What exactly is inflammation?
Inflammation is everywhere.
Think about what happens when you get a splinter in your finger. Ouch! If you leave the splinter in there, the whole area turns red and gets a little puffy. That’s in-flammation at work, but it’s not actually bad.
It’s just your immune system rushing to the area to fight any viruses or bacteria that might have gotten in. In the case of a cut or splinter, you want that help there; it’ll keep any pathogens out of your body so they won’t make you sick.
That type of “acute” in-flammation is a good thing.
With a physical injury, if you leave the spot alone and don’t irritate it any further, the swelling will go down, and everything will go back to normal.
The signs of acute inflammation, heat, redness, swelling and pain, go away and you’re good as new. However, now imagine if you kept stabbing yourself with splinters in the same exact spot. The in-flammation would never go down because you’d constantly be re-injuring yourself.
That’s “sort of” what is going on with chronic internal in-flammation, but you can’t “feel the stabbing.” The inflammatory response is designed to be short and to the point. When it’s chronic, though, in-flammation gets to be a serious problem. It makes you feel lousy, and it stops your body from working as well as it could. Furthermore, it can also contribute to many many other other health problems we’ll discuss soon.
Causes of chronic inflammation:
Inflammation risk is much greater if you are obese or overweight.
Overweight or obese men and women have more inflammatory markers (info on this to come) than men and women of the same age who are not obese or overweight.
The very strange phenomenon with bodybuilding is that all of that lovely muscle mass is perceived by vital organs to be obesity! That coupled with the intensity of working out with huge muscles causes bodybuilders to often have elevated inflammatory markers.
Otherwise, the combination of low fitness levels and high body weights impacts considerably on levels of in-flammation for the “average person.”
Inflammation drops when men and women lose weight. Researchers at a major cancer research center in Seattle, Washington showed postmenopausal overweight or obese women who lost only 5% or more of their body weight had measurable falls in levels of inflammation markers. (More on how to decrease inflammation to come.)
Your diet causes inflammation:
Common foods which are processed just like sugar and hence “inflammatory” are sugary foods, high-processed carbohydrates, high-industrial fat, high-gluten, and, basically, all fast foods. So, yes- we’re talking about the typical U.S. diet. This now includes all vegetable oils.
Further, this poor eating pattern also causes oxidative stress which in turn worsens inflammation.
Excessive omega-6 intake:
Omega-6 fats form the precursors for inflammatory eicosanoids, which are an integral part of the inflammatory response.
High omega-6 status (especially when combined with poor omega-3 status) means excessive production of inflammatory eicosanoids and a lopsided inflammatory response to normal stimuli.
Insufficient omega-3 intake:
Omega-3 fats form the precursors for anti-inflammatory eicosanoids, which are an integral part of the inflammatory response. Poor omega-3 status means insufficient production of anti-inflammatory eicosanoids and a lopsided inflammatory response to normal stimuli. I’ll cover how you “get” your omega-3’s below.
Toxins cause Inflammation:
Heavy metals, biotoxins such as mold toxins and more can cause chronic inflammtion and illness.
The things that cause you stress also cause inflammation:
Modern life is stressful. Bills, work, commuting, politics, exercise (or a boss or spouse that you hate) – it all adds up, doesn’t it? Notably, if it becomes too much for you to handle, your body will have a physiological, inflammatory response to emotional stress.
Lack of outdoor time:
We spend too much time cooped up in offices or, worse, in office cubicles, in cars, trains, and planes. We just plain don’t spend enough time in nature.
Lack of down time:
When you’re always on the computer, always checking your Facebook/Twitter accounts you are not relaxing. When you hear a ding and rush to answer a text or email on your smartphone, you are always “on.” You may think you’re relaxing because your body is stationary, but you’re not relaxing….right?
Your exercise and movement patterns:
Insufficient exercise adds to inflammation.
Lack of movement:
The vast majority of people lead sedentary lives. A lack of activity is strongly linked to systemic, low-grade inflammation.
People don’t have to walk to get places. They even take escalators and elevators. People also sit for hours on end and don’t have time for regular exercise.
If this is you, you need to make time to move more. Get up on your feet for 2-3 minutes each hour you’re sitting.
Poor recovery and/or Overtraining:
Other people move, but exercise too much, with too little rest and recovery. Overtraining is a form of chronic inflammation. This is rampant in the elite triathalon population (as I was) unless they are very careful. This is also very very common (overtraining) in bodybuilders leading to inflammation and high cortisols as well as even frank symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
Lack of sleep:
Poor sleep is linked to elevated markers of inflammation. Poor sleep is a chronic problem in the U.S.
Either we go to bed too late, wake up too early, or we use too many electronics late at night and disrupt the quality of what little sleep we get.
Further, we awaken in the middle of the night and get up and work for 2 hours.
Perhaps, we do a combination of all of these awful things.
Poor gut health:
The GI tract houses the bulk of the human immune system. When it’s unhealthy, so is your inflammatory regulation. This where pre and probiotics are a must for all. (Pre’s because the pro’s cannot set up shop without the clean-up efforts of the pre’s!) If you suspect leaky gut, pay attention and heal that.
Habits which contribute to inflammation:
Cigarette smoking, exposure to pollution, poor oral health and excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to chronic inflammation.
All of these things are serious stressors, and if they’re constant presences in your life, they’re causing chronic inflammation.
Diseases/health consequences of chronic inflammation:
Chronic inflammation, sometimes called persistent, low-grade inflammation, happens when the body sends an inflammatory response to a perceived internal threat that does not require an inflammatory response.
The white blood cells “come to the rescue,” but have nothing to do. They sometimes eventually start attacking internal organs or other necessary tissues and cells.
The threat is real, but we do not feel it, or the inflammatory response and the inflammation can persist and persist.
Persistent (chronic) inflammation has been linked to a massive number of ailments.
According to a 2009 article in the journal Gerontology, cytokines can interfere with insulin signaling, resulting in increased insulin resistance (glycation) and blood sugar increases. The blood sugar spikes trigger white blood cells to attack, and inflammation continues. In addition to increasing the risk for diabetes, insulin resistance also increases the risk of weight gain.
Chronic inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular diseases. Oxidized LDL cholesterol gets deposited in the lining of blood vessels.
Because the cytokines that respond to these insults are in the bloodstream, they can lead to inflamed blood vessels which make nicks for more LDL to deposit.
Growing fatty plaque can cause blockages and blood clots, which can cause heart attacks.
People with chronic inflammation from an autoimmune disorder may be at greater risks for heart disease. A large-scale study at Stanford University found that coronary artery disease risk might be linked to genes associated with auto-immune mediated inflammation.
Additionally, the bacteria from gum disease can make its way to the heart or blood vessels, acting as an insult to cause inflammation that increases the chance of a heart attack. This theory comes from findings that 50% of blood clots found in coronary arteries contain the same bacterial DNA as the bacteria in periodontally-challenged patients. So, make sure your teeth are in good shape and get an annual panoramic x-ray set, especially if you’ve had root canals. Why? Apical root abscesses cause no symptoms but super-duper-elevate inflammatory markers.
A 2015 study in JAMA Psychiatry found that people with depression had 30 percent more brain inflammation than those with a normal mood. In addition, inflammation has been linked to symptoms of depression, including loss of appetite, sleep issues and feeling hopeless.
Scientists remain unsure of why inflammation is linked to sleep problems or low moods but suspect that cytokines can interfere with positive neurotransmitter signals.
One study shows people with intermittent explosive anger disorder have higher levels of inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP). Scientists are unclear what causes the link between these two factors.
According to Cancer Research UK, immune cells attack fledgling tumors in an inflammatory response to begin the sequence of forming cancer cells. These immune cells infiltrate the tumor, but instead of killing it, the tumor uses the nutrients and oxygen that are part of the inflammatory response to grow. A chronic inflammatory response can trigger the loss of proteins involved in DNA repair, which can lead to gene mutations, according to a 2011 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Noteworthy is that insufficient antioxidant levels accelerate this process.
Inflammation can cause periodontitis, a chronic inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria accumulation. This disease causes gums to recede and the skeletal structure around the teeth become weakened or damaged. Brushing and flossing regularly can prevent periodontitis, and one 2010 Harvard University study found that eating anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish or fish oil) may also help.
Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect oral health, either. Studies show that inflammation of the gums is linked to heart disease (as mentioned above) and brain health issues including actual dementia as well, since bacteria in the mouth may also trigger inflammation elsewhere in the body.
It makes weight loss more difficult.
Obesity is a major cause of inflammation in the body, and losing weight is one of the most effective ways to fight it. However, that’s sometimes easier said than done. Why? Because elevated levels of inflammatory proteins make weight loss more difficult. Inflammation can increase insulin resistance (which raises your risk for diabetes) and has been linked with future weight gain. Chronic inflammation can also influence hunger signals and slow your metabolism, so you eat more and end up burning fewer calories.
Some helpful hints for weight loss: bcaa powder and bcaa foods (chicken, boiled eggs,etc.) produce better fat loss and more lean body mass. Get a supplement with bcaa’s and glutamine and you’re on your way if you follow the AI or nutritional ketosis or even the Paleo diet.
It affects your skin
The effects of inflammation aren’t just internal: They can also be reflected on your skin. Chronic inflammation makes you look older than you are. Chronic inflammation has also been shown to contribute to faster cell aging in animal studies, and some experts believe it also plays a role (along with UV exposure and other environmental effects) in the formation of wrinkles and visible signs of aging. Psoriasis is one example of an inflammatory condition that occurs when the immune system causes skin cells to grow too quickly.
A 2013 study published in JAMA Dermatology suggests weight can help psoriasis patients find relief, since obesity contributes to inflammation. At AWS we consider good anti aging skincare to include el-pronto treatment of oxidative stress and inflammation which will improve skin appearance within as little as one month!
Autoimmune disorders and inflammation:
An autoimmune disease, also known as autoimmune disorder, is one where the body initiates an immune response to healthy tissues, mistaking them for harmful pathogens or irritants.
The immune response triggers an inflammatory response too.
There are literally hundreds of autoimmune diseases, and nearly all of them have inflammation as one of the signs. A small sampling incudes the following:
Rheumatoid arthritis – there is inflammation in the joints, tissues surrounding the joints, and sometimes some other organs in the body.
Celiac disease – there is inflammation and destruction of the inner lining of the small intestine.
Crohn’s disease – the gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed. Inflammation is most common in the ileum (small intestine) but may occur anywhere in the GI tract.
Fibromyalgia – often a set of symptoms related to another autoimmune disorder, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. There is pain in various parts of the body. Location and even the existence of inflammation is not perfectly clear.
Graves’ disease – one of the signs is goiter; when the thyroid gland is inflamed. Exophthalmos, inflammation of the muscles behind the eyes. Grave’s dermopathy, inflammation of the skin, usually the shins and the top of feet are other (uncommon) symptoms.
Various allergies – all allergies have inflammation as a component of the problem. Asthma has inflammation of the airways, and in allergic rhinitis the nose, ears, eyes and throat mucous membranes become inflamed.
Prevalence of inflammation:
Inflammation is rampant. In fact, 1 in 12 women and 1 in 24 men are dealing with full-blown auto-immune mediated inflammation.
The number of undiagnosed people is much higher. People with inflammation in the early phases of autoimmunity will often claim no dietary involvement.
We don’t know the actual statistics of how much inflammation in general or in auto-immune diseases is diet-induced because patients are unaware and their doctors don’t “push.”
If you are dealing with inflammation from an autoimmune disease, you need a good, comprehensive evaluation to look at what is perpetuating your personal inflammatory situation. Everyone is different.
Food may or may not be a factor. Because only Anti-aging and Functional Medicine doctors routinely measure for inflammation and are the only doctors who treat it correctly it is estimated that 90% of people over age 30 have some degree of untreated inflammation. Also, it goes without saying that inflammation causes PAIN. (Yes- arthritis, headaches, you name it).
But could you have seen this coming?
Some signs of inflammation you might overlook:
Skin problems or red, bloodshot eyes/ High blood pressure or blood sugar problems/ Ongoing, irritating pain in the body (like the joints or muscles and common ailments like lower back pain)/ Allergies or asthma (especially when they keep getting worse)/ Constant fatigue or lethargy/ Ulcers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (constipation or diarrhea) are often signs of inflammation.
If you think you have signs or symptoms of chronic inflammation, you can get testing done to find out if you’re dealing with the “secret killer.”
Ways to Test for Chronic Inflammation:
There isn’t a single silver bullet test for chronic inflammation. But there are a series of tests that, coupled with your history, can give you a picture of the levels of inflammation in your body.
Here are 7 common inflammatory markers you can ask your Doctor to test for:
Elevated High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (HS-CRP)/ SED Rate elevation/ High levels of Homocysteine/ Elevated Ferritin in the blood/Elevated Fibrinogen/ Elevated Monocytes can be a secondary indicator of inflammation/ Elevated Blood Glucose/ Elevated insulin is the best biomarker, in the absence of frank diabetes.
Treating inflammation, so you avoid the carnage listed above:
Actions that promote disease create chronic inflammation, which is correlated with just about every disease known to man.
In 2004, Time Magazine called inflammation “The Secret Killer” and each day we make choices about this so-called “secret killer.”
Isn’t it amazing this was national news over 10 years ago yet doctors rarely check for it and patients rarely ask? Every food we choose to eat, every pill we take, the time we decide to go to bed, the city we choose to live in, the job we choose to have; each one contributes to chronic inflammation or helps calm it down.
Sadly, most of us are suffering from one or more inflammation-caused disorders but have no idea how to eliminate inflammation. Most doctors are utilizing pharmaceuticals instead of finding the root cause. Unless you turn off the actual cause of inflammation, all you have done is postponed the inevitable and potentially destroyed more of your body in the process, by allowing the inflammation to simply smolder in a subclinical (undetectable) fashion.
Every day on TV you can see professional athletes and others acting as spokespeople for Remicade, Methotrexate, Humira, and other drugs which are designed to mask inflammation and suppress the immune response. None of these drugs actually have the capacity to correct the underlying condition. They all can cause cancer, though. In short, more money for the drug industry. Yes, I’m a bit cynical to be honest because the advertising imagery leaves the viewer with the notion that they will have their lives back. Sad.
Now here’s what you actually can do to decrease inflammation
Reach your ideal weight
Fix your GI-tract microbiome
Find and clear toxins from your body
Eat the right diet: Anti-inflammatory diets and foods are what you should focus on. The recommended foods are typical of a Mediterranean diet and include eating more fish, fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy fats, eating moderate portions of nuts, eating only grass-fed organic red meat and avoiding non-sprouted grains, especially gluten.
Dairy products are to be restricted and when eaten, eaten as the full-fat non-pasteurized product. Increase your Omega-3 fatty acid consumption: eat wild caught high omega-3 cold-water fish; these are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. I recommend eating sockeye salmon, herring, and/or sardines for five servings per week.
Eat specific foods shown to lower inflammation:
Avocados have great anti-inflammatory properties. They contain carotenoid antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, phytosterols, and polyhydroxolated fatty alcohols — compounds that all can help reduce inflammation.
Onions are a good source of quercetin, which inhibits histamines known to cause inflammation.
Quercetin has other anti-inflammatory properties too. It also lowers blood sugar.
Watermelon contains lycopene, a cellular inhibitor for various inflammatory processes. It also works as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals.
Almonds and walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Buy organic.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables:
Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale and other green leafy veggies contain sulforaphane, which is associated with blocking enzymes that are linked to joint deterioration and, consequently, chronic inflammation.
If you are reading between the lines, these are great veggies to help prevent arthritis.
Tart cherries have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and should be consumed as the whole cherry and NOT the juice.
I didn’t mention it above specifically, but fruit juice is a high source of inflammatory sugar; soda is as well.
According to a review in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, polyphenol compounds, particularly anthocyanins, which produce dark red pigments, reduce inflammation.
All berries are great with blueberries being the #1 best berry and overall best fruit for your body and brain.
Some herbs have anti-inflammatory properties
Ginger is made from the roots of the Zingiber officinale plant. Researchers from Michigan Medical School show ginger supplements can reduce the markers of colon inflammation. Chronic colon inflammation is associated with a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
Furthermore, they added- ginger supplements might help prevent colon cancer. We know ginger will reduce inflammatory markers.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa):
Turmeric and its derivative spice, curcumin, is an amazing inhibitor of inflammation.
Current research is looking into the possible beneficial effects of curcumin in treating arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and some other inflammatory conditions.
In fact, it is the first line supplement we use to treat high inflammatory markers. This means a good pharma grade curcumin.
AKA “pot” contains a cannabinoid called cannabichromene, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Boswellia serrata) is a branching tree that is native to India. It grows in dry, hilly regions of the country and produces a resin that can be extracted and purified for medicinal purposes. Ayurvedic medicine uses this resin, “Indian Frankincense” or “salai guggal,” to treat a diverse range of conditions.
In India, Boswellia extract is best known as an alternative treatment for arthritis. The active ingredients (collectively known as boswellic acids), can reduce inflammation in in-vitro and in animal studies. Research on human subjects also suggests that Boswellia extract may be beneficial for inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and other inflammatory diseases.
This tasty herb is a Mediterranean herb with needle-like leaves and pink, blue, or purple flowers. The word “rosemary” comes from the Latin words ros (meaning “dew”) and marinus (meaning “sea”).
Rosemary contains two potent anti-inflammatories, carnosic acid and carnosol.
One study conveys these two compounds inhibit COX-2, an enzyme that causes pain and inflammation in the body. They also inhibit the production of excess nitric oxide, which also plays a role in the inflammatory process. (Too little is not good, too much is also not good).
Quercetin is an flavonoid (plant pigment) commonly found in fruits and vegetables, especially onions, citrus, and apples. Other sources include dark berries, grapes and olive oil. When your body is under stress, it produces cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that produces that “fight or flight” response. When your stress levels are high and ongoing, cortisol can damage muscle tissue, leading to protein breakdown in the body. Quercetin can fight these effects during times of extended stress as it suppresses the enzyme necessary for cortisol release.
Fish oil (Omega-3 fatty acids):
The daily consumption of omega-3 fish oils reduces both inflammation and anxiety…yes, anxiety!
Green tea :
Researchers from the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center found that regular green tea drinking reduces inflammation in postmenopausal women. The component of green tea called EGCG is found in a more concentrated form in good green tea supplements.