What is inflammation? In the most simplistic terms, it is your body’s response to threats such as toxins, infections, irritants, and injuries. But did you know inflammation, specifically chronic low-grade inflammation, can do lots of damage to your health?
There is plenty of data out there around the causes of inflammation and its effects on your body. We’re only going to scratch the surface here, but in this post, we’ll go over 5 things you should know about inflammation.
Inflammation can be useful for your body
Inflammation is your body’s natural defense against injury or illness. It’s a fundamental function of your immune system, which continually monitors for anything that appears as a foreign intruder in your body. For short-term conditions, the “acute inflammatory response” is triggered.
Examples of this are when you catch a cold and develop a fever or when you break a bone. In these cases, your body sends inflammatory cells to the rescue. With a fever resulting from an illness, signs of this response can include pain and heat, and with a broken bone, you may see swelling and redness.
Chronic Inflammation can be damaging
When your body recovers, the inflammation should go away. But when your immune system is disrupted, and inflammatory cells still linger, your body puts itself in an unnecessary state of constant defense leading to persistent inflammation. You could have “chronic inflammation” which is a crucial risk factor in a whole host of health problems and major diseases.
You might suffer from chronic disease if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- skin problems
- inability to lose weight
- joint pain
- aches and pains
- digestive problems
- sensitivity to foods
Examples of conditions where your body sustains low levels of inflammation include food allergies, obesity and autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic inflammation is also involved in the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease. These conditions can be a significant health risk and can even lead to heart attacks or strokes.
There are simple fixes for acute inflammation
For example, if you have a fever, you can take a pain reliever for the pain. You can also apply a cold compress and take a fever-reducing medication to bring down your temperature. For an injury such as a broken bone, you can reduce inflammation and the resulting swelling and pain with RICE therapy (rest, ice, compression, and elevation).
Treating chronic inflammation isn’t as easy
It’s not so simple with chronic inflammation, especially autoimmune disorders. However, you may find some relief making lifestyle choices that reduce inflammation and avoiding factors that turn on your body’s inflammatory response.
You’ve probably heard about anti-inflammatory diets which focus on avoiding:
- processed foods
- fast foods
- fried foods
- trans fat
- red meat
- white bread and pastries
These diets also recommend eating:
- foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- fatty fish
- nuts and seeds
- whole foods
- green leafy vegetables
- spices and herbs
- olive oil
A healthy lifestyle can help fight inflammation
Other actions you can take to reduce the risk factor of developing chronic inflammation include:
- stay active and exercise
- maintain a healthy body weight
- maintain proper hormone levels
- get 6-8 hours of good sleep a night
- build a healthy gut
- address nutrient deficiencies
- avoid alcohol
- stop smoking
If you’re concerned about long-standing inflammation and its consequences, it’s always a good idea to check with your physician to determine your risk level and discuss appropriate steps for you.
Do you suffer from signs of inflammation? From headaches, arthritis? Or something more chronic?
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Want to learn more on your own? Check out Dr Barry Sears book; The Anti-Inflammation Zone