rush in to clear out the damaged tissue and spur fibers to regenerate.
The muscle fiber repair cells -- called macrophages -- circulate in the bloodstream at all times, and are among the first to arrive when a muscle fiber is damaged. The macrophages digest the damaged tissue and release its components. The missing tissue allows fluid to rush in, causing inflammation. Macrophages also trigger cells from the damaged fibers to begin forming new muscle fibers, replacing the damaged ones.
This inflammation also helps our bodies get rid of infections, as well. The body goes into overdrive to fend off bacteria, viruses, pathogens, damaged cells, or other irritants. It not only kills off the invaders, but damaged tissue as well, until your body wins the battle. Without inflammation, wounds and infections would never heal. Our bodies are amazing!
However, sometimes inflammation can cause even more inflammation; it can become self-perpetuating. This increased inflammation is created in response to the existing inflammation. This is when it becomes chronic.
Acute vs Chronic
Acute inflammation - Inflammation starts rapidly and quickly becomes severe. Signs and symptoms are only present for a few days, but in some cases may persist for a few weeks. Symptoms of acute inflammation are: pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function.
Our infections, wounds and any damage to tissue would never heal without inflammation - tissue would become more and more damaged and the body, or any organism, would eventually perish.
Chronic Inflammation can cause disease AND it can actually be the symptom of disease. Our cells malfunction due to trauma caused by an external force or from internal trauma caused by toxicity of some kind and (or) a lack of nutrition. Chronic inflammation can eventually cause several diseases and conditions, including some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis (plaque filled arteries), periodontitis, and hay fever. Inflammation needs to be well regulated.
Chronic Inflammation Chronic inflammation - this means long-term inflammation, which can last for several months and even years. It can result from: • Failure to eliminate whatever was causing an acute inflammation • An autoimmune response -- the immune system attacks healthy tissue, mistaking it for harmful pathogens. • A chronic irritant of low intensity that persists--could also be physical or emotional stress or stressors...
What are the symptoms of chronic inflammation? “Chronic inflammation typically will not produce symptoms until actual loss of function occurs somewhere. This is because chronic inflammation is low-grade and systemic, often silently damaging your tissues over an extended period of time. This process can go on for years without you noticing, until a disease suddenly sets in.” http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/06/06/eft-on-chronic-inflammation.aspx
Let me reiterate: Chronic Inflammation can cause disease AND it can actually be the symptom of disease.
What else can cause inflammation?
1. Emotional Stress
Psychological stress in the form of a panic attack, rapid pulse, or night sweats is a sign of cortisol-prompted inflammation. Cortisol is your “fight or flight” hormone, the one that kicks from the adrenal glands when a threat is perceived. It results in dilated blood vessels that force blood to your organs in preparation of an attack. This “fight or flight” response becomes a normal state during times of persistent stress, and chronic inflammation occurs when your immune system and adrenals are on over-drive.
2. Physical Stress
The body reacts in a similar manner when stress is physical. Take a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) attack for example. This physical panic in the body will trigger an immune response and chronic inflammation may cause your intestinal tract to go off balance, your skin to break out in hives, and your body to literally shut down. Once you restore nutrients, electrolytes, and sustenance to the body, things will return to normal. However, if you make a habit of skipping meals, your immune system will remain unbalanced.
3. Digestive Issues
Because chronic inflammation originates in the digestive system, it makes sense that digestive turmoil may actually be a source of inflammation itself. Oftentimes, a simple anti-inflammation diet—one high in essential fatty acids, probiotic digestive supplements, and daily exercise will help balance the intestinal tract and get it working again optimally.
4. Poor Diet
When we eat a meal that’s particularly rich, our digestive systems need to put in extra work in order for efficient digestion. This most often occurs if we rely on sugary, or processed, or fast food as the main staples of our diets. When the metabolism and GI tract are overworked; chronic inflammation often results.
5. Insulin Levels
The medical community has also linked insulin and glucose levels to chronic inflammation. For instance, obese individuals who are prone to developing type 2 diabetes often have issues with chronic inflammation.
6. Food Allergies
Specific food allergy triggers—such as casein (found in dairy) and gluten (found in wheat) will cause an inflammatory response in the digestive tract for sensitive individuals. The only way inflammation can be soothed is by cutting allergens out of the diet completely (via an elimination diet) or by taking probiotic supplements to increase the levels of “good” bacteria and support healthy digestion.
Inflammation has also been linked to unbalanced levels of certain hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. That’s why chronic inflammation often inflicts menopausal women, causing conditions like osteoporosis, weight gain, and adult acne.
Certain individuals may experience an inflammatory response to particular synthetic fibers found in products like latex, adhesives, and plastics. Often times these synthetic triggers exist in our workplaces or homes and cause turmoil in our bodies without us even knowing.
Chemical cleaning products, cosmetics, or air fresheners are another common source of inflammation—particularly if chemicals are airborne or irritants that are absorbed directly by the skin. Even low chemical exposure can exist at home, at work, in the air we breathe and the water we drink prompting chronic inflammation.
10. Trigger Foods
Simple trigger foods aren’t necessarily bad for you; however, they may prompt your body to become inflamed. Oils—such as safflower, sunflower, corn, soy, and peanut—that contain high levels of linoleic acid often cause an inflammatory response. For others diets that are high in carbohydrates may fuel inflammation so it’s up to you to pay attention to what you eat and how it affects your body.
So then, what do we do about Chronic Inflammation? You must know that dietary, environmental toxins and other things, like stress contribute to inflammation and may build up in the body, turning the immune system on and keeping it highly reactive. Foods to AVOID that promote inflammation are:
Corn and soybean oils, Pasteurized dairy, Refined carbohydrates, Conventional meat, Sugars, Trans fats
It's important to focus on anti-inflammatory foods... AND manage the stressors in our lives.
Anti-inflammatory foods such as fiber, fruits, vegetables and teas have been used to combat cancer, and vitamin E, curcumin, acetylcarnitine and catechin have had positive and preventative effects on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Foods high in antioxidants help to reduce damage caused by inflammation, food substances such as curcumin, fruit flavonoids, omega-3 fatty acids and reservatrol.
The Mediterranean diet contains many anti-inflammatory foods and has been shown to lower cholesterol, triglycerides and reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The diet has also been linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
beets, carrots, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale), dark, leafy greens (collard greens, kale, spinach), allium vegetables (chives, garlic, leeks, onions, scallions and shallots), peas, salad greens, sea vegetables and squashes, hot peppers, sprouts
acai, apples, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, nectarines, oranges, pears, pink grapefruit, plums, pomegranates, red grapefruit or strawberries
Beans and Legumes
Ansazi beans, adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas or lentils
avocados, expeller-pressed organic canola oil, extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed, hazelnut oil, hemp seeds, high-oleic safflower or sunflower oils, sesame oil or walnut oil
Healthy Herbs and Spices
basil, chili peppers, cinnamon, curry powder, garlic, ginger, rosemary, turmeric and thyme
eggs, grass-fed meats, natural cheeses, organic poultry or yogurt
green, oolong or white tea
1 glass of organic red wine per day
Co-enzyme Q10, carotenoids, fish oil, selenium, vitamins C, D and E
Dark chocolate, fruit sorbet and unsweetened dried fruit
There are many grains, such as buckwheat and barley, that are considered anti-inflammatory and are also high in antioxidants and other nutrients, though grains still turn to sugar in the body faster and are generally less nutrient dense than foods like vegetables.
All the hype about inflammation isn't just hype. It's important to pay attention to it and have a diagnosis by medical and/or holistic medical professional to see what's really going on inside your body so you can make the changes necessary to be a more healthy YOU!