“Chronic inflammation has been linked to cancers of the lung, esophagus, cervix, and digestive tract, among others.” – health.com
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 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.”
We’re going to discuss some causes of chronic inflammation, and steps that you can take to counteract them.
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 levels of the inflammatory protein “AIF-1” than those within a healthy weight range.
2. Gut troubles
Certain things – such as antibiotics, disease, and poor diet – throws a wrench into our gut’s microbiome. While the word may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, the microbiome is both very real and very important. 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. Lack of sleep
An adequate amount of sleep (7-9 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. Certain bacteria and viruses also affect the regulation of the inflammatory response.
“How do I get rid of it?”
Fortunately, advances in medicine have provided the answer to this important question. It is indeed possible to reverse chronic inflammation in many cases!
The following are the most efficient ways to combat inflammation:
– Lose weight: Even a 5 percent reduction in weight can significantly lower inflammation levels.
– Take vitamin D: In combination with a 5-10 percent reduction in weight, individuals who supplement vitamin D may reduce their inflammation markers by nearly 40 percent.
– Get some 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.
– Meditate: As stated, stress is a big contributor to inflammation. Any activity that reduces stress levels is key can help 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.
– Exercise: Breaking a sweat helps us maintain us 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 at all.
(Readers: do you have any other tips for combating inflammation? Any advice to share with the rest of us? Please drop us a comment!)
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