In its positive form, inflammation is helpful and acts as the body’s temporary immune response to promote healing for injury or infection. Chronic inflammation is another story. It causes the immune system to attack healthy cells, tissues and organs which, in turn, can contribute to a host of disabling and life-threatening illnesses.
Many of us suffer from chronic inflammation without knowing it. In fact, three out of five people will die from a disease related to chronic inflammation. That’s because being in a chronic state of inflammation takes a toll on your immune system, reducing its ability to ward off cancer, stroke, heart attack and other disease.
Here’s an overview of how inflammation works and how to prevent it from going into overdrive.
Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting you from things that can cause harm. Healthy people get an inflammatory response to a cut, infection or other threat to help it heal. This is known as acute inflammation.
Inflammation is responsible for most of the symptoms you have when you feel sick such as aches, fever, chills and fatigue. It’s also what makes a skin lesion red and puffy. While the side effects of acute inflammation are uncomfortable, they are an indication that the body is working to heal you.
Acute inflammation is necessary for our survival, but where it turns harmful is when it persists for months or years. Chronic inflammation can be a response to abnormalities in the body, such as toxins from environmental pollutants, allergies, poor diet and stress. But sometimes, as in the case of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, there is no outside danger and immune cells mistakenly attack joint tissues, leading to inflammation that can cause severe damage to joints.
The signs of chronic inflammation can be difficult to identify because they often affect the body in a subtle way over a long period of time – think about ongoing fatigue which gets worse over the years. Many people aren’t even aware they have a problem until they get diagnosed with a serious disease.
If you have unexplained aches and pains, fatigue, anxiety, gastrointestinal issues or unexplained weight gain chronic inflammation could be an underlying issue.
There are many factors contributing to chronic inflammation. These range from an infection that doesn’t heal, an abnormal immune reaction or lifestyle factors such obesity, poor sleep, overuse of alcohol and/or exposure to environmental toxins. Even the simple fact of aging puts you at increased risk.
Reduce your risk of chronic inflammation by adopting healthy lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, managing stress, reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking. Above all, you need to look at what you eat.
Simple dietary changes are one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce inflammation.
That’s because the food you eat directly influences the amount of inflammation in the body, reports Harvard Medical School. Processed and fried foods, refined carbohydrates (such as white bread and pastries), and added sugar all increase inflammation, especially when eaten in excess or with food combinations that spike glucose.
Using a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) can help you monitor blood sugar levels and help you determine which foods to eat in which combinations, and at which times of day, for optimal health. It can also measure the impact of sleep and exercise on blood glucose.
Low-inflammation diets can improve chronic health problems, including inflammation. Researchers agree that an anti-inflammatory diet is focused on lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The high amounts of fiber present in this type of diet can also improve inflammation and gut health.
While no one food is a miracle cure to reducing inflammation, these 10 foods are especially known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Whether it’s salmon, sardines, herring or mackerel, these types of fish are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Eating a three- to six-ounce serving of these fish, two to four times a week is recommended for lowering inflammation and protecting the heart.
Rich in unsaturated fat and other nutrients, studies have linked nuts and seeds to reducing inflammation.
A drizzle of this oil can be more beneficial than you might think since studies have shown it contains numerous phenolic compounds that have potent anti-inflammatory action.
Broccoli, for example, has been shown to improve glucose tolerance and reduce inflammation because it is rich in the antioxidant sulforaphane.
Red, blue and purple berries contain polyphenol compounds which have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect
Many spices, including turmeric, cinnamon and ginger, are helpful in reducing inflammation — especially curcumin. A number of studies have proven that it can block the activation of a molecule that activates genes that promote inflammation.
Garlic contains organosulfur compounds that can lower the production of substances in the blood that boost inflammation.
Onions contain the anti-inflammatory antioxidant quercetin that has been proven to reduce inflammation.
Studies have shown that this fruit is a good source of healthy monounsaturated fat and antioxidants which can reduce the body’s inflammatory response.
Not only is this a yummy treat, it’s one that’s actually good for you since it’s filled with rich antioxidants called flavanols and polyphenols that help reduce inflammation by keeping endothelial cells within the arteries healthy.