What is Inflammation and What Causes It?
Inflammation is an important process in the body. But, when it goes out of control, it can lead to many ailments including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, allergies, joint issues, and even cancer. So how do you reduce inflammation? There are a few things you can do to help your body deal with inflammation more effectively. In this article, we will take a look at the causes of inflammation, how it affects our bodies and how many people work to reduce it.
What is inflammation
Inflammation is a normal, everyday response of the body to infection or injury. In short, inflammation is a warning system that alerts the immune system when something goes wrong. The normal physiological response (inflammatory response) releases immune cells, white blood cells, and substances ( cytokines) to fight against injury, infection, and illness. It also helps to repair or remove damage. Having an overactive immune system isn’t good for overall health. It can lead to various serious health problems such as allergies, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. For the immune system to work effectively, it needs time to “rest”. Reducing inflammation can be important for longevity because your body doesn't have enough time to repair itself when there are too many infections or injuries that force your body into overdrive mode. When our body's inflammatory response lasts only for a few days, scientifically it is named acute inflammation and when it takes a longer duration, it's called chronic inflammation. We will discuss more of these below.
Types of inflammation
Inflammation can be Acute ( short-term) or Chronic (long-term).
Acute inflammation:Acute inflammation response acts to heal the body from inflammation ( short-term) caused by an injury to the body like minor laceration, cold, fever, etc. The purpose of this type of response is tissue repair and resolution of infection/injury. For example, if we cut our finger or any part of the body gets infected with a virus, Immediately our white blood cells start flooding and provide protection. Then our body sends inflammatory cells to heal that injury. Some acute inflammation include warmth, redness, swelling, etc. but these are for a relatively short time, lasting only a few hours or days.
Chronic inflammation: Chronic Inflammation (or long-term ) is one of the causes behind various disorders and diseases such as autoimmunity, cancer, and heart disease. It also contributes to inflammation and immune issues such as allergies and asthma. When our body continuously sends inflammatory cells but we have no outside danger, the signals incorrectly fire and lead to chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation may come with pain, discomfort and potentially lead to vocal, motor and mood challenges. This type of inflammation is serious and leads to more complicated disorders and diseases.
What happens when you have inflammation
When the body is injured, our genes related to infection or injury will release inflammatory mediators that include histamine and bradykinin hormone. These hormones will create small blood vessels and help the tissue become wider and allow more blood flowing to reach the injured tissue. This process will make the inflamed area feel hot and turn red. Through this process, cytokines chemicals will be released and will be responsible for tissue repair and proper immune system function. These cytokines appear to help with wound healing, speeding the recovery of some autoimmune disorders, and also can fight against some cancers. Additionally, sometimes the immune system allows more fluid to enter the injured tissue that makes the area swollen. Though this swelling goes away after a while, when this fluid is transported out of the injured tissue it feels pain.
However, what if our cytokines are turned down or off?
This is where chronic inflammation comes into the picture. Acute inflammation can be treated with tools such as over the counter medicine or certain herbs or by removing the inflammatory causes. While these methods can help in treating chronic inflammation, deeper analysis and testing along with lifestyle changes and time are often required.
Why reducing inflammation is so important
There are almost 1000 chemical compounds in the air today. Among them, over 250 can be found in high concentrations inside of your home! These chemicals have effects on our bodies at low levels. What happens when you keep exposing yourself to these contaminants? Your immune system gets confused. Very often, your body is trying to help keep you healthy. But when it's constantly subjected to toxins, the immune system gets confused and starts attacking itself. This leads to many health problems including allergies, mood disorders and autoimmune disorders. These health issues are an important part of our focus because they can cause your immune system to overreact and you don’t feel 100%.
Getting rid of inflammation is called reducing or eliminating chronic disease culprits like environmental toxins, inflammatory causing foods, inflammation (from infections), hormonal imbalance, enzymes that can damage your organs, and many other factors.
Signs of inflammation
When we face inflammation in the body, acute or chronic, we need to identify and overcome them quickly. Here are the main signs of inflammation:
Redness: Skin is normally pale or pinkish due to capillaries. But when it turns red, it means the underlying organs of the skin are already damaged and inflammation has started without you even knowing. Red eyes are also a sign of this.
Body pain: Inflammatory problems cause mild pain unless they are worse where signs of discomfort appear. If you have knee, wrist, or elbow pain and not due to injury, or if the joint doesn’t work as well as it should, it’s a clue that inflammation has been going on. If you experience this, then your joint will hurt during movement that was once painless.
Cramping:This is a painful, involuntary contraction of a muscle. Cramps can have causes from dehydration, strenuous exercise, or lack of muscle use.
Fever:If a fever is present, it means inflammation is occuring. The circulation of molecules in the body increases and this indication of inflammation is a sign that an infection or other type of pathology has occurred.
Fatigue/loss of energy:If you experience fatigue, then this can be an indication that your body is losing response to some trigger. If the condition lasts for more than two days, one of the most inflammatory triggers exists.
Headaches:Although a headache in and of itself doesn't mean much, if it persists beyond two days, this may be a sign of inflammation.
Nose bleeds: The nose is the best organ for altering smells due to its high sensitivity. Nosebleeds indicate a large inflammatory process, Usually it occurs only when one is overexerting themselves.
Mental Health: It's easy to assume that depression has no relation to inflammation but this condition is closely tied to gut health and the immune system.
Muscle stiffness: Joint clearing, which is treating an inflammation seamlessly each time, will bring good results for 5-10 minutes until the next acute phase manifests. A general improvement or less painful symptoms can indicate an underlying problem.
Persistent cough:A persistent cough can cause irritation and inflammation in the throat.
What causes inflammation
Inflammation is an important immune response that does not always have to be harmful. With the right conditions, our bodies can utilize inflammation to help fight off infections or heal damaged tissue while also keeping us free from harm. Inflammation often starts when one of the following scenarios occurs:
- Our skin is damaged by the elements or bacteria/ fungi/virus.
- Sunburn, insect bite, abrasion
- An allergy occurs on our skin which oozes out large amounts of fluid to create bleeding more than 1-2 cm in depth
- Any damage of blood vessels
- Certain diseases are present in the body
- Cell death or cells ignore the order
- Hormonal imbalances leaving us chronically stressed
- Our immune system attacks itself by mistake (autoimmune disorders such as celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, pandas, etc)
How to reduce inflammation
Inflammation isn’t something you can feel or see, it secretly damages the body without even knowing. So taking steps to reduce inflammation is essential. How to do that? Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, and a good lifestyle can help us to reduce inflammation, reduce the risk of severe illness and promote overall health and wellness. Here are a few ways to reduce inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory foods:Foods that we usually eat may not necessarily be anti-inflammatory. Food such as high-fat meat, whole grain flour mixtures & grains which contain sticky gums - likely contain inflammatory sugars for instance, wheat ﬂour bread saturated fats & trans fats that are unhealthy foods. So before we eat them we should check the ingredients and look for foods that come from non-inflammatory sources found in nature. Anti-inflammatory foods contain polyphenols which reduce inflammation at a molecular level without adding to the calorie count.
Colorful Fruit salad:Eating anti-inflammatory and leafy green foods, while helpful as well as are eating colorful fruits that contain c-reactive protein. This protein is found in fruit like blueberries, blackberries, red cabbage, grapes, red apples, green apples, etc. They are a marker of inflammatory substances circulating in our blood that rises as we age.
Mediterranean diet: One diet full of nutrients with almost all types of vitamins we need is a Mediterranean diet. It varies from country to country but usually, it includes Fruits, Vegetables, Leagumes, Beans, Nuts, Cereals, Fish, whole grains, and a minimal amount or free of unsaturated fats, etc. This diet is helpful in the prevention of chronic inflammation.
Leafy greens:Leafy greens veggies are some of the most abundant foods on Earth and some of them contain polyphenols, magnesium and antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation.
Take Healthy fats: Healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, rosemary oil, naturally contain no inflammatory substances and saturated nutrients.
- A handful of nuts & dry fruits:Nuts and dry fruits may seem like a regular snack, but they can also help in lowering inflammation. A bowl with one-ounce nuts or dry fruits (peanuts, walnuts, almonds, or cashew nuts) can do this magic. This is because they are rich in antioxidants, omega,-3, omega-6 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory effects.
Swap the coffee with Green tea: If green tea isn't in your diet, include it. If you are drinking coffee, perhaps swap two cups of it with green tea. Green tea and coffee are both healthy and effective. Green tea leaves have polyphenols that are anti-inflammatory compounds and very helpful to fight off free radicals damage and further inflammation. Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock has found 4-6 cups of Green tea can help you to inhibit stress and also inflammation. So try to drink more green tea, but don’t totally remove coffee. Coffee is also one of the anti-inflammatory properties, it's good for your heart and helps to keep you younger.
Avoid processed foods: It is important to avoid processed foods. Foods that are highly processed include many thousands of different chemicals, preservatives, and artificial dyes. Additionally, some report that by avoiding high fructose corn syrup, they avoid brain fog.
Moderate Exercise & Yoga:Many studies have shown that 20 minutes of regular exercise 5 days a week can reduce the risk of chronic inflammation due to obesity and overweight conditions. Moderate exercise like brisk walking with friends or pets helps our brains function better by activating various receptors associated with increased cognitive functions, respiratory functions, and immunity functions. Another way to reduce inflammation is doing yoga. If you do 70-90 minutes of yoga twice in a week it will lower the interleukin-6 level and c-reactive protein, these two are key inflammatory markers. Yoga is also reported to help in minimizing stress levels.
Some good spices: Spices such as black pepper, turmeric, ginger, coriander, cumin aren’t the only ingredients to spice up the food, they have anti-inflammatory power that makes your body process faster. Additionally, curcumin reduces the production of anti-inflammatory viruses. Spices are flavor and health boosters.
Intermittent fasting: Intermittent fasting reduces oxidative stress and helps in weight loss. This dietary pattern involves short-term spikes in energy during which time we stop eating whole foods and only drink liquids such as water, lemon juice, or coffee. The theory is that intermittent fasting will cause the cells to stop bursting and become more efficient in how they handle stress. You can also schedule an eating plan and follow that to reduce the risk of long-lasting inflammation, diabetes, cancer, blood sugar, and severe disease.
Good sleep: Sleep is also an essential body function. Our brain needs it so much and its oxygen level increases significantly while you are asleep giving the neurons better nutrition for repair purposes. A night of good sleep can help in reducing inflammation. Work to carve out 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Manage stress:You must manage your stress levels through exercise, meditation, reading mindless books you like (fiction don’t read too much), social activity, travel, and nature. Getting a good night's sleep is also important as well! Managing stress will reduce inflammation and the risk of heart disease.
Giving up an anti-inflammatory lifestyle: Late-night sleep, eating late at night, smoking, alcohol, refined sugars can be the reason for inflammation.
Eating late at night:A big mistake people make is to eat at late at night. It can be better to eat during the day when your body has more freedom to manage how it uses energy, and cortisol levels are much lower. You’ll spend less time digesting food. Excess cortisol also contributes to anxiety.
Avoiding foods with refined sugars: Avoid consuming unhealthy fats, and anything that has been processed using high temperatures or food with added sugars.
Quit smoking: Smoking has many harmful effects including increased inflammation.
Avoid too much alcohol: A glass of wine isn’t harmful but if it's more then it can be the reason for the increased toxin in the body that turns into inflammation and damages the organs and tissues.
- Late-night sleep: if you don't sleep at night or don't get enough sleep in the long term it will cause inflammation.
How to treat inflammation
Form a healthy diet and lifestyle habits. If it's acute inflammation it will likely improve with healthy habits, but it's chronic inflammation you will need greater support. Supplement support providing additional nutrition can be one choice including supplements with Omega-3 supplements and/or turmeric and/or frankincense.
Not only does omega-3 boost the immune system, but it also regulates inflammation after skin or other tissues have been injured. The following qualities are indicative of omega 3 essential fatty acids:
- The ability to suppress cytokines (signals between cells that cause inflammation),
- Potent activator of cell signaling activation pathways, macrophages, and T-cell immune system,
- Activates messenger RNA synthesis, cofactors for transcription and translation of proteins.
- Anti-oxidant effects such as scavenging free radical such as hydro prostatic enzymes (which can be used to remove hydrogen peroxide), anti-inflammatory properties, inhibiting collateral damage in tissues when they are damaged or already dead, and protection against the severe chronic diseases before trying to stop it is too late such as cancer.
- It helps with waste removal (osteoporosis), the concentration of erythropoietin in blood for bone formation, aids kidney and liver function and so much more.
Understanding inflammation can be an important piece in overall health and wellness including what it is, what causes it, signals, and how to reduce it. Omega-3 supplements can be an additional tool to help you in fighting inflammation.