Our immune system is extremely complex and is responsible for helping us survive against the invisible invaders like bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, among other things. One major tool used by the immune system is Inflammation, but sometimes it lingers, causing more harm than good. In this article we will learn all about what causes this and what you can do about it.
What is Inflammation
Inflammation is the bodies natural response to harmful substances, bacteria or viruses, or foreign objects (like a splinter). A response that is crucial to survival for humans and has saved your life at least once if you’ve ever been sick.
When your cells are damaged your body releases chemicals that let the immune system know that there is something wrong in that area. The immune system then floods the area with antibodies, white blood cells, and proteins (to repair damage); thus causing the swelling in that area.
It’s a totally normal response and will be resolved within a couple hours or sometimes a few days. This is called Acute Inflammation and is commonly caused by cuts, scrapes, local infections, or illness.
What makes it acute is the fact that it only lasts a short while and is over when the threat has been neutralized. It’s acting as a sort of quarantine to localize and eliminate the threats to your body. This is perfectly natural and is nothing to worry about.
Chronic Inflammation occurs when this response lingers much longer after the body has cleared the threat (if there was a threat at all) keeping your body in a constant state of alert.
This chronic inflammation can be due to several reasons including untreated wounds (over a long period of time), Auto-Immune Disorder (where the immune system starts attacking healthy cells), Long term exposure to irritants like air pollution or industrial chemicals.
Auto-Immune diseases are sometimes never able to be fully ‘cured” because it is a problem with the way your immune system functions on a basic level. There are treatment options however that can help reduce the effects to make you more relaxed.
There are other causes from bad habits like smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity, and chronic stress. By reversing these habits (quitting smoking, giving up alcohol, losing weight, or managing stress) you can improve your condition.
Chronic Inflammation is less noticeable short term but can have some serious side effects if left untreated, unlike the Acute type where the effects are more extreme but short lived.
- Body Pain
- Gastro Intestinal problems (diarrhea or constipation)
- weight gain or loss
- persistent infections
- loss of appetite
Symptoms range in severity and could last anywhere between a couple months, to a couple years! That’s why it’s important to not ignore any symptoms because it could allow you to fix any problems early.
The effects of chronic inflammation range in severity greatly, but have been linked to have roles in several major health conditions. Including these:
- Heart Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Cognitive Decline (or Alzheimer’s in older adults)
- Has even been shown to play a role in Cancer
Given the severity of the links from the chronic type it’s no wonder why it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked if you feel you’re having some of the symptoms.
How to Get Rid of Inflammation
There are a couple different options to help fight it. Something for everybody!
The first option is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These are commonly known as aspirin, Ibuprofen, etc. While they are great for acute inflammation reduction, they aren’t addressing the root of the problem when it gets to be chronic.
Because they’re mainly masking the problem, you could be taking these indefinitely. They have been linked to health complications from long term use despite being safe in the short term. Because of this, using these in the long term could have some serious side effects.
There are steroid treatments that take aim at reducing redness and inflammation throughout the body as well as weakening the immune system. This would theoretically help with an auto-immune disease because the immune system is active without a need to be.
While they will not cure the condition, there are some health complications that can be had with prolonged steroid treatment. They are also quite expensive with a month’s supply ranging from $60 – $170.
Supplements for Inflammation
Supplements are in a bit of a sweet spot here. Admittedly they also do not cure the condition, they do provide relief without any of the serious long term side effects associated with the 2 former.
The best supplements for this are fish oils (like omega 3), lipoic acid (antioxidant that attacks free radicals caused by pollution, smoke, etc.) and curcumin (the main active ingredient in turmeric and is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant).
All three of these could give some relief, however not guaranteed to cure the condition. Some supplements that could also help are Ginger, Garlic, and Cayenne.
This is the only solution that I can say will be nothing but good. Working Out has been shown to improve every aspect of your life. It’s proven to improve mood, reducing depression and anxiety, reduce risk of sudden death and heart disease, reverse obesity, among many, many other things.
If you’re inflammation is from smoking or alcohol, quit using them and you will cure your chronic inflammation. If it’s from chronic stress then practice good stress management techniques in your new lifestyle.
Having your inflammation come from obesity is a little more difficult, as it will require working out and eating healthy to overcome. Eating the right (whole) foods can bring massive benefit to your entire life.
Best Foods for Inflammation
Eating healthy, whole foods can improve your whole life. Avoiding any processed foods, fried foods, or refined carbs will greatly increase your health, not only for inflammation, but for your life.
Here are some of the best foods for reducing Inflammation:
- Olive Oil
- Leafy greens (like kale and spinach)
- fatty fish (like salmon, sardines, mackerel
- fruits (especially all berries, cherries, oranges, as well as grapes)
- lean proteins like chicken
In contrast, here are some foods that you should avoid:
- Refined Carbohydrates (like bread, pasta, or pastries)
- Anything that has ever been dipped into a fryer
- Processed meats (like hotdogs, sausages, certain lunch meats)
- Red meat (like Beef)
- Sugary drinks (soda, sweet tea, powdered drinks, slushies)
To reduce your inflammation, the list should provide a good contrast on good and bad foods. Mostly foods that have a low glycemic load are going to be your friends, and the opposite your enemies.
In conclusion, chronic inflammation is tricky to fix because it is a natural function of your body under normal circumstances, and may not be causes my only one thing. However with some investigation as to what the root of the problem is and attacking it with intensity, you could come out the other side much more comfortable in every day life. Whether that solution includes a supplement, lifestyle change, or otherwise I hope that it all works out in the end. Thank you and have a great day!