If you’re serious about learning about inflammation, this article aims to cover all aspects; to help you understand what it is, how it can affect every one of us and is the underlying cause of many of our biggest killers today, and of many more irritating ones. I’ll also cover simple changes you can make to your life to minimise your chronic inflammation levels and improve your current and long term health. Worth a read right??
If you’ve not got time for the whole thing, skip to the summary for the essentials that you need to know…
So what is inflammation?
Let me first say, whilst a lot of this article is about the negative effects, inflammation is actually a very important process for protecting ourselves from damage and from attack by things like bacteria and viruses.
During inflammation, chemicals are released by the immune system which increase blood flow to the area (so it becomes red and hot) and can cause a leak of fluids into the area to get our white blood cells there, resulting in swelling, which can stimulate nerves and cause pain, and redness. This should be temporary and recede once the protective work is done.
This is acute inflammation. This process is good, and should only be short term, lasting less than a few days.
Which is good, because this inflammatory response causes damage to the local tissues. The inflammation deals with the threat, and then recedes so the body can heal.
So how is inflammation bad for you?
When the inflammation levels remain high for longer periods of time, the body does not get sufficient time to heal and therefore cell damage builds up, to all cells and organs. This is chronic inflammation and it can be caused by:
Repeated triggering of the immune system, in the case of an allergy for example, or frequent stress, or long term exposure to irritants like polluted air or industrial chemicals
Inflammation being triggered when there is nothing to fight, or reacting to body tissues as an invader i.e. autoimmune diseases
A lack of control mechanisms meaning acute inflammation after injury or illness stays and becomes chronic
Chronic stress, obesity, alcohol, certain medications and smoking are also believed to contribute to chronic inflammation
The effects of chronic inflammation
Symptoms can be obvious, like pain or swelling in joints. They can also be less obvious, like those of a cold – fever, chills, loss of appetite, fatigue, muscle stiffness and shortness of breath. Others, like high blood pressure are not so obvious as inflammation itself does not cause symptoms, only the damage left behind does, and this can be confused for many other things.
There are many conditions linked to chronic inflammation, and more are being found every year. Well known ones are heart disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s, some arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, Chron’s and Ulcerative colitis.
Who has chronic inflammation?
As you can see from the wide range of conditions listed above, it’s likely that a huge proportion of the Western world suffer from some level of inflammation.
After all, pretty much all of us suffer from stress or obesity, and many of us are exposed to toxins and allergens like pollution on a regular basis and don’t eat enough fruit and veg, preferring to fill up on processed foods.
Whilst not all of us will show obvious symptoms, it’s still worth trying to control to reduce the risk of future disease so we should all take this seriously…
The causes and exacerbators of chronic inflammation
Our inflammation levels are affected by many things we do in our daily lives:
There are foods which are inflammatory, and can raise inflammation levels. These are refined carbs (high GI), fried foods, sugary foods, red and processed meats, margarine and lard. So what we’re talking about here are the saturated fats and added sugars predominantly.
High levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol can cause an inflammatory response too. Possibly because they are dangerous to the body, it reacts to them.
Visceral fats are those around the organs, not just limited to people who are overweight. These are often thought to be the most dangerous type of fat as they put strain on the organs themselves. These have been seen in studies to trigger an inflammatory response. We don’t fully understand why yet, but it could be because they are a threat to our bodies.
Obesity triggers a cascade of inflammation leading to insulin resistance. Adipose (fat) tissues were thought to be simple storage cells, but we now see that they are involved in immune and inflammatory regulation as they release chemicals.
Chronic stress and adrenal fatigue
Chronic stress leads to adrenal fatigue if the cells are triggered repeatedly and effectively ‘run out’ of cortisol. It also leads to decreased sensitivity of the body’s cells to cortisol, in the same way that if someone constantly shouts at you, you stop noticing. As cortisol regulates the inflammatory and immune responses, this lack of production, or lack of action by the cells, means that the inflammatory response cannot be regulated, either up or down, leading to more sickness and more inflammation. A double whammy!
Allergies cause the repeated trigger. We are familiar with our main allergies, but for many, poor gut health can cause leaky gut syndrome where larger food particles get into the blood and are then attacked as foreign invaders, putting our bodies into a permanent state of alertness and inflammation.
Poor quality sleep
Poor sleep has been shown to raise inflammation markers too, from late nights, a lack of regular bedtime, or disturbed sleep.
Smoking is inflammatory as the chemicals we breathe in are reacted to as foreign chemicals.
Low levels of vitamin D
People low in vit D can tend to have more inflammation markers.
How is chronic inflammation treated by the medical profession?
Some of the options that have been explored for managing inflammation include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as aspirin, and ibuprofen, effectively reduce inflammation and pain. But long-term use is linked to an increased risk of several conditions, including stomach ulcers and kidney disease.
Corticosteroids are a type of steroid hormone. They decrease inflammation and suppress the immune system, which is helpful when it starts attacking healthy tissue. But long-term use of corticosteroids can lead to vision problems, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.
Certain supplements may help to reduce inflammation. Fish oil , lipoic acid, and curcumin are all linked to decreased inflammation associated with diseases, including cancer and heart disease. Several spices may also help with chronic inflammation and inflammatory disease, including ginger, garlic, and cayenne.
How can we prevent or reduce chronic inflammation levels without medications?
The good news for all of us is that there are many things we can do to reduce our chronic inflammation levels most requirind some changes to our diets and lifestyle – things which are in our control! Diet and exercise have a strong positive effect and indirectly help control weight and sleep for a doubly beneficial effect.
Eat the right foods
This is a healthy balanced diet, high in these anti-inflammatory foods: tomatoes, red grapes, plums, onions, leafy greens, berries, omega 3 rich fish (salmon, tun, sardines) and healthier olis like olive oil, foods with probiotics, nuts, green tea, ginger root, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and turmeric.
Avoid the inflammatory foods like red and processed meats, saturated fats including fried foods and sugary processed foods.
In essence, cut out the junk food, and start eating lean meats and plants. Home cooked meals with few chemicals and maximum butrients.
Keep your blood sugar levels under control
Despite being essential to our existence, high levels of sugar in the blood can damage all cells. Cell damage leads to inflammation.
Repeatedly triggering insulin releases to control the high levels of sugars entering our blood after sugary snacks, can lead to decreased cell sensitivity by the cells. They don’t absorb as much sugar from the blood, blood sugars remain high and cause damage and inflammation.
Blood sugar control means following a low GL diet, eating sensible portions, limiting sugary foods to small amounts and making them less frequent. This has the added benefits of keeping your energy levels stable throughout the day. Oh, and you should lose weight too 🙂
Getting at least 20 minutes of light exercise a day has been shown to reduce inflammation markers.
This could be just a walk around the block, or cleaning the house. Perhaps some dancing around the kitchen whilst cooking dinner (one of my favourites 🙂 ). Whatever you do, just get moving. Don’t overcomplicate it!
Work on getting enough, good quality sleep
Just one poor night’s sleep can increase inflammation markers.
This isn’t just about making sure you go to bed on time; it’s important to ensure the sleep we are getting is good quality. That means ensuring sufficient melanin is produced that we can enter deep, healing sleep. It’s hard to know for sure whether we achieve this, but making sure that our circadian rhythms are well set, reducing the use of screens before bed, and taking the time to wind down and ensuring we are in a relaxed state before bed are all beneficial.
Not only does dehydration lead us to feel low in energy and therefore more likely to make poor food choices, we need water to flush out toxins from our bodies. If the toxins remain, they can lead to inflammation.
The standard wording is to drink around 2 litres per day, although this does depend on your size, exercise levels, and the temperature, as well as our individual bodies.
Manage your stress levels
To prevent adrenal fatigue and cell desnsitisation, we need to reduce the amouont of times the stress response is triggered, and try to get into the ‘relaxation response’ as often as possible.
Some great ways to do this are simple mindfulness techniques, like focusing on what you can hear and feel right now, or some deep breathing. Think about things that you’re grateful for.
I’ve had a lot of success lately with journalling; writing down all my stressors, and thinking about how each can be reduced. Just identifying them can make you raelise how silly or simply solved some of them are!
Exercise is also great for destressing, as is time with friends and family and time to chill out and do something you love. Which are hard to do when you’re stressed and overworked, but as the quote goes, it’s when you don’t have the time to rest that it’s most important that you do. MAKE TIME!
Get to a healthy weight
Extra fat cells have been linked to inflammation, with a belief that these cells can cause inflammation intself, creating a vicious circle!
In this way, obesity, or extra weight, isn’t just a problem for image, or for heart disease, blood pressure etc issues later in life; it’s negatively affecting your energy levels, skin, mental function and gut comfort RIGHT NOW. Sort it out. If you need some help with this – you’re in the right place as I can help you with this – book a call in to discuss how now (a free, friendly chat to see what your options are – nothing pushy I promise), or check out my services page…
Raise your vitamin D levels
Although the evidence for this is less certain, low vitamin D levels have been linked to higher inflammation, especially with inflamamtory skin conditions.
The best way is to get some short bursts of sun so your skin can make it. Just around 20 minutes a day with your arms and face out will suffice on a sunny day. It’ll take a bit more in the winter or on a cloudy day. (I am NOT advocating burning in the sun here, be safe and break up the times in the sun on a really hot day).
If that’s really not something you can do, or the sun is refusing to show it’s face, you can look into taking a supplement.
Limit alcohol and stop smoking
Alcohol in larger volumes had been linked to inflammation.
Smoking, even vaping, contains chemicals which the body reacts to in the form of inflammation.
You already know it’s not good for you, so do something about it!
Disclaimer: Of course I am NOT saying you shouldn’t get your health issues checked out with your doctor, or should come off your existing medications! All the above is complimentary to your existing medicines and you should always do what your medical practitioner tells you.
What I am saying here is that if you can keep your inflammation levels low by following the above lifestyle, you will reduce your chances of future illnesses and should see an improvement in existing conditions, hopefully to the extent where you can reduce and come off your medications with the guidance of your doctor, as I did.
Can we cure ourselves and resolve many of these conditions without needing to resort to medications?
As I mentioned above, making these changes to your lifestyle to reduce your inflammation levels should reduce the symptoms of your inflammation related issues. Note that this will not be quick; don’t expect results in a week – skin changes themselves can take months. This lifestyle is for the long term, to improve your existing conditions and reduce the chances of getting others as you get older. This will then reduce the chances of you needing to resort to medications.
I covered a lot above, which I’ll try to wrap up into a couple of paragraphs of need to know info…
Chronic Inflammation potentially affects us all, if you are often stressed, overweight, frequently exposed to pollution, or the sufferer of allergies, gut discomfort, skin issues, low energy (and many more) you potentially have it.
It causes a host of health conditions as it essentially damages every cell in the body. So fatigue, headaches, gut pains up to heart disease and cancer.
The good news is that living a healthy lifestyle can massively reduce our levels and have huge impacts on our health now and in the future! Eat well, move your body, minimise stress and external chemicals and get some good sleep and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy life.
As we get older, inflammation becomes an increasing problem, and the damage caused over time builds up, so get on top of your inflammation levels today and prevent yourself from the pain and discomfort of inflammatory diseases later in life!
Start living a healthy lifestyle and you’ll feel better within days (energy wise at least) and have less disease in the future = winning all round!
This isn’t easy, especially at first if you have a lot of diet changes to make, but it’s so worth it! Value yourself and get a plan and some support and get started today!
If you have no idea where to start, here are a couple of options:
Use the free info all over the internet (including on this site) and get investigating, come up with your own plan to change your diet and lifestyle and get started making change. It’s the longer and harder way, but it is free! If you can be sufficiently motivated to get there under your own steam then kudos to you and good luck! (if you can’t you’re just setting yourself up for wasted effort and failure…)
Get on a free call with me to have a friendly chat about where you’re at and where you want to be. I’ll help you find a plan and we can discuss whether I can help you. No pressure at all. Pick a time slot here…
If you’re not a fan of phone calls, you can give me a test run in my Anti Inflammation 10 day reboot. It’s totally online, it’ll educate you about inflammation and how to resolve it, with implementation tips and advice and support throughout. All for the cost of a dinner and drinks out… Get more info here…
Or you can keep making excuses, procrastinate and undervalue yourself and do nothin, letting poor health come to you and calling it fate. (Please don’t do this option! You don’t have to do all of the above – if you can just do one it will make a difference!)