What is inflammation?

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to outside threats like stress, infection, or toxic chemicals. When the immune system senses one of these dangers, it responds by activating proteins meant to protect cells and tissues.

 

“In a healthy situation, inflammation serves as a good friend to our body,” says Mansour Mohamadzadeh, PhD, director of the Center for Inflammation and Mucosal Immunology at the University of Florida.” “But if immune cells start to overreact, that inflammation can be totally directed against us.”

 

 

What does it look like in your body?

Inflammation is most commonly seen when you are fighting off an illness.  It’s your fever, sore throat, swollen glands.

Or you have a bug bite or a wound that is healing. An infected cut that’s red, swollen and warm to the touch are signs that your immune system is sending white blood cells, immune cell-stimulating growth factors, and nutrients to the affected areas.

But this type of helpful inflammation is only temporary. When the infection or illness is gone, inflammation should go away as well.

 

When it goes wrong:

Harmful, chronic inflammation can have a number of causes, including a virus or bacteria, an autoimmune disorder, inflammatory sugary and fatty foods. 

Another type of inflammation occurs in response to emotional stress. Instead of blood cells rushing to one part of the body, however, inflammatory markers called C-reactive proteins are released into the blood stream and travel throughout the body.

This is the body’s biological response to impending danger—your “flight or fight” response that floods you with adrenaline and could help you escape a life-threatening situation.

But poorly managed stress over a long period of time can cause those C-reactive protein levels to be constantly elevated, which can be a factor in many chronic health conditions.

 

Other ways inflammation impacts your body:

 

Joint pain:

When inflammation occurs in the joints, it’s can cause serious damage. One joint-damaging condition is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)—another example of an autoimmune disorder that appears to have a genetic component, but is also linked to smoking, a lack of vitamin D, and other risk factors.

Obesity:

Obesity and unhealthy eating increases inflammation in the body

Cancer:

Chronic inflammation has been linked to cancers of the lung, esophagus, cervix, and digestive tract, among others. A 2014 Harvard University study found that obese teenagers with high levels of inflammation had a 63% increased risk of developing colorectal cancer during adulthood compared to their thinner peers. The inflammation may be due to obesity, a chronic infection, a chemical irritant, or chronic condition; all have been linked to a higher cancer risk.

 

“When immune cells begin to produce inflammation, immune regulation becomes deteriorated and it creates an optimal environment for cancer cells to grow,” says Mohamadzadeh.

 

Sleep:

In a 2009 study from Case Western Reserve University, people who reported sleeping less than average had higher levels of inflammation-related proteins in their blood than those who said they slept about 7.6 hours a night.

Asthma:

When inflammation occurs in the lungs, it can cause fluid accumulation and narrowing of the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Smoking, exposure to air pollution or household chemicals, and being overweight can a contribute to this inflammation leading to an increase in infections and asthma.

Weight loss:

It makes weight loss more difficult. Obesity is a major cause of inflammation in the body, and losing weight is one of the most effective ways to fight it. But that’s sometimes easier said than done, because elevated levels of inflammation-related proteins can also make weight loss more difficult than it should be. Chronic inflammation can influence hunger signals and slow down metabolism, so you eat more and burn fewer calories. Inflammation can also increase insulin resistance (which raises your risk for diabetes) and has been linked with future weight gain.

Skin:

The effects of inflammation aren’t just internal: They can also be reflected on your skin. Psoriasis, for example, is an inflammatory condition that occurs when the immune system causes skin cells to grow too quickly. A 2013 study published in JAMA Dermatology suggested that losing weight could help psoriasis patients find relief, since obesity contributes to inflammation. Chronic inflammation has also been shown to contribute to faster cell aging in animal studies, and some experts believe it also plays a role (along with UV exposure and other environmental effects) in the formation of wrinklesand visible signs of aging.

Depression:

Inflammation may contribute to the symptoms of depression, such as low mood, lack of appetite, and poor sleep. Previous research has found that people with depression have higher levels of inflammation in their blood

 

What can you do about it?

 

There are both nutrition and non-diet related ways to reduce inflammation in your body. Start by changing your diet!

Avoid or limit:

Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pastries

French fries and other fried foods

Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages

Processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)

Margarine, shortening, and lard, vegetable oils

Cut out the sugars: Diets high in sugar create an inflammatory response in your body

 

Eat more foods that combat inflammation naturally:

Tomatoes

Olive oil

Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards

Nuts like almonds and walnuts

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines

Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries

Eating a more natural, less processed diet is a great first step to reducing systemic inflammation.

One very important thing to do, that is so commonly forgotten or ignored is to drink lots of water! Without enough water, your detoxification systems (liver, kidneys, and digestive system)  can’t work efficiently, so you build up the toxins in your system. This keeps the inflammatory cycle continuing, as your immune system has to keep trying to remove those toxins. When they can’t effectively be removed, your inflammatory response stays ON creating the chronic inflammation.

 

There are also non-diet related things you can do to reduce inflammation.

 

Lower your stress levels. Add in a daily meditation practice. meditation reduces markers of inflammation naturally. You don’t need to meditate for hours, just 5 minutes a day can be very beneficial.

Avoid over the counter pain relievers and also antibiotics unless necessary. These medications have a detrimental effect on the balance and health of your gut.

Exercise regularly

Reduce your exposure to toxins: household cleaners, makeup and hair care products. Look for more natural products and cleaners. Or do what I did, and remove all cleaners in your home except natural laundry soap and dish detergent, and replace them with high quality microfiber cleaning cloths and water. I use Norwex brand and my home is still totally clean but without all the chemicals!

Sleep more

Get out in the sunshine. Vitamin D is a necessary nutrient for combating inflammation

Deep breathing. Explore a breathing program. The Wim Hof Method is a natural way to saturate your body with available oxygen as well as simultaneously make yourself a disease-fighting, anti-inflammatory machine. Check out this video to learn a bit more!

 

Take ACTION and put as many of these into practice to live a healthier life today!

 

 

 

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