Frequently, inflammation comes up as a topic when people are discussing their health, nutrition, and/or wellness. But what exactly is inflammation? Inflammation can be a confusing topic. Today, I want to talk about inflammation, what it is, what causes it and how to reduce it.
Inflammation is the body’s natural way of protecting itself from injury and infection. The goal of inflammation is to remove harmful invaders such as damaged cells, viruses, bacteria, etc. to heal the body. There are several ways that inflammation can take place in your body. Inflammation may present itself by heat, redness, swelling, pain or even loss of function. Not all symptoms must be present to have inflammation.
A common misconception about inflammation is that all inflammation is bad. The inflammatory process is a normal and healthy process that is needed. Inflammation can become unhealthy or “bad” when it lasts for longer periods of time and the root cause is not eliminated. There are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic. Acute inflammation starts quickly and generally is gone within a few days, such as a cut on your finger. The other type is chronic inflammation, which can last for months or even years, and occurs when we do not eliminate the cause or the inflammation. Keep in mind, when most people are talking about inflammation they are talking about chronic inflammation, this is also the type of inflammation I will be referring to below.
Inflammation has been found to be associated with almost every health condition and/or disease. Inflammation is basically the breakdown of normal body function. Inflammation is thought to be the root cause of everything from cancer, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue, arthritis, neurological disease, etc. Inflammation is the umbrella term for almost everything going on in the body. Remember above when we discussed that it presents itself as heat, redness, swelling, pain and loss of function? The key here is loss of function. Loss of function is a good indicator that something has gone wrong in the body.
Inflammation can be influenced by both genetics and lifestyle factors. Too much stress, poor sleep, lack of activity, and exposure to toxins can all lead to chronic inflammation, along with nutrition factors. Diet can have a big impact on inflammation leading to increased inflammation or decreased inflammation depending on the foods you are eating. Foods that cause blood sugar dysregulation (think spike and crash) and foods that upset your digestive system can both cause increased inflammation in the body. When your digestive system is not functioning optimally, this can lead to disease elsewhere in the body. Approximately 80% of your immune system is found in the digestive system. When you eat foods that irritate your digestive system you are lowering your ability to fight problems elsewhere in the body. For example, if you notice a flare of eczema or acne as a result of something you ate (a known or unknown sensitivity), such as dairy. When we have a lowered immunity, our bodies are unable to handle problems everywhere in the body. It is important to eat a nutrient dense whole food diet to decrease chronic inflammation.
Common foods that promote inflammation:
- Refined vegetable oils
- Conventional (non-organic, pasteurized) cow’s dairy
- Refined carbohydrates
- Conventionally raised meat
- Processed and packaged foods
The good news is that many of the factors that influence inflammation are things that we can control and change. We can decrease stress, work on sleep quality, increase activity levels and decrease exposure to toxins. We can also improve our nutrition. The changes you will need to make will depend on where you are right now. Making changes to your lifestyle will decrease chronic inflammation, which is the root cause of so many diseases and will truly make a difference in how you feel. If you are suffering from chronic inflammation, which can manifest itself in many ways, from skin issues to cancer, I can help make changes to your lifestyle. I currently have openings for one-on-one clients (both local and distance) and spots available for my February 21 Day Sugar Detox Group.
Jamey Floreck, NTP, CPT