Friday, August 6, 2021

Is Inflammation Killing You? Learn How to Tame It

 Many of us do not realize that inflammation is one of the causes of a wide variety of illnesses, including cancer, gout, arthritis, heart disease, asthma, dementia and diabetes.  Inflammation is complicated, because it is both the cause of many illnesses, as well as a result of them.  This creates a dangerous cycle.  As our body fights off illnesses, our level of inflammation increases.  When it increases, it can also trigger other illnesses. Consequently, it may feel as if our health is cascading downward.

The November, 2019 issue of the AARP Bulletin contained some helpful information about the ways we can protect ourselves from the damage that long-term chronic inflammation can cause.  First, however, we need to understand the causes.

What Causes Inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural response to a variety of assaults on our health.  It is the normal reaction to any threat to our body.  We are aware of it when we have a fever and our body temperature rises to fight a virus.  Inflammation is also present when we injure ourselves and the tissue around the injury swells.  These are examples of temporary, acute inflammation.  However, sometimes inflammation lingers and begins to damage the healthy, surrounding tissue or organs.  It can last a long time and become chronic.  That is when it can trigger other health issues.

Chronic inflammation can be caused by long-lasting infections such as hepatitis C or Lyme disease.  It can also be a response to air or water pollution, allergies, and similar environmental factors.  In addition, lifestyle issues such as obesity, smoking, stress, alcohol use, poor sleep, poor diets and lack of physical exercise can all contribute to chronic inflammation.

The more factors at work in your life, the more likely you are to be experiencing chronic inflammation.  For example, if you are recovering from a serious illness, and breathing polluted air, and overweight, sleeping poorly, and eating badly, you have created a situation where your immune system is constantly on high alert and continually inflamed. This makes you even more vulnerable to developing additional illnesses.  Of course, the cycle just escalates until it may feel as if every system in your body is breaking down.

One way you can reduce the inflammatory reaction in your body is to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the one you can find in "The Complete Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Beginners: A No-Stress Meal Plan with Easy Recipes to Heal the Immune System." (Ad) If you suspect that inflammation has put your body into a downward spiral, following this diet is a good place to start turning things around. 

How Do You Know if You Have Chronic Inflammation?

The truth is that, as we age, virtually everyone has some degree of inflammation.  The AARP article described it as a "flickering ember" which you do not want to let "erupt into a forest fire."  Just carrying a little excess weight, especially belly fat, means you are carrying around "highly inflammatory tissue."  When you add in the fact that you may be eating too much sugar and/or unhealthy, fatty meats, you already have several factors causing inflammation in your body.

In addition, simply getting older causes our inflammation markers to rise. The older we are, the more opportunity we have had to be exposed over the years to chronic diseases, bad food choices, alcohol, and environmental toxins.  To make matters worse, aging makes it harder for our bodies to manage our immune system, shed weight and extract nutrients from food.  This means we need to work even harder to reduce our chronic inflammation.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Inflammation

If you want to reduce the amount of disease-causing inflammation in your body, the first step is to avoid foods and activities which tend to rev up the inflammation. 

Avoid white bread and other low-fiber foods.
Avoid processed foods and desserts which tend to be low in fiber and high in sugar.
Avoid fried foods.
Avoid bottled salad dressing.
Avoid saturated fats
Avoid drinking, smoking and places where there is second-hand smoke.
Work to get rid of any belly fat you are carrying.
Avoid situations and behaviors which lead to stress and a bad attitude.

How to Tame Your Chronic Inflammation

It is not enough that you simply avoid things which increase your inflammation.  It is also important to engage in positive activities and diets which will reduce it.

Focus on getting good, restful sleep every night.
Eat whole grains, including whole-grain bread.
Eat a variety of fruits, including grapes, apples, and berries
Include beans and tea in your diet
Eat yogurt which is low in sugar and contains live cultures
Consume plenty of colorful salads
Use healthy fats such as olive oil.
Eat food containing healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, fish and flax.
Get exercise.  Even a walk outdoors can make a difference.
Go to the dentist. Gum inflammation can lead to other diseases.
Use prayer and meditation to reduce your stress.  Yoga and religious practices can lower some markers of inflammation.

Why Should I Do These Things?

It may seem like it takes a lot of effort and major lifestyle changes in order to reduce your inflammation. However, would you rather do these things or spend years of your life dealing with heart disease, cancer, diabetes or, possibly, all three at once?

One more word of caution:  You cannot simply take a pill to reduce your inflammation.  While occasionally taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen might help with acute inflammation, it is not a good solution for long-term chronic inflammation.  These drugs also have side effects such as stomach bleeding and increased blood pressure, and those problems will eventually increase your inflammation, not decrease it.

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1 comment:

  1. It's so interesting to know that inflammation can be the cause of problems or the result.

    ReplyDelete

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