Chronic Inflammation 101

EAT THINK EXPLORE Wellbeing Therapist
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Chronic Inflammation 101

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If you’re serious about learning about inflammation, this article aims to cover all aspects; to help you understand what it is, how it can affect every one of us and is the underlying cause of many of our biggest killers today, and of many more irritating ones.  I’ll also cover simple changes you can make to your life to minimise your chronic inflammation levels and improve your current and long term health.  Worth a read right??

If you’ve not got time for the whole thing, skip to the summary for the essentials that you need to know…

So what is inflammation?

Let me first say, whilst a lot of this article is about the negative effects, inflammation is actually a very important process for protecting ourselves from damage and from attack by things like bacteria and viruses.

During inflammation, chemicals are released by the immune system which increase blood flow to the area (so it becomes red and hot) and can cause a leak of fluids into the area to get our white blood cells there, resulting in swelling, which can stimulate nerves and cause pain, and redness.  This should be temporary and recede once the protective work is done.

This is acute inflammation.  This process is good, and should only be short term, lasting less than a few days. 

Which is good, because this inflammatory response causes damage to the local tissues.  The inflammation deals with the threat, and then recedes so the body can heal. 

So how is inflammation bad for you?

When the inflammation levels remain high for longer periods of time, the body does not get sufficient time to heal and therefore cell damage builds up, to all cells and organs.  This is chronic inflammation and it can be caused by: 

  • Repeated triggering of the immune system, in the case of an allergy for example, or frequent stress, or long term exposure to irritants like polluted air or industrial chemicals
  • Inflammation being triggered when there is nothing to fight, or reacting to body tissues as an invader i.e. autoimmune diseases
  • A lack of control mechanisms meaning acute inflammation after injury or illness stays and becomes chronic
  • Chronic stress, obesity, alcohol, certain medications and smoking are also believed to contribute to chronic inflammation

The effects of chronic inflammation

Symptoms can be obvious, like pain or swelling in joints.  They can also be less obvious, like those of a cold – fever, chills, loss of appetite, fatigue, muscle stiffness and shortness of breath.  Others, like high blood pressure are not so obvious as inflammation itself does not cause symptoms, only the damage left behind does, and this can be confused for many other things. 

There are many conditions linked to chronic inflammation, and more are being found every year.  Well known ones are heart disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s, some arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, Chron’s and Ulcerative colitis.  

Who has chronic inflammation?

As you can see from the wide range of conditions listed above, it’s likely that a huge proportion of the Western world suffer from some level of inflammation. 

After all, pretty much all of us suffer from stress or obesity, and many of us are exposed to toxins and allergens like pollution on a regular basis and don’t eat enough fruit and veg, preferring to fill up on processed foods.

Whilst not all of us will show obvious symptoms, it’s still worth trying to control to reduce the risk of future disease so we should all take this seriously…  

The causes and exacerbators of chronic inflammation

Our inflammation levels are affected by many things we do in our daily lives:

Inflammatory foods

There are foods which are inflammatory, and can raise inflammation levels.  These are refined carbs (high GI), fried foods, sugary foods, red and processed meats, margarine and lard.  So what we’re talking about here are the saturated fats and added sugars predominantly. 

LDL cholesterol

High levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol can cause an inflammatory response too.  Possibly because they are dangerous to the body, it reacts to them.

Visceral fats

Visceral fats are those around the organs, not just limited to people who are overweight.  These are often thought to be the most dangerous type of fat as they put strain on the organs themselves.  These have been seen in studies to trigger an inflammatory response.  We don’t fully understand why yet, but it could be because they are a threat to our bodies. 

Obesity/excess weight

Obesity triggers a cascade of inflammation leading to insulin resistance.  Adipose (fat) tissues were thought to be simple storage cells, but we now see that they are involved in immune and inflammatory regulation as they release chemicals. 

Chronic stress and adrenal fatigue

Chronic stress leads to adrenal fatigue if the cells are triggered repeatedly and effectively ‘run out’ of cortisol.  It also leads to decreased sensitivity of the body’s cells to cortisol, in the same way that if someone constantly shouts at you, you stop noticing.  As cortisol regulates the inflammatory and immune responses, this lack of production, or lack of action by the cells, means that the inflammatory response cannot be regulated, either up or down, leading to more sickness and more inflammation.  A double whammy!

For the rest of the article covering more triggers and what you can do to reduce your own inflammation levels (and the pictures) head to the original blog post at www.eatthinkexplore.com/chronic-inflammation-101

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EAT THINK EXPLORE Wellbeing Therapist

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