What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a buzzword in the health world these days, but what does it *actually* mean? And how does it impact our health?
Way back in 2006, Harvard researchers found that inflammation may be the common denominator underlying chronic disease.
Inflammation itself natural process that helps the body heal and defend itself from infection, illness, or injury. As part of the immune response, the body releases cytokines to help fight infection at the wound site. This healthy inflammatory response is known as acute inflammation.
So inflammation in it’s own right isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However if it becomes chronic, then it can be harmful. And that’s what we’re talking about here – a chronic inflammatory response within the body.
Why chronic inflammation is so harmful to our bodies
Think about getting a cut or a wound – you experience redness, pain, heat, and swelling at the wound site. Again, this form of acute inflammation is a healthy response to injury. However, imagine chronic inflammation caused by stress, trauma, or poor diet – we can’t see the internal inflammation, however this is more or less what is happening to our tissues and organs.
Because it is hidden from plain sight, it can often fly under the radar for a while. The symptoms may also be more diffuse. If the ‘triggering agent’ isn’t eliminated or the immune response isn’t entirely shut off, chronic inflammation results.
The main causes of chronic inflammation
Inflammation can be caused by many factors, including trauma, illness, and stress, as well as our diets and lifestyle and health risks such as obesity.
When it comes to diet and stress, it is fairly easy to see that the ‘triggering agent’ isn’t often eliminated in one shot. So many of us are on constant high alert or operating in a chronic low-grade fight-or-flight response. We often don’t even realize that our diets and the foods we consume are the very culprits keeping us unwell.
So the major culprits behind chronic inflammation are lifestyle-related: stress, poor diet, and other factors related to each.
The links between chronic inflammation and disease
Inflammation is a key risk factor in a host of health problems and major chronic, degenerative diseases – diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease. The Harvard article points to the known links between inflammation and cancers – over 15% of cancers have been clearly linked to infectious diseases alone.
It’s abundantly clear that chronic inflammation is something we should do our best to avoid, minimize, and heal.
What are the common symptoms of chronic inflammation?
This list is not exhaustive, however many common symptoms of chronic inflammation include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Body pain
- Mood disorders
- Weight gain
- GI disorders – constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux
- Mouth sores
- Frequent infections
How Do I know if I have chronic inflammation?
As for determining whether you may be suffering from chronic inflammation, there are certain blood tests that can help.
These tests can look for inflammation markers in the blood, which include:
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
- TNF alpha
Once you know that inflammation is causing your symptoms or perhaps a potential factor underlying a condition or disease, then you can take steps to eliminate or reduce these triggers from your life.
Risk factors for Chronic Inflammation in the Body – Diet, Lifestyle, and the Environment
It is now widely recognized that lifestyle has a direct impact on inflammation levels. According to Dr. Eugene Ahn, Medical Director of Clinical Research and Hematologist/Oncologistat CTCA, “The more sedentary you are and the worse your diet is, the more inflammation you’re generating.”
Here are some of the major lifestyle factors known to contribute to inflammation:
- Diet high in sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrups (HFCS), which can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity
- Refined carbs
- Processed and packaged foods, trans fats, chemicals, additives, GMOs
- Processed meats
- Imbalance of omega-6 to omega 3 fat acids
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Inactive lifestyle (sitting too much)
- Chronic stress
- Prolonged environmental exposure to toxins, chemicals, or pollution
- Trauma and PTSD
- Excess alcohol consumption
Diseases linked to chronic inflammation
Another key part of the equation in achieving optimal health and preventing disease is awareness of what diseases are related to chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation has been linked to and is considered to be a major contributor to a variety of diseases including:
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type 2 diabetes
- Neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s
- Autoimmune disorders – e.g. lupus
- Endocrinological disorders – e.g. endometriosis
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic peptic ulcer
- Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Active hepatitis
How to reduce and manage inflammation in the body
Ok, so what can we do about inflammation?
The most sustainable and effective way to reduce inflammation in the body is through diet and lifestyle choices.
Eating a diet high in anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense foods while minimizing foods that contribute to inflammation will go a long way. Think a lot of vegetables, particularly leafy greens and cruciferous, fruits high in anti-oxidants, and foods rich in omega-3s.
Adequate sleep, exercise, and managing and minimizing stress will all further reduce inflammation in the body.
If you’re ready to get inflammation under control and reduce your risk of disease but don’t quite know where to begin, no stress! I got you covered.
I created a FREE Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle Quick-Guide – a simple, easy-to-digest (pun intended 😉 guide to the foods and habits that will reduce inflammation and elevate your overall wellbeing.
Grab your free guide and jumpstart your healing now!
Also, check out these anti-inflammatory smoothie recipes: