Inflammation in the body is caused by stress, injury or an infection. It is defined as "a local response to cellular damage that is marked by capillary dialation, leukocytic infiltration, redness, heat, pain and swelling." Some examples of inflammation are headaches and migraines, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and inflammatory bowl disease. Over time, chronic, unmanaged inflammation can lead to the development of cancer, due to severe DNA damage.
It is important to take steps to reduce the inflammation in your body. This can be done in several ways, and we are here to share the basics about inflammation reduction.
1. Your Diet Can Promote or Reduce Inflammation
To keep things simple: your diet greatly influences the level of inflammation in the body. Some of the most inflammation promoting food are; sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil, fried foods, refined flour, conventional dairy, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, and processed meat. For some, food like eggs and grains can greatly increase inflammation, along with soy and nightshades, such as eggplants, white potatoes and tomatoes.
The most anti-inflammatory, or inflammation reducing foods are: berries, wild caught fish such as salmon and mackerel, broccoli, avocados, green tea, mushrooms, grapes, apples, sweet potatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and spices such as ginger, garlic and turmeric.
Wellness tip: Adding turmeric and black pepper to chicken or salmon, and pairing that protein with a side such as broccoli and sweet potatoes is a great example of an anti-inflammatory meal. Thinking about meals in terms of a "formula" can be helpful, and adding in antinflammatory foods to a meal can make it less inflammatory overall. Another example is having avocado instead of cheese on a burger, and choosing baked sweet potato fried over fried, regular white potato fries as a side. Cheese, white potatoes, and fried food in general can promote inflammation in the body, so making these simple swaps can help reduce inflammation.
2. Stress Can Promote Inflammation
Any kind of stress in the body can promote inflammation, due to the functioning of the hormone cortisol, which is impacted by stress levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and while small amounts of it are necessary for normal body function, elevated levels for an extended period of time can wreck havoc on the body. "Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control," said Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty Professor of Psychology within CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. In this study performed by Sheldon Cohen from CMU, it was found that people who are under prolonged stress are more susceptible to developing certain diseases, due to the loss of ability of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response. Immune cells become insensitive to cortisol's regulatory effect, and because of this, inflammation is believed to greatly promote disease development, especially the development of cancer, which is believed by many to be an immune system based disease. (1)
Wellness tip: Getting a handle on stress is imperative if you are serious about being in good health and preventing disease. The human body was designed to work, but also to rest and to unwind from the stress that life can bring. Unfortunately, the American culture does not always value rest and relaxation as it should, and sometimes there can be guilt associated with rest. However, it is important to know that there is scientific proof for rest and stress management, and to also know that you are doing yourself a favor by preventing disease and promoting mental sanity when you rest. For more information and tips on rest and stress management, check out our article about these subjects here.
3. Harmful Microorganisms Can Cause Inflammation
Although not as discussed as much as inflammation caused by food or stress, inflammation can also be cause by unmanaged infections or viruses, such as the Epstein Barr virus and Lyme disease.
Even exposure to toxic mold can be the underlying cause of inflammation in individuals. The textbook definition of inflammation states that it is a defense mechanism in body, and inflammation works by recognizing damaged cells and pathogens, and by beginning the healing process. In other words, the presence of virus or harmful bacteria can cause inflammation because the body is using that inflammation to respond to what shouldn't be there. For some, their inflammation can be caused by eating a poor diet or by unmanaged stress levels, but for others, it can be the presence or pathogens that the body is responding to. In the world of holistic health, we view symptoms as warning signs that the body is giving us. In the case of inflammation caused by pathogens, we are being told that the body could use extra immune support, and oftentimes the help of a holistically minded doctor of osteopathic medicine, or a holistically minded medical doctor. By use of a blood test, you can be tested for various infections, viruses, parasites or the presence of toxic mold. Once test results come back, a holistically minded doctor can help you with a regimen that they believe will be best to help your immune system fight and to clear out whatever is causing your symptoms, which can include the use of herbals, nutritional therapy or homeopathy. We have mentioned this third cause of inflammation because while some can reduce inflammation through lifestyle factors, others need the help of blood tests, lab work and a doctors assistance to address the root of their inflammation, which as we have said, can be caused by the body's response to harmful pathogens of any kind.
1. Carnegie Mellon University. "How stress influences disease: Study reveals inflammation as the culprit." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162546.htm>.