You might be intrigued by the title of this post. After all, we tend not to think much of our swollen toe nail corners or sore throats. Normal inflammation tends to resolve on its own in short periods of time, causing not much more than some discomfort. The problem arises when it doesn’t, leading to severe health complications or even…cancer.
Inflammation is a natural biological response from our vascular tissues, to an external aggression or injury. There are several kinds of aggression or injury, with different levels of damage: possibly a scratch from a cat, a pathogen or toxin, or products that we consume (food, drugs or others). These may cause a simple irritation or a more serious damage to cells. Inflammation is also often related to infection, as it may occur as a result of it. There are 5 classic signs of inflammation: pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function. All of these very well known to any child with an allergy or just a little more active in the playground. The signs of inflammation mean very simply that the body has acknowledge the “threat” and the immune system is in defense mode.
While there are genetic mutations and other disorders from the immune system that can lead to abnormal inflammation responses, where the body “over reacts” and attacks its own healthy systems (Asthma, allergies, other auto-immune conditions), and this is what is really important about it, the defense response exists so that it triggers the healing process. When the distress agent is controlled, either by the action of our system or with a little help from our physician and some muscle ointment, the inflammation process auto-ceases and the regeneration of the damaged tissue is activated. Simplifying, inflammation is nothing more than part of our amazing immunity and regeneration systems.
Problems occur when our body is not able to deal with the “aggressor” or when the harmful stimulus is constantly fed (many times, literally) to our body. In this scenario, “normal” acute information may turn into chronic inflammation. When chronic inflammation sets in, our body’s defense system is kept in constant distress and alert. The type of cells dealing with the inflammation shift and simultaneous healing and destruction of the inflamed tissue (which includes cellular destruction) is happening. In summary: our inner systems are a mess. Body ache, indigestion, shortness of breath, skin outbreaks, diarrhea, swelling and frequent infections are common signs of chronic inflammation. It is known that inflammation contributes to the microenvironment that supports tumor development in its proliferation, survival and even, migration within tissues. Therefore...it might be something you won’t want to endure…
Chronic inflammation might be caused by a variety of factors, including bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections, nonetheless there are two main lifestyle causes for it, and they really are the usual suspects: stress and (the wrong) food.
Stress is as common as muck in our modern days. We all suffer from it on different grades, depending on how demanding our day to day responsibilities are, at work or on our family and social lives. The more stressed, the less rested (problems sleeping anyone?) and more nervous we become. Our body acknowledges and reacts to this imminent state of agitation (heard of fight or flight status?). In prolonged stress, the effectiveness of cortisol (stress hormone) to control inflammation is compromised. Tissues become desensitized to its action and persists with the inflammation. Negative cognitions, like stress, violence or deprivation, can trigger inflammation. Depression, often a result of these negative cognitions, is linked to chronic inflammation, while chronic inflammation can lead to depression. See the pattern?
Diet plays a major part in chronic inflammation. Some types of food are highly inflammatory. Specifically most of the products available in packets on your supermarket shelves. Highly processed and refined food might not even be recognized by our body as such. This “food” has in its composition, materials and substances that we can’t recognize (or even read) on the labels and don’t grow anywhere in nature. When we eat this type of “food” we are filling your body with substances that it can’t use for nutritional purposes (most of them are just empty calories) and it just dumps the digested results of it into our organic trash cans: the fat cells.
On the top of the most inflammatory food types is sugar (or anything based on it), common cooking oils, Trans Fats and refined grains. You may also add alcohol to this list, although not being exactly “food”.
This “food” apart from majorly irritating our digestive system, will contribute to fat storage. Obesity, caused in large doses by the consumption of this “food” is linked to a constant status of inflammation. Adiposity tends to cause an auto-immune response: our immune cells confuse fatty deposits for intruders and attack them like they were bacteria or pathogens, releasing inflammatory chemicals to deal with the “threat”.
This type of inflammation is regularly connected to heightened risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, muscle weakness and even Alzheimer’s.
Moreover, occasionally, even some natural foods can cause inflammation. The human being can be particularly sensitive, intolerant or even allergic, to specific types of food. While it is quite common to find lactose or gluten intolerants, yet some vegetables can be prone to be less well tolerate in our stomachs. Some examples of these are: peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruits, peanuts and white rice (!). Fatty meats and dairy meet same criteria (beef, pork, whole milk).
While having a food allergy is normally recognized and maintained under vigilance, symptoms of food intolerance can easily be confused with other things. Headaches and stomach upsets can easily be related to other day-to-day causes. While these symptoms can be irritating, most of the time they are not limiting enough to get the best of our attention. That might be a big mistake. Persistent consumption of food that our body does not tolerate, whatever the reason, can maintain our body in constant site of inflammation. Resulting damage of this kind is related to chronic inflammatory bowel diseases and an increased risk of colon carcinoma, for example.
The good news is, there are ways to fight and subside chronic inflammation. As there are inflammatory types of food, there are also types of food that fight inflammation, such as wild caught salmon, kelp, blueberries, sweet potato or papaya, food rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin E (and these are also great anti-oxidants) and also extra virgin olive oil. Many spices and herbs have great anti-inflammatory properties, like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, ginger and basil. Top up your diet with these health wonders and improve your body’s natural regeneration power.
Our body has an amazing ability to recover from damage (even years of it) so start now. You will find other treatment options in holistic wellness therapies, dedicated to direct you on lifestyle transformations that will both aim to reduce your stress levels and point out options for a more balance wellness status that will dramatically improve your health and quality of life at the same time. Swiss holistic health has 80 years of experience in dealing with chronic inflammation. Contact SWC if you are ready to take charge of your health.