Combating Chronic Inflammation

One of the big topics I am finding in my Health Coach training, Massage Symposium, and many other places is inflammation.  Inflammation seems to be one of the latest buzz words in the health industry so I wanted to take some time to explain what inflammation is and why it’s such a big deal.

Most of us recognize inflammation as heat, redness, tenderness, swelling,and pain that commonly results from an injury.  Inflammation is the way our body protects itself.  Inflammation starts with increased blood flow which helps to release fluids and cause the migration of white blood cells.  When fever accompanies inflammation, capillaries widen and the ability for white blood cells to move through capillaries increases.  Fever and inflammation triggers a systemic response which means the entire body responds to try and heal the injury.  

Injuries aren’t the only thing that can cause inflammation:

  • Physical trauma, foreign bodies and stress 
  • Chemicals such as fructose, alcohol, pesticides, preservatives, hormones, antibiotics, cleaning products, heavy metals, dyes, etc.
  • Pathogens (virus, bacterial, or fungal)

When inflammation is caused by something other than an injury it is more likely to result in chronic inflammation, or inflammation that persists over months or even years.  Chronic inflammation is what has the attention of the medical community because it can contribute to a wide variety of illnesses.  The reason chronic inflammation is such a big deal is that it challenges our entire system.  Systemic chronic inflammation distracts our bodies from carrying out their normal functions which weakens our system and gives all sorts of illness and dysfunction a chance to settle in to the system.

  • All cancer stages (diagnosis, progression, metastasis), 
  • Diabetic Complications (Cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, nephropathy, sepsis, hypertension, retinopathy, atherosclerosis), 
  • Mental Health Disorders ( clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia), 
  • Bone, Muscular & Skeletal Disease (osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, muscular dystrophy, rheumatoid arthritis), 
  • Metabolic Disorders (fatty liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, renal failure) 
  • Chronic Inflammatory Disorders (irritable bowel syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pancreatitis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, lupus), 
  • Cardiovascular Disease (stroke, heart failure, congestive heart disease, atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathy), 
  • Neurological Disorders (Alzheimer, Huntington’s, dementia, Parkinson, neurodevelopmental disorders, ALS, multiple sclerosis)

The impacts of chronic inflammation can seem overwhelming, but there are many things we can do to reverse and prevent it and the impacts it has on our body.  One of the key way we influence inflammation is by the food that we eat.  Nutrition is essential and it has become increasingly difficult to be mindful of what we’re eating in our busy, convenience focused world.  Here are some of the key things to keep in mind when it comes to meal planning:

  • Eat organic whole foods when you can. This helps to avoid the build up of chemicals in your system from fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals that may be used to cultivate non organic fruits and vegetables.  Whole or non-processed foods are more likely to have all the nutrients our body requires.  When food comes from a box, can or mix many of the fiber, proteins and healthy fats our bodies require are removed and replaced with salt and other food additives that do our bodies more harm than good.
  • Eat a balanced diet.  Protein is important for providing energy and serve as the building blocks for our cells.  Carbohydrates provide us with quick energy and healthy fats like omega 3s are important for providing for our long term energy needs and fueling our brain.  A balanced diet means 1/3 of your plate should be green vegetables, 1/3 should be high quality protein such as wild caught fish or game, 1/3 of your plate should be a nutrient rich starch or grain and you should have 1 to 3 tablespoons of high quality fats with every meal.  Eating a balanced diet also means that you should only eat when you’re hungry; listen to your body and not your schedule to determine when to eat.  Having nuts, fruits and other healthy snacks on hand that you can eat between meetings or your kids basketball games is an important way to maintain your metabolism and minimize unhealthy meal choices.
  • Add spices not salt.  We all want to eat food that tastes good.  The majority of the convenience food we have access to flavors with sugar and salt, two elements that can cause a lot of trouble for the body when used in excess.  There are many  spices that not only can help add flavor but can reduce systemic inflammation:
    • Tumeric (curcuma longa)
    • Frankincense (boswellia serrata)
    • Cloves (syzygium aromaticum)
    • Ginger (zingiber officinalis)
    • Rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) 
  • Stress is a key driver for chronic inflammation.  The more stress you feel, the more your body is out of balance and that can make it even more difficult for your system to function properly.  Not overscheduling yourself, planning time for relaxing activities such as reading, meditation or massage and making sure that you get out and move a little every day are all ways you can help to support your body so that it can support you.

At our office we’re always looking for new and effective ways to apply some of these concepts.  As Anna learns more she will continue to share this information so please feel free to stop by for more tips for reducing or preventing chronic inflammation.

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The content of this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice. If you’re ill, please consult a physician.

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