There has been a lot of publicity in today’s health news headlines about inflammation – and for good reason. The function of inflammation and the effects of chronic inflammation have been sorely misunderstood until fairly recently. Controlling chronic inflammation is now seen by the scientific community as an integral part of moderating, or even mitigating, many chronic, degenerative diseases.
When seeking to understand the effects of inflammation, it helps to first understand the causes of inflammation and the differences between acute and chronic inflammation.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural biological reaction to infections, irritants, or injuries. It is an immune system response that the human body uses to protect itself. Inflammation occurs as the body attempts to remove harmful irritants, pathogens, or damaged cells.
The symptoms of inflammation – heat, redness, loss of mobility, and swelling – are often unpleasant, but they are necessary for the healing process to begin.
When inflammation occurs for a relatively short period of time, it is called “acute”. For example, if you twist your ankle you may experience inflammation and the symptoms that go along with it. But after a day or two, the symptoms subside and your ankle is well again. Biologically speaking, your body is using inflammatory symptoms like redness and swelling to increase blood flow to a specific area to promote healing.
Inflammation that lasts for more than a few days no longer promotes the healing process; it hinders it. When the symptoms associated with inflammation fail to subside within a few days, the condition is then regarded as “chronic” or “systemic”.
Whereas acute inflammation is biologically employed to promote healing, chronic or systemic inflammation is considered a disease in and of itself. In fact, many modern scientists feel that chronic inflammation is at the root of nearly all known chronic health conditions from Alzheimer’s disease to rheumatoid arthritis. And chronic inflammation can be hard to diagnose because it often affects our internal biology which is not easily seen or felt.
Healing Chronic Inflammation
The first step in healing any disease is to understand what causes it. In the case of chronic inflammation, you may not have to go any further than the end of your fork. Your diet is, by far, the most controllable factor in alleviating chronic inflammation. The most dangerous foods are, unfortunately, commonly found in the modern diet. They are as follows:
• Trans fats. It wasn’t that long ago that many health professionals advocated the use of margarine instead of butter. Today, however, the American Heart Association says that margarine and other foods that are made from trans fats are to be avoided at all costs.
• Refined Carbohydrates. White sugar, corn syrup, white bread, French fries, cookies, and pastries are just some of the foods that suppress our immune systems and raise our blood sugar levels, inciting an internal inflammatory response.
• Artificial anything. All artificial foods such as colors, flavors, and sweeteners have all been linked to chronic inflammation. What’s more, these ingredients tend to be prevalent in processed foods which contain other pro-inflammatory ingredients.
As is par, nature usually gives us a healing recourse for damage incurred to the human body. In the case of chronic inflammation, there are many foods that counter bad dietary habits. Here are some:
• Garlic and onions. These members of the allium family contain several anti-inflammatory compounds such as quercetin and allicin.
• Colorful fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients that effectively turn down the inflammatory response.
• Spices. Consuming spices may be one of the most effective ways of controlling chronic inflammation. Every spice that has been studied has been found to contain at least three anti-inflammatory compounds.
Literally, hundreds of diseases such as dementia, high cholesterol, and certain types of cancer have an inflammatory component. When chronic inflammation is properly addressed, oftentimes the body can employ the immune system to eradicate these conditions.