Inflammation is one of the hottest topics in the health and wellness industry and on social media. There's simply no shortage of people decrying this process as the secret, sinister source of all that ails us.
But how big a deal is inflammation really? Is this focus a passing trend, or something you should be paying attention to? Let's find out.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a term for several aspects of the body's immune response.
Think about what happens when you get a cut on your hand. In the seconds following injury, the tissues of the area begin to swell and become increasingly painful. The area may also get warm and change colors. It is our immune systems that cause that reaction.
Our bodies send the injured tissues everything they need to limit damage and begin healing. Most important in that process are white blood cells, which rush to the scene and attack foreign bodies that pose a threat.
When this immune response is triggered by a particular event like an injury or the presence of an invading virus, it's called "Acute Inflammation."
And while the burning feeling around that cut on your finger may be painful, it's also an undeniably good thing. This reaction is what keeps our bodies safe from otherwise harmful outside influences.
Unfortunately, not all inflammation is acute, or beneficial. Our immune systems can sometimes misidentify particles that enter our bodies as serious threats, producing an exaggerated reaction that actually causes us harm. We call this type of reaction an allergy.
In certain cases, our immune systems even identify our own cells as enemies, and attack them. When the body attacks itself in this way, it's called an Auto-Immune Disorder. Included in this group are arthritis, type 1 diabetes, lupus, Celiac Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and more.
But the inflammation response that has captured the attention of popular culture is neither an immune disorder or acute response to trauma. The latest health fear is what is known as "Chronic Inflammation."
Chronic Inflammation is when the body perceives a threat, but the dispatched immune response cannot find a target to focus on. This results in generally increased inflammation response without an effective way to dissipate.
What Are The Dangers Of Chronic Inflammation?
Inflammation is desirable when there is a specific threat, but without a threat to attack, lingering inflammation can have a negative and cumulative effect on the body.
Without anything to do, white blood cells do damage to otherwise healthy tissues.
Think about the agitated tissue around that imaginary cut on the skin. In this case the immune response is appropriate, but still stressful to the tissues of the hand. When inflammation exists within our bodies, similar stress can be placed on our various systems.
Over time, chronic inflammation can lead to the following problems:
- Heart Disease
- Lung Disorders
- Bone Disorders
- And even Cancer
How Do You Know If Chronic Inflammation Is A Problem?
The most reliable way to determine if you're being adversely affected by chronic inflammation is a blood test. Your doctor can look for C-reactive protein levels, which serve as a marker for inflammation in the body.
Prolonged inflammation can produce some symptoms including:
- Large amounts of belly fat
- High blood sugar
- Digestive issues like diarrhea or bloating
- Skin issues like excema or psoriasis
- And excessive allergies
It's important to note that it's completely possible to have a problem with inflammation without experiencing any of these symptoms. That's why a blood test is the surest way to monitor inflammation.
How Can You Reduce Inflammation?
Several lifestyle changes can reduce inflammation. Among the most effective are reducing mental/emotional stress, getting enough sleep, and regular moderate exercise.
Medicines can also combat inflammation. Over-the-counter NSAIDS reduce inflammation effectively in the short term. Corticosteroids like those found in asthma inhalers can provide a more regular reduction for specific types of damaging inflammation.
But the most effective way to combat chronic inflammation (And it's not even close) is to make changes to the diet. The #1 thing triggering unnecessary immune response is what we are introducing through our stomachs.
There's some dispute about the ideal anti-inflammatory diet, but here are some good general guidelines:
- Refined Carbohydrates
- Fried Foods
- Refined Flour
- And Artificial Additives
- Whole Grains
- And Yogurt
These general rules will go a long way to reducing inflammation, and odds are good that you'll start feeling a lot better. But if you want to go all the way, we highly recommend the Whole 30 program. It's a systematic approach to eliminating food that doesn't play well with our bodies.
Several of our team members have tried the program with great success, and it's our recommendation for those taking the issue of inflammation seriously.
So What's the Verdict?
Some of the science is still out on inflammation. We don't know exactly how everything works or why different people have different responses.
But the empirical data is enough to show that chronic inflammation is a real problem for modern people, and that the potential damage is considerable.
Final Verdict: Chronic Inflammation is worth your time and attention. There are significant health and happiness consequences associated with this issue, and it's very smart to stay on top of it.