What does cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and the aging process have in
common? They seem to be separate but they all have one common denominator: inflammation.
Inflammation can be a good thing. When something is not right, your immune system
will protect you as best it can. It is the body’s defense mechanism and makes you
heal. But it is bad when it goes out of control . Why then has our immune system
gone awry? It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
What is Inflammation? When something is not right in the body, the immune system
releases chemicals called prostaglandins and leukotrienes. In large numbers these
chemicals cause inflammation which enhances the damaged tissue’s ability to kill
invading microorganisms and sets the stage for repair and defense against injury
or infection. It is when the body continually releases these inflammatory chemicals
even when there are no invaders to fight that the problem arises.
Types of Inflammation. There are three types of inflammation:
Acute or emergency inflammation. This may be caused by trauma such as a sprained
ankle or sports injury. Heat, pain and swelling are signs that your immune system
is being called to action.
Chronic inflammation. This is caused when the body continually releases inflammatory
chemicals even when there are no invaders to fight. It is ongoing and longer term
like arthritis, bursitis or back pain.
Silent inflammation. This causes the most damage because it takes place just below
the threshold of pain awareness until it leads to a variety of chronic disease. Diabetes
or heart disease which may not have anything in common have a common denominator
Triggers and Causes of Inflammation: Inflammation is quite common and caused by more
than just pathogenic organisms.
Bad diets. There is a substance called arachidonic acid present in a lot of food
we eat which not only promotes but directly causes inflammation. The body is signaled
to start an inflammatory response and the immune system gets ready to fight the symptom,
when there really is nothing there, and starts an inflammatory process. Arichadonic
acid is highest in farm raised animals and seafood because food given in farms is
different from their natural diet and changes the composition of their tissue. Eat
grass fed animals rather than grain fed.
Another cause is a high sugar diet. When you eat high sugar foods, the pancreas secretes
insulin and the higher the amount of insulin the more it signals acid to be converted
to immune cells that cause inflammation.
Hidden allergies Be aware of food sensitivities that may be causing your problems.
As we get older, foods that never bothered us before, like wheat, dairy, eggs, gluten,
soy and nuts, may trigger chronic low-grade indigestion or other minor symptoms that
put our immune system on guard. A vast array of airborne irritants and chemicals
we are exposed to everyday, like cleaning products, air fresheners, synthetic fibers,
molds, adhesives, glues, etc., makes our immune system crazy.
Stress. Stress triggers the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands, a hormone
that directly influences insulin levels and metabolism. Your body reacts to stressors
universally, whether biological or psychological. Painful emotional baggage is as
incendiary as physical stress. Thoughts and internalized feelings manifest themselves
physically all the time with symptoms of inflammation.
The Natural Approach to Reducing Inflammation. The seeds of chronic inflammation
and a lot of other health issues have its roots in the digestive system. Two-thirds
of the body’s defenses reside in the gastrointestinal tract. The immune system first
goes into hyperdrive in the digestive tract where it is designed to eliminate viruses
and bacteria from your food before they infect your body.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet.
Fruits, vegetables and wild seafood. Many herbs and foods, such as turmeric, ginger,
garlic and green tea contain bioflavonoids and polyphenols that limit free-radical
production. As for fish, many species contain high levels of mercury and other toxins,
it is best to eat only Wild Pacific or Alaskan salmon unless organically farm raised.
Anchovies, sardines and shellfish are still good choices.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA). A handful of nuts and seeds such as walnuts and ground
flaxseed are good sources. Grapeseed oil for cooking and olive oil for dressing are
good sources of anti-inflammatory polyphenols.
Eliminate certain foods and additives from your diet. Avoid foods that turn on the
body’s anti-inflammatory dial up - trans fats, sugars, refined carbohydrates and
Natural Anti-Inflammatory Supplements.
Gingersuppresses pro-inflammatory molecules and inhibit genes in the body involved
in chronic inflammation. It has an analgesic, anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory and
sugar moderating effect on the body.
Turmeric or curcumininhibits joint inflammation by preventing production and activation
of inflammation regulating genes through cell signalling.
Cat’s Claw is an absolute monster of a medicine for pain, immune disorders and inflammation.
It has significant tumor inhibiting properties and the alkaloids in cat’s claw are
anti-inflammatory. It is an immune system modulator, I.e., if you have an autoimmune
disorder where the body is killing you by pumping out too many immune factors, cat’s
claw will bring that function down to a healthy level.
Fish Oil is nothing but good news. High in Omega 3 fatty acids, it is anti-inflammatory
and is associated with heart, brain and joint health. Our bodies do not make fatty
acids so we need it in our diets. Unfortunately, some fish which are a good source
can accumulate toxins like mercury from polluted waters. Fish oil capsules might
be a better choice because they are processed to remove impurities. 2,000 mg. daily
is a recommended dosage of fish oil.
The Body’s Natural Anti-Inflammatories.
Physical activity. Get some physical activity everyday. A simple walk is a great
way to start. At least 20 minutes five times a week off activity should help with
counteracting stress especially when combined with deep breathing, as with yoga.
Play. Go out, stay in or get away from it all. Do whatever it is you enjoy or whatever
relaxes you. If you live with stress, seek out support groups as a way to share emotional
burdens. Investigate meditation or biofeedback therapies to learn relaxation response.
Plenty of rest. Get plenty of sleep to give your body a chance to heal and undo the
effects of inflammatory response.
What is important is to understand that inflammation can be prevented and reversed
by making dietary and lifestyle changes now. Our bodies are complex and resilient
but it needs nurturing. Help your body heal itself. It is after all our permanent