There’s a five-alarm fire siren blaring about the dangers of inflammation. And for good reason.
Nicholas Perricone, MD, the pioneering nutritionist and dermatologist, wrote a book on anti-inflammation eating. He explains how our bodies actually depend on temporary inflammation to help fight off sudden injuries or infection.
But when, for a whole host of reasons, that inflammation process becomes chronic, the immune system mistakenly attacks normal healthy cells. The very process that ordinarily heals turns destructive.
Regarding your health and well-being, inflammation is one of the buzziest buzz words out there these days.
When medical professionals talk about inflammation, they’re referring to a combo of heat, pain, redness, and swelling that can happen externally or inside the body.
Inflammation is activated when the immune system gets rubbed the wrong way by some kind of irritant.
This can be something as seemingly minor as a food sensitivity to, an environmental toxin, or damaged tissue.
In response, the body calls immune cells and fluid to the irritated area to help kill whatever’s there. This is a good thing. But if it’s happening for too long, it can be very, very harmful.
The inflammatory response should be self-limited. All of those inflammatory molecules, immune cells, and fluid can really disrupt the functioning of wherever the inflammation is located.
That’s why chronic inflammation’s at the root of so many diseases, from Alzheimer’s to cancer.
Chronic inflammation can creep us on us like a thief in the night.
While we often cannot see it or feel its presence, it can slowly damage our bodies without us even knowing it.
Yet, you may begin to notice subtle signs of feeling more tired than usual, perhaps a bit “off.” But over time those uncomfortable symptoms may become impossible to ignore.
Acute inflammation is a normal part of our body’s miraculous healing process.
It occurs when we’re experiencing a sore throat or even a small cut on our skin. When treated, acute inflammation should go away within a few days.
If you’re experiencing any signs of long-term inflammation, make an appointment with your doctor. Perhaps you need treatment for an underlying condition.
Read on to learn more about inflammation and what you can do to control it so you can feel your best.
What happens during acute and chronic inflammation?
Inflammation is a process by which your body’s white blood cells and the substances they make protect you from infection from outside invaders, such as bacteria and viruses.
Acute inflammation usually occurs for a short (yet often severe) duration. It often resolves in two weeks or less.
- Symptoms appear quickly. For example, when we are wounded, the resulting chemical reaction produces lipids called prostaglandins.
- They cause various inflammatory responses, including fevers, allergic reactions, and blood vessel dilation. This type restores your body to its state before injury or illness.
Chronic inflammation is a slower and generally less severe form of inflammation.
- It typically lasts longer than six weeks.
- It can occur even when there’s no injury.
- It doesn’t always end when the illness or injury is healed.
Acute inflammation is a temporary and protective response.
The symptoms of acute inflammation include the following.
- Weight changes
- Autoimmune diseases
- Brain fog
Chronic inflammation is detrimental to our well-being when it is prolonged or occurs without an acute cause.
But sometimes, an inflammatory response happens when our immune systems activate without us being injured or infected.
Here’s the problem. When they cannot find anything to heal, the immune cells that usually protect us begin to damage our healthy organs, joints, and arteries.
Chronic inflammation has more serious consequences, including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease — studies even point to it as a possible cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Inflammation markers that indicate trouble.
Whether your inflammation is acute or chronic, your liver is signaled to release C-Reactive Protein (CRP) into your bloodstream.
Along with CRP, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and plasma viscosity (PV) blood tests are often used to diagnose and monitor inflammatory conditions.
With a basic understanding of what causes chronic inflammation, you can take steps to combat it and minimize its effects on your health.
Food choices can exacerbate and perpetuate chronic inflammation.
The worst food offenders include the following:
- Refined carbohydrates
- Trans fats
- Seed oils
- Processed or fried food
- White foods such as pasta and rice
- Certain fruits and vegetables, like night shades and those containing lectins
On the other hand, some fruits, leafy vegetables, olive oil, and foods that contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids such as cold-water fish and walnuts help decrease inflammation.
Got excess weight particularly around the belly?
This often causes higher inflammatory compound levels.
CRP is typically higher in obese people.
Stress affects levels of inflammation.
Prolonged stress leads to the uncomfortable physical symptoms of inflammation. It can also lead to mental health issues such as stress and anxiety.
Adopting healthy stress-reducing habits such as exercise, however moderate, yoga, meditation, or other mindfulness practices can help prevent the onset of chronic inflammation.
Low Vitamin D levels are associated with higher inflammation levels.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble compound produced from sunlight exposure and improves the following functions:
- Bone strength
- Dental health
- Cell differentiation
- Cognitive health
- Cardiovascular health
- Blood sugar
Furthermore, research has found that Vitamin D actually reduces inflammation. It helps regulate the production of immune defense proteins and hinder the growth of pro-inflammatory cells.
Adding a Vitamin D supplement can improve and optimize your levels. A simple blood test can tell you whether your Vitamin D levels are adequate.
Chronic inflammation is a sign that your health and overall well-being are at risk.
Symptoms can vary depending on the condition that has an inflammatory component.
For example, in some autoimmune conditions, your immune system affects your skin, leading to rashes. In other types, it attacks specific glands, which affect hormone levels in the body.
In rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system attacks your joints. You may experience:
- Joint pain, swelling, stiffness, or loss of joint function
- Numbness and tingling
- Limited range of motion
In inflammatory bowel disease, inflammation occurs in the digestive tract. Some common symptoms include:
- Stomach pain, cramping, or bloating
- Weight loss and anemia
- Bleeding ulcers
In multiple sclerosis, your body attacks the myelin sheath that covers and protects your nerve cells. You may experience:
- Numbness and tingling of the arms, legs, or one side of the face
- Balance problems
- Double vision, blurry vision, or partial vision loss
- Cognitive problems, like brain fog
Other factors that can lead to inflammation include:
- Chronic and acute health conditions
- Certain medications
- Exposure to irritants or foreign materials your body can’t easily eliminate
Recurring episodes of acute inflammation can also lead to a chronic inflammatory response.
Foods to help reduce inflammation.
Sometimes, fighting inflammation can be as simple as changing up your diet. By avoiding sugar, trans fats, and processed foods, and many of the other foods mentioned previously, you can begin to feel better.
Add these anti-inflammatory foods to your diet:
- Berries and cherries
- Fatty fish, like salmon or mackerel
- Green tea
- Mushrooms, like portobello and shiitake
- Spices, like turmeric, ginger, and clove
It’s Never Too Late to turn down the heat on inflammation.
Losing unwanted weight in alignment with 21st century metabolic science knowledge reduces chronic inflammation.
Understanding the positive impact of managing your mind throughout the process is all a part of my weight loss coaching program.
You really can find the peace and freedom you seek in your relationship with food, your body and your weight.
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