What is inflammation?
You’ve probably heard the term ‘inflammation,’ but do you have a good understanding of what it is?
Inflammation is a vital defense mechanism of the body. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to neutralize things like bacteria, viruses, and toxins.
A response of the immune system, inflammation is the activation and deployment of proteins with “the aim being to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens – and begin the healing process.”
You’ve cut yourself before, right? What did the wound look like shortly after? Most likely, the skin around the cut appeared red and swollen. This reaction illustrates the immune system at work. The red and swollen area is a byproduct of the inflammatory response.
How is chronic inflammation different?
Chronic (long-term) inflammation is not a good thing, however. Monsour Mohamadzadeh, Ph.D., and director of the Center for Inflammation and Mucosal Immunology at the University of Florida, explains the difference:
“In a healthy situation, inflammation serves as a good friend to our body. But if immune cells start to overreact, that inflammation can be totally directed against us.”
10 Causes of Chronic Inflammation
Knowing the causes of the inflammation can help you beat it!
1. Being Overweight or Obese
Studies have shown that overweight people have higher concentrations of inflammatory proteins in fat cells. Obese women are especially at risk and are likelier to have higher inflammatory protein levels “AIF-1” than those within a healthy weight range.
2. Poor Gut Health
Certain things – such as antibiotics, disease, and poor diet – throw a wrench into our gut’s microbiome. While the word may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, the microbiome is very real and vital. Our gut requires healthy amounts of good bacteria – and any disturbance to this balance can trigger inflammation.
Stress is a primary antagonist of many chronic health conditions – and it’s no surprise that the same goes for inflammation. In a recent study, researchers discovered that simply recalling a stressful past event can increase inflammation in the body.
4. Sleep Deprivation
An adequate amount of sleep (seven to nine hours for adults) is crucial for the body to repair itself. Our brain cleanses toxins and consolidates memory, and the body releases essential growth hormones, for example. In one study, a reactive protein that serves as a marker for inflammation levels was 25 percent higher in people who slept less than six hours per night.
5. Underlying Health Conditions
Addison’s, Crohn’s disease, and Celiac diseases, along with fibromyalgia, lupus, and psoriasis, are conditions that involve an over-stimulated immune system. Autoimmune disorders cause the body to constantly send inflammatory signals even without the presence of an outside danger. Then, the body attacks healthy tissue in response, leading to chronic inflammation. Certain bacteria and viruses also affect the regulation of the inflammatory response.
6. High Exposure to Toxins
Industrial chemicals and pollution can cause excess inflammation with long-term exposure. According to a comprehensive global review, air pollution can potentially damage every organ and cell in the body. People who live close to industrial sites or urban areas have the highest risk of developing chronic inflammation caused by pollution.
7. Untreated Acute Inflammation
Inflammation isn’t always negative; it’s simply an immune response to a foreign threat such as bacteria, viruses, or an injury. However, when you have an untreated injury or infection, your body continues releasing inflammatory proteins, which can lead to chronic inflammation.
8. Unhealthy Diet
Unfortunately, our modern diets have done a number on our health. Our bodies haven’t evolved for our highly processed diets, so eating these foods in excess causes poor health over time. As with other foreign threats like bacteria, our bodies respond to overly processed foods in the same manner by increasing inflammation.
9. Drinking Alcohol or Ingesting Drugs in Excess
Studies have shown that alcohol contributes to inflammation because it disrupts our gut microbiome. It also impairs the liver’s ability to filter out toxins, which can cause organ failure in severe cases. In addition, long-term drug abuse impairs the immune system and can lead to neuroinflammation.
10. Lack of Exercise or Overexercising
As with most things in life, we should always strive for a happy medium. Too much or too little of anything will usually lead to ill effects, such as inflammation. Overexercising may not seem harmful, but frequently engaging in high-intensity exercise can lead to chronic inflammation since your body won’t have time to heal. On the other hand, not exercising will cause a buildup of toxins, which will inevitably cause inflammation.
How Do I Get Rid of Inflammation?
Fortunately, advances in medicine have provided the answer to this important question. It is indeed possible to reverse chronic inflammation in many cases!
10 Efficient Ways to Reverse Inflammation
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight will help reduce inflammation in your body. Even a 5% reduction in weight can significantly lower inflammation levels. Aim for three days of exercise per week first, and then work your way up to five if possible. It’s recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate or intense physical activity each week.
2. Take Vitamin D.
In combination with a five to ten percent reduction in weight, individuals who supplement vitamin D may reduce their inflammation markers by nearly forty percent.
3. Take Fish Oil.
Omega-3 fatty acid has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Numerous studies have shown a reduction in inflammation levels in patients with various medical conditions who take fish oil supplements.
As stated, stress is a significant contributor to inflammation. Any activity that reduces stress levels is key to helping maintain a healthy immune system. In a University of Wisconsin-Madison study, mindfulness-based stress reduction was more effective at lowering inflammation than other relaxation techniques.
However, any calming activity can help lower stress levels and, therefore, inflammation. If you don’t enjoy meditating, you can also do yoga, practice deep breathing, or even journal at bedtime.
Breaking a sweat helps us maintain a healthy weight and combat stress. A moderately-rigorous exercise regimen with an hour of aerobics and weight training 3-4 times weekly is recommended; though even a brisk walk is better than no exercise.