Before we even develop a serious illness, chronic internal inflammation can contribute to poor energy, weight gain, frequent colds and flu, allergies, and many other symptoms. Diet, stress, environmental toxins, smoking, alcohol and even a couch-potato lifestyle can create inflammation in your body. Inflammation is now considered to be a major underlying factor in cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
Most people think of inflammation, as a bump on the head, an infected wound, or an arthritic joint. If inflammation isn’t just an irritated infection or a broken bone, then what else is it?
Inflammation is the immune system’s first response. Specialised cells are sent to the area where there is inflammation, to help resolve the crisis that has arisen. This is the normal reaction when you have a cut for example. The cells go about healing the cut and stopping the bleeding. Your body reacts to any internal crisis that has arisen in much the same way.
But it's when your body hits an inflammatory overload that your defence system gets so overwhelmed and confused that it literally doesn’t know the difference between the invader and you. As a result, your well-meaning immune system turns on itself, destroying healthy cells, tissue, and everything else in its path. The whole process then becomes chaotic.
Initially the anti-inflammatory molecules are critical for mounting an attack against the original inflammation crisis, but it's when they are secreted continuously, they disrupt the checks and balances that create optimum health. This imbalance alters immune function, causes wear and tear on tissues, and disrupts insulin and other hormonal levels. The net result is chronically inflamed and damaged tissues throughout our system. Eventually, chronic inflammation will set in , taking over and weakening our health.
Over time, chronic inflammation wears out the immune system, leading to chronic diseases and other health issues, including cancer, asthma, autoimmune diseases, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis. Normally these diseases are often only treated with drugs and surgery, which can provide temporary relief from the symptoms, but in my opinion, do not treat the root of the problem. All drugs come with side effects that sometimes only add to your health problems.
There are numerous ways to help prevent chronic inflammation from occurring and even reversing the damage it has already caused. An anti-inflammatory plan breaks this cycle of inflammatory response and increases tissue resistance to chronic inflammation.
Here are some suggestions for adopting an anti-inflammatory lifestyle:
1. Increase foods with essential fatty acids, such as nuts and seeds, or take an algae derived omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammatory pathways.
2. Eat at least five to six servings of fresh (organic whenever possible) fruits and vegetables daily. Vegetables and fruits contain a wide variety of anti-inflammatory and tissue healing compounds.
3. Supplement your diet with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric and ginger.
4. Reduce foods that contain arachidonic acid, which is an inflammatory fatty acid found in meat, poultry, dairy, and other animal foods.
5. Reduce or eliminate refined sugars and carbohydrates. Refined sugar disrupts immune and digestive function, which contributes to inflammation.
6. Increase consumption of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and high-fiber foods. Whole grains and fibre help regulate immune function away from prolonged inflammatory responses.
7. Reduce or eliminate alcohol. When alcohol is broken down in the liver, highly reactive inflammatory compounds are created.
8. Drink at least eight 8 glasses of fresh water daily. Tap water should be avoided in most cases, unless it has been filtered.
9. Avoid foods with saturated fats, added trans fats, preservatives, and artificial colourings and flavourings. These substances impair normal immunity and increase cellular susceptibility to inflammation. You find all these nasties in processed foods.
10. Get enough sleep, as sleep deprivation has been shown to increase inflammatory cytokines. Ideally try to get 8 hours a night.
11. Avoid cigarette smoke, pesticides, and other pollutants which are toxic inflammatory compounds
12. Exercise consistently to maintain normal body weight and stimulate a healthy immune system. Exercise consistent with your age.
Chronic inflammation is the body’s call to action. We need to find ways to close off or slow down this reaction.
According to a report in the journal Oncology, “The longer the inflammation persists, the higher the risk of chronic disease, including cancer.” Chronic inflammation can cause damage. Through a combination of diet, lifestyle, and dietary supplements we can reduce and even reverse the damage caused by inflammation.
Over the next few posts, I plan to focus on some of these suggestions in greater detail and what I do on a daily basis and how I include these recommendations into my life.