Is inflammation a friendly fire, or silent killer?
Inflammation is the body’s natural, normal defensive response to a tissue injury. A typical inflammatory response has recognizable characteristics of redness, heat, swelling and pain.
The inflammatory response is the body’s elaborate response to an insult. It is stimulated by chemical factors released by injured cells and serves the function of isolating the spread of infection and to promote healing of damaged tissues.
Most of the time this complex process proceeds without a hitch and ends reasonably well, after all, a normally functioning immune system is designed to restore the body and its’ tissues to near normal form and function.
So why is it that inflammation has recently been named as the primary culprit or contributing factor to many common, chronic diseases? It could be that this friendly fire is actually a formidable enemy that is attacking us from the inside out. As it is with most things, it is all about balance.
The problem arises, when this normally efficient process shifts out of balance and the inflammation process continues out of control, resulting in a chronic attack from within. Chronic inflammation does not always arise from uncontrolled acute inflammation. In some cases it appears to arise on its own from various contributory factors and is often difficult to detect, progressing slowly and silently inflicting its damage.
While normal inflammation produces healing, chronic inflammation is at the root of disease, causing its damage without warning to the casual observer. Unfortunately, as a result of current lifestyle trends and diet, its dominance and its’ effects are on the rise.
Chronis inflammation is triggered by:
- Circulating immune complexes
- Stress on the vessel walls
- Blood fats
- Environmental toxins
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Bacteria and hidden infections
- And trauma
Chronic inflammation worsens endothelial damage and so begins a downward spiral.
Removing or controlling the culprits just discussed will attack the root of the problem.
Taking Back Control:
The greatest and most worrisome trend is the growing addiction to refined carbohydrates, and sugar. While we have evolved to eat meat and healthy fats, our bodies are not equipped to handle this toxic sugar burden. Foods like white bread, pasta, crackers, cakes, cookies, bagels, all with a high Glycemic index, are foods that cause rapid elevation of blood sugar, and a rapid release of insulin. Insulin and high sugar diets promote fat storage, increased-inflammation, and dyslipidemia and of course can ultimately lead to diabetes.
Few people are eating the recommended daily amounts of fiber and servings of vegetables, especially alkalizing leafy green vegetables. The typical diet of simple, carbohydrates, meats, and excess sugar is highly acidic to the blood and body tissues, not to mention, deficient in the antioxidants, micronutrients, vitamins, and phytonutrients the body requires to have a strong immune system, provide cellular protection, and minimize damage from free radicals and oxidation.
An anti-inflammatory diet should contain small amounts of lean, grass fed or organic, meat and fish, healthy nuts and oils and low in sugar.
Physical activity or exercise is inversely associated with inflammatory markers; high levels of activity are associated with reduction in chronic inflammation. Incorporating mindful exercise practices such as yoga and tai chi are also helpful for the mind and body.
Stress, and the fight, flight and freeze response can produce physiological systemic changes, including rapid heart rate, rapid, shallow breathing, release of cortisol with resultant immune-suppression, elevation of blood glucose, elevation of blood fats, high blood pressure, incomplete digestion, insomnia and much more. Isolated stressful events, and the chronic, ongoing stress response that occurs more commonly in today’s society, are contributing to imbalances and heightened inflammation and its negative effects. As a society, we need to address the effects of constant stress with effective strategies, including breath work, meditation, enjoyable hobbies, adequate rest and sound restorative sleep.
We can reduce the effects of inflammation and improve the outcome and management of many chronic and age related diseases. Simply making intentional choices to incorporate specific, simple lifestyle changes in the form of enjoyable exercise, and stress management techniques, employing the healing properties of whole foods, with their protective and anti-inflammatory benefits, is a great place to start in killing the internal fire.