Once considered a “secret” killer because its role in major disease went undetected, persistent (chronic) inflammation is increasingly being blamed for a host of illnesses, including:
Not all inflammation is bad, however. We need inflammation to help fight germs and heal wounds. Most times, inflammation takes care of an injury and recedes. But when inflammation gets stuck in the “on” mode, trouble can follow.
Medical leaders have known for years that inflammation naturally plays a key role in inflammatory ills like rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel diseases. But over the past decade or so, they’ve found that impact of chronic inflammation on the body is widespread.
As evidence builds about the role of inflammation in other, seemingly unrelated diseases, Harvard cardiologist Paul Ridker, M.D., Ph.D., calls the development “a fundamental revolution in how we understand what causes heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.” He also says it opens up new ways to predict, prevent and even treat diseases.
So what can cause this killer inflammation – and more importantly, how can we stop or reduce it?
Chronic inflammation has many triggers; luckily, we can modify our lifestyles to reduce and even eliminate some of them.
Fat – No one likes to see it in the mirror, but it’s more than a cosmetic problem. Once suspected to be storage units of energy, fat cells are now known to churn out proteins called cytokines which fan the inflammatory process. Excess belly fat in particular can be a huge source of inflammation.
Experts believe this may explain the link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Obesity produces inflammation, and inflammation promotes insulin resistance, a hallmark of diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a group of symptoms which can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke).
High-fat and high-calorie meals – Fast food and other unhealthy fare can be triggers for inflammation. Researchers from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York found that after a 900-calorie fast-food breakfast, study participants showed high blood levels of inflammation for the next four hours.
Emotional stress – Hormones produced as part of the stress response – such as cortisol and adrenaline – can lead to inflammation. Plus, cortisol can lead to belly fat, which produces inflammation of its own.
How to reduce inflammation naturally
Though anti-inflammatory medications are widely available, they each come with their own set of risks and potential side effects. So how can we help reduce inflammation naturally? The answer is simple, though implementing it can take willpower and determination: lifestyle changes.
Though they may sound like a familiar litany of “remedies,” a balanced, nutritious diet, exercise and stress reduction can all go a long way toward reducing inflammation in the body.
Anti-inflammatory diet – Just as certain chemicals are pro- or anti-inflammatory, so too are certain foods. You’ll want to load up on anti-inflammatory foods like colorful fruits and vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower. Research shows that compounds in these vegetables decrease the production of inflammatory cytokines .
Also include legumes, nuts, healthy fats such as olive oil, and fish in your diet. The Omega-3 fatty acids in coldwater fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines provide your body with the building blocks it needs to make anti-inflammatory hormones.
Whole grains should also be a staple in your diet: a study of overweight people found that those who ate whole grains versus refined grains such as white bread, pasta and rice, reduced their blood levels of C-Reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) by 30%.
Spices such as curry and ginger have anti-inflammatory properties, as do green, white and oolong varieties of tea. Avoid processed and junk foods, saturated fat and trans fats, all of which can be pro-inflammatory.
Activity – The benefits of exercise have been well-documented and now include reducing inflammation. After you exercise, your body creates more free radicals. Then, your body makes and uses more antioxidants, which ultimately works to reduce inflammation. Plus, fat cells are inflammation-making machines, so losing weight can reduce this source of inflammation.
Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. However, don’t overdo it: exercise regimens over 60 minutes long can actually be pro-inflammatory.
Stress management – Stress hormones contribute to the “fire” of inflammation – and can contribute to belly fat. Practice stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga and massage to help bring stress under control. (Kill two birds with one stone by exercising: it’s a great stress buster!) Also be sure to get plenty of sleep each night, as lack of sleep can put stress on the body.
Source: Inflammation: The Not-So-Secret Killer, TriVita 5/10/2012
Phil Holleman spent over 11 years struggling with major depression. During that time, he learned how important it is to live a healthy life. He created ABoldNewLife.com to help others who are on their journey to wellness.
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