Inflammation is the term given to describe the body’s response to tissue damage such as bacterial infections, trauma, chemical exposures and dying tissue. The problem is that there are times when the inflammation response isn’t accurate and those chemicals, when released on a continuous basis, without any injury or infection to confront, go from healing damaged cells to harming healthy ones. Inflammation can be a good thing, but when wrong, it’s very wrong!
In human physiology there are actually two forms of inflammation, acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is actually the good kind. This is what happens when the body responds to an injury by creating an environment that is conducive to healing and tissue repair. For instance, a sprained ankle will suddenly swell, turn pink, and become warm to the touch. This is the body responding properly to this injury and sending proper fluids and blood to the area.
When the body senses that something is wrong, it sends white blood cells and inflammatory cells like CRP and IL-6 to the site of the injury to help repair the damage or fight off invaders. Certain pro-inflammatory enzymes, such as COX-2, produce prostaglandins on-site. This rapid, multipronged response usually generates the hot or inflamed feeling which is where inflammation gets its name.
This biological response is self-regulating and turns off when it is no longer needed.
The problem arises when this response happens on a continuous basis, when there is actually no injury or invader to face or oppose. Ideally we want inflammation to come in, hit hard, and go away. When it doesn’t turn off, you get chronic, smoldering inflammation that can eventually cause tissue and cell damage.
Chronic inflammation has been known for years to be linked to diseases such as asthma, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease and cancer. More recently, it’s also been associated with dementia, Alzheimer’s, migraines, colitis, diabetes, and depression. In fact, in the past decade it’s been connected with the development of at least half the diseases on the CDC and prevention’s top ten causes of mortality!
Potential Causes of Bad Inflammation
Thus far, research has been unsuccessful in determining why this supposed self-regulating system will sometimes fail to stop or will engage when it’s not needed. The built in braking system doesn’t apply and chronic inflammation is the result. While there is no clinically proven reason, some studies have suggested a variety of causes and concerns that may be behind this problem.
A recent study found that excess adipose, or fatty tissue, generates inflammatory cells. So being overweight can mean your body is in a state of long term, low grade inflammation.
Another study, published in the medical journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, proposed that being less conscientious may increase your risk of high inflammatory cells by as much as 50%. Those less conscientious are more likely to smoke, exercise, less, and eat less healthy foods. The trait is also associated with greater stress related activation involving the adrenal glands.
Stress has been a known culprit in the battle with inflammation, as it’s been known to increase cortisol levels and create other hormonal imbalances. Chronic stress changes gene activity of immune cells before they enter the bloodstream. Basically, they think they’re going in to fight an infection and even if there isn’t one to fight they will attack and spur inflammation.
Finally, it won’t come as a surprise to learn that the gut may play a major role in inflammation and its responses. About 70% of the immune system operates out of the gut, so an imbalance in gut bacteria may have an impact. If gut microbiome is off, the resulting inflammation may fuel conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer, as well as conditions outside the realm of digestion.
How to Stop Inflammation
The medical approach to chronic inflammation will be non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). However, it’s possible to relieve this problem with healthy lifestyle changes. Based on what we know to be the primary causes of chronic inflammation, diet and exercise with the wellness lifestyle may control chronic inflammation and help the body begin to properly regulate inflammation levels.
A recent study published in Cancer Prevention Research, showed that overweight women who had lower than recommended vitamin D levels that went on to lose 5 to 10% of their body weight, and began supplementing with 2000IU of vitamin D3 each day, saw a 37% higher reduction in the inflammatory cells than those who lost weight without taking vitamin D!
The elimination diet which works on the principle that you eliminate one thing at a time until you find the food or category of foods that are creating your inflammation will be helpful in making dietary changes that may result in less chronic inflammation (to get help with this email me or contact the office for a nutritional consult).
The typical food or food categories linked with chronic inflammation include: dairy, processed and refined sugars, refined grains, vegetable oils, trans fats, nightshade vegetables, red meat, soft drinks, alcohol, high fructose corn syrup, and chemical food additives.
Health with Wellness!
Here at ACC we will always make suggestions to increase your family’s health through wellness. Choose healthier food items and be sure to cook them properly, avoid overcooking and choose healthier cooking options like grilling, baking, steaming, and boiling. Find the most colorful foods, the darker and richer the color of your vegetables, the higher the nutrition content. Increase physical activity and spend more times outdoors. The more you move the better you breathe, and increased oxygen to your cells will help your body function better and decrease stress, ultimately decreasing inflammation.
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