What do cancer, heart disease, and diabetes all have in common? You’re spot on if you said “inflammation.” Inflammation underlies all disease states and conditions. Many people in today’s society are inflamed. In fact, I would say you’re in the minority if you’re not inflamed. Do you have any of these symptoms of inflammation?
Inflammation is commonly associated with injuries and wound healing. Although, pain, swelling, redness, and heat are signs of inflammation we’re all familiar with, there may be symptoms you’re not aware it. It’s important to recognize the ways in which inflammation manifests, and deal with it before it becomes a raging fire. Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself, which is a good thing, until it isn’t.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is an immune response to a perceived threat, including infections, injuries, and any type of illness. Ideally, the inflammatory response should initiate healing and subside when the threat is over. Problems occur when the inflammatory process doesn’t turn off, and smolders out of control, eventually manifesting as painful symptoms that can degrade quality of life.
It can take years for signs and symptoms of inflammation to manifest, when in reality the inflammation has been brewing for years, until it finally reaches a tipping point. This is why inflammation is referred to as the silent, or secret, killer. Many inflammatory conditions are treated with over-the-counter remedies and prescription drugs (that are by the way inflammatory) without much thought to what the underlying cause could be. Symptom-relief rules.
When acute inflammation continues unabated, and becomes chronic, it takes a toll on the entire body. Over time, this depletes the immune system, leading to inflammatory diseases, such as cancer, autoimmunity, heart disease, arthritis, and accelerated aging.
Eating inflammatory foods, chronic stress, lack of exercise and sleep, smoking and drinking alcohol, and not getting enough of the right nutrients are like throwing gas on glowing embers. Inflammation will eventually cause symptoms, which are signals from the body that something isn’t right.
What Are The Mechanisms Behind Inflammation?
The immune system is key to maintaining health, it’s job is to protect us. If there is an infection in the body, cytokines, immune system molecules, rush in to contain the infection and prevent its spread. The system goes awry when the immune system begins attacking the inflammation, creating an autoimmune response in which the body attacks its own tissues.
The immune system produces numerous cytokines, including interferons, interleukins, TNF-alpha, C-reactive protein, colony stimulating factors, chemokines, monokines and lymphokines. During an acute inflammatory attack, prostaglandins, which function as hormones, heal damaged tissue by causing the blood to clot.
Prostaglandins are responsible for the classic symptoms of inflammation, such as, redness, swelling, and stiffness. They are what induce fever and pain, which are part of the healing process. The effectiveness of aspirin lies in its ability to prevent prostaglandin-release from injured tissue.
Drugs and Inflammatory Diseases
Prescription medications have been developed to inhibit certain cytokines related to specific diseases. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, drugs prevent the binding of interleukin-1 and TNF-alpha to their corresponding receptors. NSAIDs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, target COX-2, an enzyme implicated in pain and inflammation.
5-LOX is an inflammatory enzyme, with high levels corresponding to degenerative diseases. The COX-1, COX-2, and 5-LOX enzymes are three primary contributors implicated in inflammation. Inflammation, although a primary protective mechanism, also has the ability to cause disease.
Finding and eliminating what’s causing the inflammation is vital to halting its response. Certain conditions can result from the over or underproduction of cytokines, including certain types of cancer, arthritis and asthma. For instance, in rheumatoid arthritis, interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor are overproduced, causing tissue destruction.
Symptoms Of Inflammation
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms of inflammation, step up your anti-inflammatory measures to quell the fire:
2. Fatigue that doesn’t lift
3. Chronic headaches
4. Under-eye bags and dark circles
5. Edema, water retention, and puffiness
6. GI Problems: bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and intestinal cramping
8. Joint pain and muscle spasms
9. Acne, eczema, and psoriasis
10. High blood sugar and insulin resistance
Strategies To Reduce Inflammation
One of the best ways to reduce inflammation is through diet. And since we eat three times a day, (at least) it’s one of the factors that can have the most impact. Work on swapping inferior meat with grass-fed meat, range-free poultry, and wild-caught fish. It will cost you more, but it’s cheaper than heart surgery. Toxins accumulate in animal fat, not to mention low-quality meat is full of estrogenic pesticides, GMOs, and antibiotics. This is a great first step.
Buy organic produce and grains, and assure that everything you eat is non-GMO. GMOs are essentially antibiotics and will wreak havoc on your gut. Stay away from them. Pesticides on fruits and vegetables are estrogenic, which pose numerous problems for both men and women. Grains are desiccated, or dried, with glyphosate (GMO) to make than easier to harvest. Buying organic isn’t always enough to protect you, but it’s a start.
The proteins in gluten and dairy are inflammatory. Reduce your inflammatory load by eliminating, or reducing, the amount you eat. Soy and corn are allergenic foods, and are both GMO.
Soy is a hormone disruptor and is hard to digest. It’s problematic for many other reasons, and its consumption should be greatly decreased. If you like eating soy, choose foods that have been fermented. They’ll be much easier to digest.
[Read More: Is Soy Good or Bad?]
Blood Sugar and EMFs
Eliminate transfat, sugar, and processed foods. They’re inflammatory and can fuel existing inflammation. Buy high quality oils like coconut, olive, and avocado. Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. A glass of wine here and there isn’t a big deal, it becomes problematic when it’s consumed in ever-increasing amounts. Alcohol is hard on blood sugar, one of the main causes of inflammation, and the one in which we have the most control.
Another cause of inflammation is exposure to EMFs. Most people aren’t aware of the dangers EMFs pose. Our bodies detoxify at night when we sleep. If you’re exposed to EMFs from your phone or from wifi, your liver won’t be able to proficiently do it’s job. One of the functions of the liver is to clear toxic estrogens. If it can’t do this, these estrogens are recirculated, which is bad news on many levels.
In my opinion, this is one reason female cancers are on the rise. The inability to clear estrogen is dangerous for men, as well. At the very least, put your phone on airplane mode at night to reduce EMFs, which promote inflammation. You can connect your wifi router to a timer so it goes off at night, and automatically turns back on in the morning. This one strategy will decrease inflammation.
Drink out of glass or stainless steel bottles instead of plastic. Not only is it better for the environment, it will decrease the estrogenic load on your body. Also, be cognizant of what ingredients are in your cleaning and body care products, to make sure they’re free of toxic, inflammatory chemicals.
Water and Sleep
Unfiltered water is toxic. It’s loaded with dangerous and inflammatory chemicals. Filter every glass of water you drink. I use the Zero water filter, It’s not expensive and is an incredible investment in your health. Swap out your microwave for a toaster oven. Plan on everyone in your family complaining for a while, don’t worry, they’ll adjust.
Microwaves change the molecular structure of food and deplete minerals. Minerals are absolutely vital for the body to function properly. If you’re going to take the time to buy and prepare food, it should at least be nutritious.
Just as you can control, for the most part, what you eat, you can also control how much sleep you get. I know there will always be extenuating circumstance, but the majority of the time, you can put measures in place for adequate rest. The body heals and repairs during sleep, which is crucial for keeping inflammation in check. Practice good hygiene by setting a strict sleep schedule that works for you.
Keep your room cool and dark, and dim the lights by 10:00 p.m. so your body can produce melatonin, an antioxidant needed for restful sleep. Spend time outside with your feet on the grass. Grounding is amazing for reducing inflammation, and you’ll get vitamin D from the sun. Many people are low in this critical vitamin, which in reality is a hormone, that is needed for optimal immunity.
Get your Vitamin D levels tested here
Toxins are inflammatory. Detox techniques like fasting, colon cleanses, and infrared saunas will keep toxins from accumulating. Exercise is a great detoxifier and mitigates stress. Rebounding is fun and just a few minutes a day is enough to stimulate lymph drainage. Deep breathing also detoxifies and reduces stress. Concentrate on your breathing while you drive to and from work. Detox does not have to be time-consuming. It’s what you do most of the time that will pay the biggest dividends when it comes to your health.
Food sensitivities are a significant factor when it comes to inflammation. You can be sensitive to any food you’re eating, even healthy foods like almonds or carrots. When you eat something your body can’t digest, it can disrupt blood sugar, imbalance hormones, and cause water retention because the body views the food as a toxin, surrounding it with water as a protective mechanism.
Food Sensitivities and Infections
Food sensitivities are another reason to keep an eye on your blood sugar. Suspect a food sensitivity if your blood sugar rises abnormally after a meal. You can get your blood tested to find out which foods are causing inflammation. This is important as you may not experience any symptoms after eating a food you’re sensitive to. CRP or C-Reactive Protein is another helpful lab that accesses the amount of inflammation present.
Infections drive inflammation. Common infections include, epstein barr, cytomegalovirus, candida, mold and mycotoxins, mycoplasma species, herpes, and Lyme disease. These infections can remain undetected for years, fueling the inflammatory process. Optimizing immune function is the best defense in preventing and eradicating these viruses. Click on the links to access testing.
You may not know this, but negative emotions, especially unexpressed ones that fester, are toxic. And remember, toxicity is inflammatory. Find ways to express and release your emotions, and practice self-care consistently. Don’t underestimate what a little nurturing, done regularly, can do in terms of improving your physical, mental, and emotional health.
[Read more: 5 Ways To Make Self Care A Priority]
Supplements should be just that: supplementary to a nutritious diet, not a replacement. Below are some of my favorite anti-inflammatory supplements:
- Omega 3 fatty acids: Fatty acids positively influence inflammation by acting on intracellular receptors, altering gene expression, altering the cell membranes, and optimizing the omega 3/omega 6 ratio.
- Probiotics: A high-quality probiotic taken consistently can optimize the immune response and reduce inflammation by balancing intestinal flora.
- Vitamin D: Low levels of this pro-hormone are associated with inflammation and decreased immune response.
- B Vitamins: Insufficient amounts of B vitamins correlate with high levels of C-reactive protein.
- Magnesium: My absolute favorite mineral, magnesium lowers stress and inflammation, and neutralizes inflammatory toxins from yeast.
- Garlic, ginger and other spices: The sulphur in garlic is anti-inflammatory / Ginger decreases the inflammatory response.
- Antioxidants: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation.
- Curcumin: A pigment found in the spice turmeric that reduces inflammation.
- Boswelia: An herbal extract that is thought to neutralize the effects of 5-LOX.
- Minerals: Minerals drive essential processes and are anti-inflammatory.
- Proteolytic enzymes: Enzymes eradicate bacteria, viruses, and yeasts, improve blood flow, dissolve blood clots, and reduce the symptoms of inflammation.
Inflammation is rampant in today’s society. Fortunately, you can put systems in place to curtail it before it rages out of control. Live a healthy lifestyle, find ways to reduce your stress, express your emotions, and do something you love every single day. You are the most important agent when it comes to controlling inflammation. You’ll also prevent chronic conditions from developing since inflammation is an underlying factor in all degenerative diseases.
Do you have any of the symptoms above? Did you know they were related to inflammation? Let me know in the comments:)