What is inflammation in the body? Does inflammation harm your health and what can you do to minimize the risk or reduce any inflammation which you already have?
One of the amazing health benefits of the keto diet is that it reduces inflammation which has been implicated as the cause of a long list of health conditions but is there more you could do?
What do you need to eat or do to prevent inflammation in your body?
Here we take a look at all these questions, and provide the answers you need to make sure that you’re as healthy as you can be.
What is inflammation In the body?
Inflammation is a natural and healthy process by which your body protects itself against bacteria, viruses and any foreign object. Think about how the skin on your finger will swell if you have a splinter.
The body senses the presence of a pathogen or irritant and begins the process of removing it.
However, if your body experiences near non-stop inflammation this will be harmful.
This over activity of the immune response causes your body to be less able to fight infection or invaders.
Inflammation occurs by the red blood cells releasing a chemical that increases the flow of blood to the area perceived as being under attack.
This results in the feeling of warmth and redness.
This chemical also leaks fluids into the surrounding tissues causing the swelling.
The word inflammation comes from the Latin for “set afire”, and it’s a very apt description of what happens within the body
Does Inflammation harm your health?
Inflammation causes chemicals to be released by the red blood cells.
These can cause irritation particularly within joints causing swelling of the joint lining and a wearing down of cartilage.
Cytokines are also produced as part of this immune reaction.
Unfortunately these cytokines can be proinflammatory.
Proinflammatory cytokines and chronic inflammation can make all kinds of diseases worse, or cause other health conditions.
When inflammation results in visible swelling, pain and heat you are very often able to see that there is a problem and seek medical advice.
However, inflammation is also implicated in many other diseases which do not have these warning symptoms.
Heart Disease and Alzheimers may be missed in the early stages unless you were specifically tested for these conditions.
The danger is that you may not know you have a problem for a long time.
With short term or acute inflammation there are signs such as:
- Loss of function
However, some deep inflammation or inflammation in some organs will not produce these signs.
Some organs lack the necessary sensory nerve endings.
Some types of lung inflammation will not cause pain.
Chronic or long term inflammation produces other signs which are often more generalized:
- Abdominal Pain
- Joint Pains
What causes Chronic Inflammation?
- Autoimmune disease which attacks the tissues as if they were a pathogen or irritant
- Long term exposure to the substance that was causing the inflammation.
These health problems are also associated with inflammation and include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease such as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease
- Some cancers
- Neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer and Parkinson Disease
What can be done to reduce or avoid chronic Inflammation?
Chronic Inflammation is so damaging to your health that it’s vitally important that you take steps to either eliminate it from your body, or prevent it happening in the first place.
Thankfully there are several scientifically backed things that you can do to deal with this and to side step the harmful consequences.
This is the single most important area that you need to look at when trying to deal with inflammation.
There are some foods that are inflammatory, and some that will help to fight inflammation.
You’ll need to become familiar with both lists.
The greatest villain of all is sugar. Sugar in all its forms and under all its many different names is a poison to your body.
Don’t eat it. Ever.
It’s hiding in ready meals, deli meats, sweets, pastries, cakes, sodas, sauces…. the list is almost endless.
Check the ingredients list. If you see sugar (or corn syrup, fructose or whatever else it hides as) walk away.
This one change will have a major impact on your health now and in the future.
Also inflammatory is white bread or any foods which contain simple or refined carbohydrates.
Read make sure you’re eating the right carbs if you’re not too sure which carbs are good for you.
Margarine is another “food” that should not be eaten but can be found in multiple food products.
Fortunately, there are a lot of foods that are anti-inflammatory, so it’s possible to deal with inflammation by including these foods as often as possible.
Eating a more natural, whole food diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health.
Dr Hu of The Harvard Medical School states:
“A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life”
Examples of anti – inflammatory food include:
- Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Nuts especially almonds
- leafy greens such as kale and spinach
- fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna
- Blueberries, strawberries
- Dark chocolate (limit to a square or two each day)
Some fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens are high in antioxidants and polyphenols—protective compounds found in plants.
Studies have also found that nuts are able to reduce markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds is also able help to protect against inflammation.
In my opinion one of the best ways to eat in an anti -inflammatory way would be to follow the principles of the keto diet with its emphasis on whole foods.
It also restricts simple carbohydrates and discourages ready meals and junk food carbs.
If the keto diet isn’t for you then the Mediterranean diet, which includes grains is also a super healthy choice.
There is overwhelming evidence that obesity can trigger inflammation.
When you’re overweight the fat cells can cause an inflammatory reaction.
This is due to the fact that fat cells, like red blood cells can release cytokines which signal the immune system to trigger an inflammatory response.
Exercise will not only help you to reach your weight loss goals, it will also reduce inflammation by improving circulation and lymphatic drainage.
Resistance training and HIIT are both great forms of exercise.
However, any activity that gets your heart rate up is good.
Try to fit in some exercise for at least 20 -30 minutes each day. This can include swimming or walking.
Visits to the gym for more intensive exercise do not need to be more often than three times each week.
Your body responds to stress in the same way as it responds to any other negative presence in your body.
Both a good diet and exercise will help to reduce your overall stress levels.
You can also include such activities as yoga or meditation.
There are many different ways of reducing stress, and you’ll probably need to try a few, or more than one way at a time before you notice any reduction in your stress levels.
Only recently has sleep been seen as an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
It should be one of your top priorities to make sure that you get a restful sleep for at least 7 -8 hours each night.
Try to stay away from phones or computers for an hour or two before bedtime.
If you do use these a lot during the evening, consider trying one of the blue light blocking glasses that are on the market.
Make sure your room is cool but not cold. Dark and as quiet as it can be.
It’s during sleep that your body and brain rest and repair.
Floss your teeth
Your flossing frequency may not seem that important to you but all that bacteria hiding in those hard-to-reach spaces around your teeth can have some very serious effects on the rest of your body.
There is a long list including heart disease, Stroke, Alzheimer’s and some cancers that can be caused when you don’t take flossing seriously.
The bacteria and food left around your teeth can cause bad breath, tooth decay, bone loss, and inflammation in the form of gum disease.
Worse, this bacteria can enter your blood stream and have serious implications for your health.
The take home message
Its important to be informed and engaged with your own health.
The is undeniable evidence linking diet to chronic inflammation, and chronic inflammation to a worryingly long list of health conditions.
You could also be raising your risk of getting several very serious conditions in the future.
This includes some cancers and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
Many of these diseases have no cure and can cause huge amounts of distress to both the sufferer and the sufferers family.
If you are wanting to maximize your health now and your chances of a healthy old age, you will need to take a long look at your diet and eliminate those foods that are destroying your health.
Eat whole, nutrient dense foods. These foods will provide you with the vitamins, minerals, cancer-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants it needs.
The fiber in plants also helps to combat chronic inflammation.
Avoid processed foods, ready meals and factory farmed animals.
Step away from trans fats and margarine. Never let sugar pass your lips.
If you’re carrying excess weight then set yourself a goal and follow a diet that is big on whole foods, and does not allow you to eat sugar filled empty carbs.
These foods usually have very little nutritional value and are major triggers for inflammation.
Add in some exercise each day, or at the very least make it a habit to move more and walk more.
Make sure you get plenty of good quality sleep each night, and find ways to reduce your stress levels.
Floss your teeth every day.
The good news is there are many things that we can do to reduce inflammation in our bodies.
Take the time you need to educate yourself about what you can do and take responsibility for your lifestyle and food choices.
Not all inflammation is due to our choices, but by making sure you eliminate the causes that you can control you will be taking a big step in the direction of becoming as healthy as you can be.
Inflammation linked to cancer – discusses how lifestyle changes can reduce dangerous inflammation.
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