Before we head into the New Year I’d like to discuss a topic which should be on everyone’s New Years Resolution list. It’s something I’ve suffered from since I was 12 years old, and younger seen through tendinitis, and asthma. It comes and goes at any age, and is probably affecting us more than we realize …
This week’s topic is about inflammation …a topic that is near and dear to me. I’ve been fascinated by the bodies inflammation response for years. I’ve become so interested in this profound response, that I decided to base my master’s thesis on an anti-inflammatory diet which will reverse, and prevent inflammation. In particular, I study gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation which is caused by inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammatory bowel disease includes Chrons disease and ulcerative colitis (not IBS which is irritable bowel syndrome).
Perhaps in a later post I’ll discuss the findings I’ve come across. For now, believe me when I say that knowing a little about inflammation can increase your health to a whole new level. In this post, we’ll discuss what inflammation is, followed by how we can reverse and prevent it. Prevention is key, right? You bet it is!
The definition of inflammation is: Any area of the body that becomes red, swollen, and hot usually accompanied with pain. The original latin medical term for these symptoms are rubor (red), calor (heat), dolor (pain), and tumor (swelling). I find it interesting that swelling was called tumor in ancient times, and we’ve coined the term tumor to describe something usually associated with cancer. Cancer is one of the most feared diagnoses a person can hear. There is certainly a connection between inflammation and serious health issues.
Inflammation happens as a protective response to your body. When you bump your knee hard enough it gets red, swollen, hot, and painful. How is inflammation protecting us with symptoms like these?! It hurts!
When a trauma of any kind occurs (as an unlikely source to be life threatening, we’ll use the bumped knee as an example) the body immediately senses a physical threat. In order to repair the damage, blood must flood to the affected area. When you hurt yourself, there are many broken cells, almost like wounded soldiers on a battle field. The blood helps to get the wounded soldiers out of the line of fire, by sending fresh oxygen and nutrients to the area, it’s like sending medical staff. If it is an open wound, other neat plasma’s like fibrinogen (literally meaning a fibrous substance) will come in to prevent excess blood loss, but we won’t go into anymore detail about open wound healing.
So when trauma occurs, blood flow increases, but it isn’t just red blood cells. White blood cells are sent as well. White blood cells like leukocytes, are the real protectors and eliminators of harmful bacteria (and other things similar to bacteria). However, there is an increase in fluid accumulation which causes swelling. The swelling is usually painful, red in color, and hot to the touch. Rubor, calor, dolor, tumor!
But inflammation doesn’t only appear to the naked eye. It can occur with many types of trauma, and it can exist anywhere in the body. The same protective response is initiated anytime the body feels it is damaged or under attack, even if you haven’t noticed. When inflammation exists internally (inside the body in organs, tissues, joints, etc.) we don’t see it, and sometimes we don’t know that we are feeling it. For instance, have you ever felt “bloated” in your stomach before? Sometimes if we eat something with too much sodium (salt) it can cause us to retain water, thus making us feel bloated. However, that is not always the case, and it is certainly not the case when you feel bloated often. It is more likely that the inflammatory response has been triggered. If the inflammatory response was triggered, that must mean the body is sensing some form of trauma.
Having a background in dietetic science (nutrition) I am aware that many foods fuel inflammation. These are foods such as processed meals and snacks, deep fried food, highly sweetened foods, and more. If the body was slightly imbalanced because of, say, a stressful afternoon, then eating foods known to increase inflammation would exacerbate the bodies recognition of stress. The body will then take this as a sign of trauma.
Inflammation in the gut, here we go!
Once the inflammation response is triggered, it’s easy to keep it active by simply following the same routine that caused it in the first place (I.e. another stressful day or just more inflammation causing food, and many other factors).
Finally, there are two forms of inflammation. Inflammation may exist as an acute (short term) protective function or it may be classified as metaflammation. Metaflammation is a low-grade and chronic form of inflammation. In cases of metaflammation, the response is less protective and more harmful. An example of possible metaflammation is chronic bloating.
The list of where inflammation occurs is infinite. Here is a list of conditions and diseases which are caused by, worsened by, or have symptoms of inflammation:
- Breast Cancer
- Chronic Disease in general
- Heart Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Migraine Headaches
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
…And much more.
Other examples of reasons we become prone to inflammation:
- Athletic training
- Various sports
- Chronic Stress
- Sedentary lifestyle (sitting for long periods of time)
I’ve provided actual links to documentation that explains why certain diseases and conditions are related to inflammation because it is remarkable. Some of these diseases are caused directly by inflammation. I’ve tried to select information that is reliable and valid, but also easy to understand if you have no medical understanding. It’s important to seek out reputable information, and avoid medical information which focuses on a sales pitch, or which hasn’t been written by a credible source. Yet, you should be able to understand what the information is telling you. Just click the condition above for all of this.
Some of the research you’ll read in regard to inflammation causing or being a player in theses conditions will give you the solution of taking a drug to combat it.
Even though we may need to turn to pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory drugs at certain times, it wise to avoid them as much as possible (with permission of your health care provider of course). Many drugs may in fact cause inflammation themselves. One type of prescription drug I find interesting are statin drugs, used to lower cholesterol. If you clicked the heart disease link above, you know that heart disease is exacerbated by inflammation. And isn’t high cholesterol a risk for heart disease? And doesn’t a statin drug lower cholesterol which is supposed to help prevent heart conditions like heart disease? Yet, it can cause inflammation? What?
Let’s rephrase that one more time so it’s clear how many of the pharmaceutical drugs many of us react in the body…
This is just one example of why pharmaceutical drugs should be minimized and other natural alternatives are wise to consider. Most natural alternatives, and complementary medicine do not cause side effects, period. They may take slightly longer to show their effectiveness, but this is just the bodies way of building up the powerful healing properties found in natural alternatives.
Next week I will share with you the natural anti-inflammatory solutions I use everyday. As a personal testimonial, I know they work. As someone who works with a variety of populations, I hear of the many natural solutions others have healed themselves with. Even further, there is an incredible amount of scientific evidence which shows us how we can eliminate inflammation naturally. See you next week.