It is a well-known fact that most illnesses are associated with, if not directly brought about, by breakdowns in our body’s immune system. Recent research suggests that the greatest culprit in such breakdowns in the immune system are actually caused by a normal bodily process which is inflammation.
What is Inflammation?
Ordinarily, inflammation is a beneficial process that the body necessarily and fortunately undergoes instinctively in order to heal itself when a body part is injured.
When we suffer cuts or sustain wounds, our body’s inflammatory reflex involves dispatching a host of potent white blood cells to the affected area to destroy bacteria and repair damaged tissue. We experience the visible manifestation of inflammation as swelling and soreness of and around the affected area, accompanied by the sensation of warmth or heat. Inflammation, therefore, is actually a normal and beneficial process that the body needs whenever a person is ill or has an injury.
How does inflammation become a silent enemy?
Sometimes, however, the intended benefits of the inflammatory process can turn to serious threats to the body it is supposed to serve and protect. When unchecked and permitted to linger in an otherwise healthy and injury-free body, inflammation continues to inflict its effects as if the body were being continually assailed by illness.
The body is thus subjected to an unfavorable multitude of white blood cells that can engulf, cause serious damages to and stay in the system for an indefinite amount of time. The constant production of white blood cells exhausts the immune system, rendering it too weak to fight off other diseases.
With an impaired immune system, viruses and bacterial infections are free to wreak havoc on the body. Chronic heart illness, diabetes and obesity have all been associated with deficiencies in the immune system brought about by hidden inflammation.
Fat cells are believed to release proteins called cytokines which intensify inflammation. This overproduction of cytokines interferes with the body’s capacity to regulate the balance of insulin in the body, thus paving the way for Type 2 diabetes.
Chronic inflammation has also been discovered to contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease and greater mortality rates among the elderly. One study which was able to measure extremely high amounts of interlukin 6 and C-reactive protein, both markers of systemic inflammation, in otherwise healthy members of an elderly population, concluded that these subjects were 260 percent more prone to pass away within four years. Deaths were due to cardiovascular, diabetic or other conditions, but these diseases were almost always ultimately aggravated by chronic and hidden inflammation.
Aside from the diseases already mentioned, it is also quite disconcerting that a compromised immune system can permit cancer cells to proliferate without restraint. Many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, lung, stomach and colon, are associated with the continuous mutation of cells that are damaged by free radicals, an occurrence made possible by chronic inflammation.
It may also come to a point that the immune system that is supposed to defend the body becomes the very thing that assails the body, by allowing the development of serious autoimmune disorders, such as fibromyalgia, Lupus, Crohn’s Disease and Graves’ Disease.
It is only recently that inflammation has come under scrutiny as one of the most treacherous villains responsible for these serious illnesses. What makes inflammation so dangerous is that people can already be suffering from it without even realizing it until it’s too late.
Usually, when symptoms become noticeable, the consequences of inflammation that has been lying dormant and keeping cover in the body for years are already quite serious and could even be life-threatening.
So what are some of the primary causes of inflammation? There are many factors that have already been identified to contribute to unwanted and unhealthy inflammation, including a genetic predisposition, smoking and high blood pressure.
Poor diet, that is, a diet comprising mostly sugars, processed foods, refined flours and trans fats, is another major contributor to the body’s inflammation intensification, as is the experience of daily stress. Failure to include nutrient-dense foods as part of the diet can be a major contributing factor for chronic inflammation.
Chronic infections due to viruses, parasites or bacteria that afflict the body, as well as chronic food and environmental allergies also do not bode well for the anti-inflammatory cause.
How to fight chronic inflammation
In spite of the gravity of the consequences and ill effects of inflammation, the good news is that it is a condition that can easily be managed and even prevented through simple and ordinary strategies. Many of its causes can actually be managed, reduced and taken out of the equation.
Regular and Moderate Exercise
One of the most effective ways to combat inflammation is exercise. Any type of regular physical activity, be it walking, running, dancing, cycling, swimming or even yard work, reaps priceless anti-inflammatory benefits. A mixture of aerobic and non-aerobic exercise such as moderate weightlifting lowers the body’s inflammation levels by producing more antioxidants and destroying free radicals that are related to prolonged inflammation. For it to be optimally beneficial though, exercise must be engaged in for at least thirty minutes daily.
This schedule is preferable to long bouts of exercise done intermittently. It is important to note, though, that moderation in exercise is key. Overdoing it may cause the muscles and joints to be sore and trigger the inflammatory process, thus defeating the purpose of exercise.
Observing a particular diet is another sure way to counteract inflammation. The ideal diet involves daily meals that include generous helpings of vegetables, whole foods, fibers, superfoods with high omega-3 fatty acids to inhibit the production of inflammatory chemicals.
When it comes to herbs, turmeric and ginger do wonders in the battle against inflammation while adding extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed, hemp or wheat germ oil to our meals enhances our body’s anti-inflammatory potential even more.
On the other hand, we should avoid foods that are rich in sugar, processed foods and trans-fat as these serve to induce the body’s production of inflammatory chemicals. Steering clear of vegetable shortening, hard margarine, sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil, corn oil and all partially hydrogenated oil would definitely be a wise move.
Needless to say, we would also do well to avoid meat and high-fat dairy products.
Unfortunately, majority of people are not too conscious about consuming more of the anti-inflammatory fats such as omega-3s and omega-9s, and less of pro-inflammatory fats, such as omega-6, which can lead to a population beset by preventable diseases.
It is such a pity, especially since the difference between healthy comfort and severe illness can be determined by something as simple as eating the right food. With an anti-inflammatory diet, symptoms may be kept at bay and the course of illnesses may be altered and even prevented.
Individual sensitivities and allergies to certain foods, commonly wheat and dairy, should likewise be taken seriously. These foods, when consumed, trigger a bodily reaction and are considered as unwelcome invaders, causing the immune system to produce inflammatory chemicals. Ignoring food sensitivities such as lactose intolerance and gluten sensitivity is one sure way to suffer from chronic inflammation. If we truly want to keep inflammation levels at an optimum, we should avoid known food allergens and take the trouble to find out what other food products we are allergic to.
It may be hard to believe but a person’s mental health and emotional well-being also contribute to the body’s inflammation levels. When people are angry or stressed, their cortisol levels go up. Cortisol is a stress hormone that activates inflammatory chemicals that inundate the body, leaving it with unpleasant consequences. It is important, therefore, to deliberately maintain a calm and cool disposition as one way of subduing inflammation.
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About the Author:
Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice.
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