Preventing and Reducing Inflammation
The word “inflammation” originated with the Greeks and was used to indicate a fire in the body.
According to recent reports, inflammation is the number one issue facing us today. It is fast becoming one of the hottest areas for medical research. Inflammation has been implicated in such health issues as diabetes, autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, and neurological disorders.
Once an inflammatory process takes hold, a multitude of symptoms arise. If inflammation affects your joints, you will experience arthritis-type symptoms such as joint pain or swelling, and degeneration of joint tissue. If inflammation affects your heart, you may experience symptoms related to heart disease such as high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, or high blood pressure. If inflammation affects your brain, you may experience numbness, dizziness, memory issues, learning issues, and even depression.
A study published in the Annals of Neurology found that there is immune activation which leads to high levels of inflammation in the brains of autistic children, leading to neurological, behavioral, and developmental consequences. This type of inflammation is found in other neurological issues as well, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even ADD.
Inflammation Can Be a Life-Saver
A natural process of the body is to fight tissue assaults with inflammation. If there is a cut or scrape, the immune system responds by creating redness and a swelling of the surrounding tissues. Within a few days the cut starts to heal and the swelling and redness subside.
“Most of the time, inflammation is a life-saver that enables our bodies to fend off various disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The instant any of these potentially deadly microbes slips into the body, inflammation marshals a defensive attack that lays waste to both invader and any tissue it may have infected.”
Unlike simple, acute inflammation, chronic inflammation is a more complex process. It involves the entire body and disrupts normal immune chemistry and hormone output. It increases free radical damage and may produce a host of symptoms not usually recognized as stemming from inflammation.
– Allergies, obesity, weight gain, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, sinusitis, chronic back pain, chronic muscle aches, chronic fatigue, depression, arthritis, autoimmune conditions.
Having any of these health issues also causes more inflammation and thus a vicious cycle of increased inflammation occurs.
Chronic inflammation is a condition of ongoing tissue irritation and may not show obvious symptoms for decades.
In the meantime, it can be destroying vital tissue.
Food and Dietary Habits That Cause Inflammation
There are many dietary habits that can increase the likelihood of chronic inflammation. Foremost among them is eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), which is a highly inflammatory diet. Just eating this type of diet on a daily basis can create a chronic low level of inflammation:
- White flour foods, which are low in nutrients, especially the B vitamins, and high in sugar.
- Trans fats found in fried foods and hydrogenated oils increase arachadonic acid, which causes inflammation.
- Packaged foods which are low in nutrients and high in chemicals. The body has to break down and clear the chemicals. Many can’t be cleared and can cause a chronic inflammatory response by the immune system to try to clear them.
- Cow’s dairy which is full of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. It is also high in sugar and produces an acidic, inflammatory state in the body.
- Celiac disease and/or non-celiac gluten sensitivity: wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and kamut are highly inflammatory and allergenic foods. Test for sensitivity at Cyrex Labs – Array 3.
- Conventionally grown or raised foods: vegetables, fruits, dairy, meat, eggs, fish (certain types), nuts, seeds, legumes, grains are all laden with pesticides and other chemicals
- Little to no fresh fruits and vegetables which are needed for their vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Low in Omega-3 fatty acids which act to abate inflammation. Increase Omega-3 content with fatty, ocean-caught fish such as salmon, halibut, or cod.
- High in high fructose corn syrup which can increase fat deposition and an increase in free radicals which, in turn, cause inflammation.
Not a great diet for keeping down inflammation!
“Inflammatory Lifestyle Habits”
The “inflammatory lifestyle” is a way of life for many of us. Stressed is how we live. We experience long days, long working hours, a life full of high activity, and it only stops when we sleep – if we are able to sleep. I would say that many of us are “living ourselves to death.”
This was brought home in a study in Japan called the Fukuoka Heart Study. It showed that men working more than 61 hours weekly had twice the risk of having a heart attack compared to men who worked a normal 40-hour week. It also found that those who slept five or less hours a night raised their heart attack risk 3-fold. The researchers concluded that workaholism and sleep deprivation can lead to an early death.
Stress creates inflammation through increases in cortisol and adrenaline, two of the major adrenal hormones. Under chronic stress there is an overproduction of these hormones which promotes an increase in an inflammatory cytokine called Interleukin 6 (IL6). Another of the most damaging effects of chronic stress is in its ability to increase levels of fibrinogen, a clotting protein. Interleukin 6 also increases levels of fibrinogen. With these increases in IL6 and fibrinogen there is arterial constriction and high blood pressure.
Increases of IL6 have also been shown to increase the risk for osteoporosis, diabetes, early aging, obesity, and memory loss.
What Can We Do to Reduce Inflammation?
There was a study conducted on 72 men who had reached the age of 100, which revealed that they had higher levels of anti-inflammatory substances in the body than men of other age groups. Stephen Sinatra, cardiologist and author of “Reverse Heart Disease Now,” has a message for us all:
“Keep your anti-inflammatory defenses strong and you will live a longer life.”
What You Can Do
There are ten major things that you can do to lessen inflammation and live an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet: A wide variety of wholesome fresh, organic foods high in antioxidant vegetables, fruits, lean protein, healthy fats (avocado, flaxseed, raw nuts & seeds, sunflower & pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, fish oil)
- Exercise, but don’t over exercise.
- Do less and learn to manage stress responses.
- Sleep well – at least 8 hours a day.
- Keep your blood sugar under control.
- Balance hormones.
- Test for food allergies and sensitivities as well as chronic infections.