What do heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, obesity, autoimmune disease and even depression and other mental health disorders have in common? Research points to one common underlying factor in all of these diseases- inflammation.
What exactly is “Inflammation”? Inflammation, simply stated, is your body’s defense against something going ‘wrong’ in your body. It is usually in response to injury or infection. Inflammation is called to ‘active duty’ in order to limit and control damage to your body in both tissues and/or organs.
There are two kinds of inflammation that can occur in the body. One is called “Acute Inflammation” and the other is called “Silent Inflammation”. Acute inflammation is short term, Silent inflammation is long-term and more well known as “Chronic Inflammation”.
Acute Inflammation makes itself known pretty easily. Acute inflammation is typically suddenly painful- it hurts. For over 2000 years acute inflammation has been chronicled as the body’s reaction to something going ‘wrong’ (injury or infection). It’s the body’s way of attempting to correct what is wrong and rid the body of the invading infection in order to heal itself. When you get a wound or skin trauma or infection, you can see the forces of acute Inflammation at work. you experience pain, the skin swells, gets red and ‘inflamed’ looking and then eventually a scab begins to form and you generally heal up within a short period of time. Doctors will look to these symptoms as indicators that something is ‘wrong’. Acute inflammation is overt; it is evident and painful.
“Silent Inflammation” as its name infers, is a bit harder to notice at first. Silent inflammation is covert and operates below the threshold of pain and is therefore much more insidious and much less overt in the typical manifestations of acute inflammation. A person cannot see the silent inflammation response occurring in their bodies in the same way they can see a cut on their finger become inflamed. Silent inflammation is insidious in nature, it cannot be seen nor felt and does not manifest in the typical overt and visible symptoms of classic inflammation. It can linger for years, unnoticed and unperceivable, attacking organs in the body- the heart, lungs, brain and other tissues. Silent inflammation kills and has been found to be the underlying cause of most of our modern-day diseases and health issues: obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, asthma, allergies, auto-immune disorders, any inflammatory disorder termed ‘itis’ by medical doctors as well as being directly connected to many of our mental health disorders such as depression and bi-polar disorder. Why does silent inflammation happen? Instead of helping the body heal, silent inflammation begins to damage the body, like an out of control low level wild fire burning down our interior house and causing disease. Scientist don’t quite have all the answers yet, but there are many reasons that have been cited.
Too much of a good thing:
Think of it this way, acute inflammation helps fix a problem- an infection or wound. Silent inflammation, on the other hand is the body’s inflammation system gone awry. Research points to poor dietary habits, lifestyles and environmental toxins of our modern world as some of the precipitating factors that turn on the body’s inflammation processes and turn the whole system on without a method to turn it off. Imagine it as an internal firestorm. Poor lifestyle habits- lack of exercise, poor nutrition, not drinking enough water all lead to increased inflammation in the body by increasing free radicals and cellular damage which in turn creates even more inflammation (a vicious cycle of destruction). Toxins and pollutants, and radiation in the environment also create a sort of ‘low level demand’ on the body’s immune / defense system and, over time, cause it to lose its ability to identify good, healthy cells from foreign, more dangerous cells (pathogens). This constant low-level demand can cause confusion within the body’s natural defense system, putting it on chronic attack mode- destroying tissues and giving rise to an immune system collapse, and hence, disease.
Putting out the fire:
Medications: Most of us have heard of ‘anti-inflammatory drugs”. You may have been on one- for that unexplainable shoulder or knee or back pain or some injury, strain or pain that occurred. Anti-inflammatory drugs come in a wide variety of forms- aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cox-2 inhibitors and cortical steroids to name a few. All of these drugs have one mission which is to decrease the level of inflammation in the body and therefore reduce the pain you are experiencing. Certain hormones are released by the immune system when inflammation rises and these medications work to lower those particular hormones and other chemicals that the body releases in response to injury- whether it is classic acute inflammation or silent chronic inflammation. So, why not just take these meds to ‘cure’ or stop inflammation by simply taking anti-inflammatory drugs all the time? You can’t. They are only supposed to be used short term and are not meant to be used long-term. Anti-inflammatory drugs have side effects and can bring on immune suppression, osteoporosis, heart failure, heart attacks, and even death.
Food: “Let Food be Thy Medicine”:
As powerful and helpful as medication can be; research now points to your food as a powerful resource to quell chronic inflammation. Following an Anti-inflammatory diet can be extremely helpful in reducing your risk of disease as well as managing the pain, discomfort and damage that is happening within your body on a daily basis.
1. Avoid Inflammatory Foods:
- Simple refined carbohydrates: Sugar in any form. White pasta, white flour, white rice, white bread, bagels, pizza dough, baked goods, desserts, candy are all simple refined carbs and lead to increased inflammation in the body.
- Soda, Fruit Juice, Sugared drinks: Aka: liquid sugar in any form
- Red meat and processed meat: Burgers, hot dogs, sausage, cold cuts
- Fried foods and trans fats: Processed and packaged chips, crackers, All fried foods of any kind – French fries, etc.
- Margarine and refined oils : Corn oil, soybean oil are all highly refined oils
- Too many carbohydrates in total: Some evidence points out that an excess of even the ‘good’ complex carbs can drive up inflammation, so if you are dealing with an inflamed condition of any kind, be careful of your overall carbohydrate intake.
- Excess alcohol intake
2. Foods that help quell inflammation:
- Nutrient dense fruits and vegetables: The more the better! Eating a variety of colors and types and getting at least 9 servings a day (more is better) stock the body with antioxidants and nutrients.
- Beans and legumes, nuts and seeds: Dark black beans, red beans, peas, walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds
- Green tea and black coffee
- Healthy fats: Avocados, olive oil, and omega rich fatty fish like wild salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines
- Dark-chocolate: 70% or better Cacao
- Anti-inflammatory spices: Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon
Healthy Lifestyle Habits to fight Inflammation:
- Exercise: Even just a 20-minute session of moderate exercise will stimulate the immune system and produce an anti-inflammatory cellular response
- Water: Dehydration leads to an increase in toxins in the joints and muscles which will bring on an inflammatory response. Flush your system constantly by getting at least half your body weight in fluid ounces EVERY day.
- Lose Weight: The more body fat you have, the more inflammation you cause in your body.
- Get some Sunshine: Sunshine can help to lower inflammation by helping your body with Vitamin D which is a powerful immune system booster.
- Manage Stress: Chronic stress leads to suppressed immune capabilities, paving the way for the system to malfunction
- Get sufficient sleep: Sleep is another factor- dysregulated sleep is a known pro-inflammatory factor.
You have more control than you think over the levels of inflammation in your body. Talk to your Rolling Strong Wellness Coach (either in person or via the telephonic coaching line) to get started on implementing healthier choices that can help you put out the fire within.
By: Coach Cindy Luisi