Inflammation is an attempt by the body to protect itself against irritants, damaged cells, pathogens, and other harmful stimuli, and to initiate healing. Inflammation is required, to some degree, to heal all infections and wounds; however, chronic inflammation can lead to cancer, atherosclerosis, heart disease, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, periodontitis, Multiple Sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Inflammation is either chronic or acute: chronic (also called systemic) inflammation is prolonged and may be low-level or extreme. Acute inflammation is the immediate response to harmful stimuli and involves leukocytes and plasma being directed to the site of the injury.
Usually appearing within a few hours of the injury or harmful stimulus, acute inflammation on the body’s surface is characterized with five signs:
- swelling; and
- loss of function.
When the inflammation involves internal organs, pain may not occur unless there are nerve endings associated with the organ.
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Signs of chronic inflammation include hair loss, Diabetes, candidiasis, high blood pressure, bronchitis, acne, psoriasis, acid reflux, susceptibility to infections, colitis, sinusitis, chronic pain, arthritis, fatigue, and cataracts. Chronic inflammation is seen in people who:
- have inadequate levels of Omega-3 fatty acids;
- have excessive body fat;
- exercise too much;
- eat high-carb meals consistently; and/or
- live high-stress lifestyles.
The Problem With Inflammation
When the body’s ability to produce anti-inflammatory compounds breaks down, or the injurious stimuli continues without relief, chronic inflammation is the result. Chronic inflammation, as mentioned, leads to a host of other possible ailments. Inflammation breaks up cholesterol deposits in coronary arteries, which can cause heart attacks or strokes. It devours nerve cells in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. It can cause abnormal cells to proliferate, leading to cancer. Research is showing that inflammation is at the root of most major diseases.
Causes of Inflammation
There are many causes of inflammation. Major ones are:
- chemical irritants;
- physical injury;
- ionizing radiation;
- foreign bodies;
- poor diet; and
- food allergies or sensitivities.
How to Avoid Inflammation
Many foods are inflammatory. Avoid these items as much as possible:
- trans fatty acids (found in most processed foods: hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils);
- grain-fed meat;
- refined carbohydrates (flour and sugar);
- artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners;
- allergens or foods to which you are sensitive;
- commercial plant oils (safflower, corn, soybean, canola)
- alcohol; and
How to Reduce Inflammation
Just as there are ways to avoid inflammation, there are several ways to reduce the inflammation you already have.
Reduce stress. Stress itself can cause inflammation, so by reducing your stress levels, you will also reduce inflammation.
Eat lots of anti-inflammatory foods. These include garlic, onion, ginger, citrus, turmeric, nettle leaf extract, and raw sesame oil. Colorful fruits and vegetables are also great to include in a healthy diet.
Avoid inflammatory foods. These include grains, legumes, dairy products, processed foods, and sugar. Some people also have trouble with nightshades (peppers, potatoes, and many other foods are members of the nightshade family).
Get lots of sleep. Sleep helps reduce stress and allows your body to heal.
Lose weight. When your fat cells reduce in size, they begin to release proper amounts of inflammatory compounds.
Balance your blood sugar. High levels of insulin skews omega-6 to omega-3 ratios, which leads to inflammation.
Ensure you eat enough Omega-3 fatty acids or supplement as necessary. The goal is to achieve a 1:1 balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Inflammation occurs when this ratio is unbalanced and you have too much Omega-6. Fatty fish like salmon, krill oil, and flaxseed are all good sources of Omega-3.