Inflammation: The Root Cause of Many Modern Ailments
Chronic inflammation is one of the most damaging and widespread health issues that most people face today, and it is at the root of almost every major disease. In fact, according to Dr. Keith Nemec of the Total Health Institute in Chicago, “All disease starts with cellular inflammation. Whether you have cancer, heart disease, diabetes, digestive disorders, autoimmune disease, or Alzheimer's, it all starts with inflammation at the cellular level, which leads to either early cell death translating into specific organ or gland disease, or into cancer stem cell stimulation, which fuels cancer cell growth and metastasis."
Being such a destructive and widespread health issue in today’s world, it is important to educate oneself on inflammation, what it is, how it is caused, how it affects the body, and how to reduce it so that we can thrive as healthy human beings. In this article, we will provide a basic overview of inflammation so that you can be informed on how to reduce inflammation and lead a healthier lifestyle.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is not a bad thing in itself. Inflammation is simply your body's natural way of protecting itself from infection, illness, or injury. The issue arises when inflammation becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation, also referred to as slow, long-term inflammation, lasts for prolonged periods of several months to years.
There are two main types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute, or short-term, inflammation can arise as a result of injury or illness and is characterized by five key signs:
- Pain: This may occur continuously or only when a person touches the affected area.
- Redness: This happens because of an increase in the blood supply to the capillaries in the area.
- Loss of function: There may be difficulty moving a joint, breathing, sensing smell, and so on.
- Swelling: A condition call edema can develop if fluid builds up.
- Heat: Increased blood flow may leave the affected area warm to the touch.
However, these signs are not always present. Sometimes inflammation is present without easily recognizable symptoms. A person may also feel tired, generally unwell, and have a fever. Symptoms of acute inflammation last a few days, while subacute inflammation lasts 2-6 weeks. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can continue for months or years, and may lead to various diseases if not treated.
Acute inflammation can result from:
- exposure to a substance, such as a bee sting or dust
- an injury
- an infection
When the body detects damage or pathogens, the immune system triggers a number of reactions:
- Tissues accumulate plasma proteins, leading to a buildup of fluid that results in swelling.
- The body releases neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, or leukocyte, which move toward the affected area. Leukocytes contain molecules that can help fight pathogens.
- Small blood vessels enlarge to enable leukocytes and plasma proteins to reach the injury site more easily.
Signs of acute inflammation can appear within hours or days, depending on the cause. In some cases, they can rapidly become severe. How they develop and how long they last will depend on the cause, which part of the body they affect, and individual factors.
Some factors and infections that can lead to acute inflammation include:
- Acute bronchitis, appendicitis, and other illnesses ending in “-itis”
- An ingrown toenail
- A sore throat from a cold or flu
- Physical trauma or wound
Chronic inflammation can develop if a person has:
Sensitivity: Inflammation happens when the body senses something that should not be there. Hypersensitivity to an external trigger can result in an allergy.
Exposure: Sometimes, long-term, low-level exposure to an irritant, such as an industrial chemical, can result in chronic inflammation.
Autoimmune disorders: The immune system mistakenly attacks normal healthy tissue, as in psoriasis.
Autoinflammatory diseases: A genetic factor affects the way the immune system works, as in Behçet’s disease.
Persistent acute inflammation: In some cases, a person may not fully recover from acute inflammation. Sometimes, this can lead to chronic inflammation.
Factors that may increase the risk of chronic inflammation include:
- older age
- a diet that is rich in unhealthful fats and added sugar
- low sex hormones
- sleep problems
Inflammation plays a vital role in healing, but chronic inflammation may increase the risk of various diseases. To reduce your risk of developing diseases and to improve your body’s health, it is wise to learn what causes inflammation and how to reduce inflammation.
How To Reduce Inflammation
Avoid Oxidized Fats
A major contributing factor to chronic inflammation is diet—the food we eat every day. Without realizing it, many people in today’s world are consuming unhealthy foods that cause inflammation in the body. One of the primary foods contributing to this are oxidized fats from cooked vegetable oils.
When one molecule gives up an electron to another, scientists say it is "oxidized." Oxidation happens through chemical reactions in our bodies all the time, and the process creates "free radicals," which can cause damage that raises our risk for heart attack, stroke, cancer and other problems. Consuming oxidized fats may have the same damaging effect on the body as these free radicals do. A number of experiments that fed oxidized vegetable oils to animals showed they can cause damage to brain cells, lead to inflammation, and increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If these results hold true in humans, regularly eating oxidized oils could be a major threat to our health.
One of the easiest ways to avoid these oxidized vegetable oils is to use high-heat cooking oils when cooking your food. Whether an oil is considered high-heat or low-heat is determined by the type of fat it is. Natural fats contain varying ratios of three types of fats: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
- Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and very stable. They resist oxidation, so they often can tolerate higher temperatures.
- Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and generally the least stable for cooking. They oxidize easily and are found in safflower and sunflower oils, if not labeled for high heat or “high oleic.”
- Monounsaturated fats also are liquid at room temperature and generally are more stable than polyunsaturates. They’re found in foods like sesame seeds, nuts and avocados.
Cooking with saturated fats such as coconut oil, butter, or ghee, as well as stable monounsaturated fats like avocado oil, almond oil, or grapeseed oil, are ideal for cooking. Avoid cooking with polyunsaturated fats like corn, sunflower, and safflower oil. Canola oil, though considered a monounsaturated fat, is also not ideal for consumption as it is highly refined, mostly gmo, and very high in omega 6 fatty acids.
Maintain a Balanced Ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, however, with the many added vegetable oils in modern foods, most people are consuming far too many omega 6 fatty acids, which may also contribute to inflammation. The ideal ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids is 4:1, however, the average American today consumes a ratio of 16:1. To reduce this imbalance, avoid buying and consuming foods made with added vegetable oils.
Another dietary source of inflammation is pollutants in food. Added chemicals, pesticides, and other toxins in food may irritate the body and result in an inflammatory response. It is recommended to avoid foods and supplements that contain these toxins to reduce inflammation and to improve overall health.
Reduce Stress and Take Care of Your Mental Health
Stress is also a contributing factor to inflammation, and like inflammation, chronic stress is a root cause of many illnesses. When we are psychologically stressed, it causes physiological reactions in the body that lead to physical stress. When prolonged over extended periods of time, this chronic stress can have many negative effects on the body. The mind and body are intimately connected, and to really reduce inflammation, we cannot only address the body, but we must also address the mind as well.
Regular exercise also reduces inflammation as it reduces fat mass and adipose tissue inflammation which is known to contribute to systemic, or chronic inflammation. Exercise also increases muscle production of IL-6 which is known to reduce TNF-α production and increase anti-inflammatory cytokines.
Ground Your Bare Feet on the Earth
Interestingly, grounding (walking barefoot on natural ground) may also reduce inflammation in the body. Multi-disciplinary research has revealed that electrically conductive contact of the human body with the surface of the Earth produces various effects on physiology and health. Such effects relate to inflammation, immune responses, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Studies have revealed that grounding reduces or even prevents the cardinal signs of inflammation following injury: redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function. Rapid resolution of painful chronic inflammation was confirmed in 20 case studies using medical infrared imaging.
Eat Antioxidant Rich Foods
Antioxidants found in foods protect your cells from the effects of free radicals and can help reduce an overabundance of inflammation in your body. Antioxidants are found in many foods, including blueberries, beets, broccoli, flaxseeds, green tea, ginger, and more.
Consume Anti-Inflammatory Herbs
Various herbs have powerful anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Among these herbs, turmeric is notable for its ability to reduce inflammation in the body. Our team has developed a biodynamic turmeric formula specifically targeted at reducing inflammation. This formula utilizes a liposomal delivery system that allows the curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric attributed to its anti-inflammatory effects, to be delivered directly to the cells in a highly bioavailable form. It is also extracted in concentrated therapeutic doses that make it much more potent than simply consuming the herb by itself.
Inflammation is a natural response of the body, and an essential function of the body’s immune system. However, when the body is inflamed for long periods of time as a result of negative dietary, lifestyle, or environmental factors, it can lead to chronic inflammation which has a number of negative health effects and can lead to serious, even fatal diseases. To reduce inflammation in the body it is helpful to address it at the root.
Take an honest look at your diet, lifestyle and environment, and see if you can recognize the causes of inflammation in your life. Strive to reduce these factors that cause inflammation, such as stress, toxins, and oxidized oils, and aim to include factors that reduce inflammation, such as regular exercise, grounding, and consuming antioxidant rich foods and herbs. Inflammation can be reduced by making simple changes in your diet and lifestyle. While these changes may seem minor, they can be the key difference between a healthy and thriving body, and a sick body suffering from systemic inflammation.