The Many Health Problems Related To Inflammation
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Inflammation is the common link between such debilitating conditions as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis it is also thought to be the reason behind visible aging.
When this inflammation stays triggered, day in, and day out, it becomes not quite so beneficial. In fact, many major diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s have all been linked to chronic inflammation. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. Heart disease is an inflammation of the arteries. ALS is an inflammation of the central nervous system. The list goes on.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is your body’s response to stress – whether from your diet, lifestyle, or environment. Think of what happens when you catch a cold. You may experience inflammation in the form of a fever as your body heats up to eradicate the effects of the invading virus. This kind of inflammation is good, but the modern epidemic of chronic, low-grade inflammation destroys the balance in your body. When your body’s systems experience a constant inflammatory response, you become more susceptible to aging and disease.
Causes of Inflammation
Body Ecology believes that one of the main causes of inflammation is low-grade bacterial, viral, and fungal infections in the bloodstream and organs like the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. Our diet is very instrumental when it comes to inflammation.
This condition is largely caused by diet, stress, lack of exercise, smoking, pollution, and lack of sleep. It can be seen in those with leaky gut syndrome, arthritis, fibromyalgia, celiac disease, and irritable bowel disease. It can also play a part in asthma and diabetes where the body continuously tries to heal tissues but fails.
- Chronic low-grade food allergies or food sensitivities may cause few symptoms.
- An imbalance of bacteria and fungi in your gastrointestinal tract is also known as dysbiosis. This causes your immune system to overreact to bacteria in your gut and can be without notable symptoms.
- Stress! Constant psychological, emotional, or physical stress raises the level of cortisol, creating inflammation. For more on the effects of stress on your body.
- Environmental toxicity from our air, water, food pollutants, and toxic metals like mercury and lead all contribute to inflammation and have been linked to diseases as varied as endometriosis and cancer.
- Diet and lifestyle: Too much fat, sugar, and protein in your diet, constant dehydration, consumption of too many sodas or caffeine, inactivity, and lack of sleep can all increase inflammation in your body
When inflammation occurs, chemicals from the body’s white blood cells are released into the blood or affected tissues to protect your body from foreign substances. This release of chemicals increases the blood flow to the area of injury or infection and may result in redness and warmth. Some of the chemicals cause a leak of fluid into the tissues, resulting in swelling. This protective process may stimulate nerves and cause pain. The increased number of cells and inflammatory substances within the joint cause irritation, swelling of the joint lining, and eventually, wearing down of cartilage.
Symptoms of inflammation include:
- Visible signs of aging like wrinkles.
- Susceptibility to bacterial, fungal, and viral infections.
- Acid reflux
- Skin conditions like psoriasis and acne.
- Chronic pain
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Urinary tract infections
In this article, we are going to cover ways of reducing and eventually eliminating inflammation. Causes, and what you can do to protect yourself. Many diseases are related to diet.
Foods That Cause Inflammation
Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to fight disease and illness is by avoiding the very foods that cause chronic inflammation. While this isn’t a new concept for those with a more holistic view of the body, it is for the modern medical system, which focuses on treating symptoms instead of addressing the root cause of an issue.
Your immune system becomes activated whenever it recognizes a foreign substance – whether that be a chemical molecule, invading microbe, or plant pollen. This triggers a process known as inflammation – a beneficial process when triggered for the right purposes.
Vegetable and Seed Oils
Unlike extra virgin olive oils and coconut oils, vegetable and seed oils are often extracted from the seeds of plants using harsh solvents like hexane, a component of gasoline.
This includes oils like corn, safflower, sunflower, canola (also known as rapeseed), peanut, sesame, and soybean oils.
Not only are these oils highly processed, but they promote inflammation as a result of their high omega-6 fatty acid content. While omega-6 fatty acids are required in small amounts, the amounts that Western diets provide are much more than people need.
What To Use Instead: cold-pressed coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil
The reason people create so much mucus after consuming dairy is mainly that it is an inflammatory food. Dairy is an irritant (aka. foreign invader), which triggers the inflammatory response in the body. As a protection mechanism, the body creates mucus to protect itself from the irritant (dairy) you put in your body.
Dairy includes everything made from a cow: milk, ice cream, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, etc.
What To Use Instead: Plant-based dairy alternatives like almond or coconut milk, yogurt, cheese, and so on.
Everyone and their neighbor are scared of carbohydrates – but not all carbs are problematic. Our ancestors consumed high-fiber, unprocessed carbohydrates for millions of years in the form of grasses, roots, and fruits. It’s when refined carbohydrates come into the picture, and when problems start to arise.
Researchers have found that refined carbohydrates encourage the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria, which increases the risk of obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. In another study, healthy young men fed 50 grams of refined carbohydrates in the form of white bread responded with an increase in the inflammatory marker Nf-kB.
The list of refined carbohydrates is endless. They range from pasta to white rice, rice snacks, crackers, cakes, cookies, and bagels. Not to mention donuts, muffins, sandwich bread, sweet bread, baked desserts, pastries, pizza dough, hamburger or hot dog buns, pancakes, and waffles. Instead of these, opt for some of the suggestions below.
What To Use Instead: ripe fruit, starchy roots (like potatoes and beets), buckwheat, and quinoa.
Conventional, processed meats like sausage, bacon, ham, smoked meat, and beef jerky are known to cause inflammation in the body. They contain more advanced glycation end products (AGEs) than most other meats, meaning they’re cooked at ridiculously high temperatures. AGEs are known to cause inflammatory changes that can lead to things like heart disease, diabetes, stomach cancer, and colon cancer.
What To Use Instead: beans and legumes, hemp “tofu”, amino acid-rich vegetables & fruit.
Do you crave soda, snack bars, candy, baked sweets, and other sugary treats? You could be creating more inflammation in your body than expected.
According to a review in the Journal of Endocrinology, when we eat too much glucose-containing sugar, the excess glucose our body can’t process quickly enough can increase the levels of pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines.
While the natural sugars found in fruit and vegetables (aka. fructose) are fine to consume, getting large amounts from highly processed, refined fructose is a bad idea.
Eating a lot of refined fructose has been found to cause inflammation within the endothelial cells that line your blood vessels. It has also been shown to increase several inflammatory markers in mice and humans.
What To Use Instead: coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, raw honey, fruit.
Artificial trans fats are some of the unhealthiest fats you can eat. These oils are often listed as “partially hydrogenated” oil on the ingredients list. They can be found in highly processed foods like crackers, frozen foods, and margarine to extend shelf life.
Artificial trans fats have been shown to cause inflammation and increase disease risk. Ingesting trans fats has also been linked with high levels of inflammatory markers like interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and C-reactive protein (CRP). In the Nurses Health Study, CRP levels were 78% higher in women who reported the highest trans fat intake. You can see why steering clear of these fats is a wise choice to make.
While you can’t really substitute anything here, just be sure to steer clear of anything on the nutrition label that reads trans fats.
While reducing your consumption of these foods will greatly lower the levels of inflammation in your body, you also need to understand that certain lifestyle choices also wreak havoc on the body. Try to get to bed early, get 15-30 minutes of sun every day, and keep stress to an absolute minimum.
Wheat, Rye, and Barley
These wheat-containing grains all contain a common allergen – gluten. The body responds with an inflammatory immune response when confronted by allergens, and so the resulting effects can be body pain, mucus production (runny nose, coughing up mucus), and tiredness.
Fried foods are another trigger for inflammation. They contain high levels of inflammatory advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are formed when anything is cooked to high temperatures, smoked, dried, fried, pasteurized, or grilled.
Refined flour, in other words, anything that is white and not whole-wheat, has been stripped of slow-digesting fibers and nutrients, which means your body breaks down these items very quickly. This will spike insulin levels, resulting in a pro-inflammatory body response.
When we consume red meat, a chemical called Neu5gc is produced. This chemical spurs cancer progression and produces an inflammatory response in the body.
Corn is in so many products. You really need to be careful to avoid this one. There are a variety of corn derivatives like high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and corn oil. Eating corn in these refined forms spikes blood sugar and as we have seen above, spiked blood sugar leads to an increased insulin response, which creates a major inflammatory response.
Artificial Chemicals and Additives
Anything artificially created, like chemicals and additives in foods, is not recognized by the body. They are foreign, and so naturally, the body needs to defend itself from these synthetic compounds, which means an inflammatory immune system response.
Some Foods That Fight Inflammation and Combat Disease
You can fight inflammation by slowly ditching the foods above, and incorporating the 10 foods below. Remember that inflammation is also caused by stress, lack of sleep, pollution, smoking, and lack of exercise (as mentioned below), so it isn’t just a diet you need to focus on. Practice stress-reduction techniques, go to sleep earlier, quit smoking (if you do), and start walking if you’re not active.
1. Turmeric: one of the best anti-inflammatory foods out there. Its active ingredient, curcumin, inhibits the activity of COX-2 and 5-LOX, two enzymes involved in the inflammatory response. Curcumin also blocks inflammatory pathways and prevents inflammatory proteins from triggering pain and swelling.
2. Blueberries: high in antioxidants, which prevent oxidative stress and inflammation. Promote the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines in the body, which leaves us with lower levels of inflammation in the body.
3. Dark Leafy Greens: kale, collards, spinach, romaine, you name it! All amazing inflammation fighters, rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules.
4. Avocado: contains polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs) and phytosterols, which provide our bodies with anti-inflammatory benefits.
5. Watermelon: Incredibly alkalizing, watermelon helps buffer the acid intake from a high-acid diet (namely, a high-inflammatory diet).
6. Hemp Seeds: contain an ideal ratio of omega 3 and 6. Omega-6 fats contain GLA, which works in the body as an anti-inflammatory, decreasing inflammation and helping people suffering from inflammatory-related diseases.
7. Medicinal Mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms like shiitake mushrooms contain high-molecular-weight polysaccharides (HMWP), which improve immune function and help battle inflammation.
8. Ginger: Similar to turmeric, ginger is an anti-inflammatory healing root that boosts the immune system and breaks down the accumulation of toxins in the body.
9. Beets: High in antioxidants, beets help fight to repair cell damage caused by inflammation. They are also high in inflammation-fighting potassium and magnesium.
10. Pineapple: contain the inflammation-fighting enzyme called bromelain. It helps regulate the immune response that often creates unwanted inflammation in the body.
How Are Inflammatory Diseases Diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your medical history and do a physical exam, focusing on:
- The pattern of painful joints and whether there are signs of inflammation
- Whether your joints are stiff in the morning
- Any other symptoms
They’ll also look at the results of X-rays and blood tests for biomarkers such as:
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
Other Remedies To Control Inflammation and Stay Healthy
Studies suggest that this superfood has a long list of health benefits, from lowering body weight to reducing inflammation in your digestive tract. During a three-month study, 20 diabetics ate 37 grams of chia seeds daily and saw their inflammatory marker (high-sensitivity-CRP) drop by 40 percent. In another group, who consumed wheat bran, there was no measurable benefit.
Several small studies have shown that Pu-erh tea may help manage several risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, from excess belly fat to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and chronic inflammation.
Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant and contains a myriad of health-boosting amino acids, alkaloids, organic compounds, and polyphenols. Most of the attributed benefits of tea are largely due to the abundance of polyphenols and their antioxidant properties. Green tea is best known for its health benefits arising from its anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains the polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate which mitigates cell damage, hunts down free radicals, and calms inflammatory reactions in the body.
Both olives and olive oil contain magical anti-inflammatory compounds such as antioxidants, macronutrients, and monounsaturated fatty acids. Olive oil has vital polyphenols and its phenolic compounds have shown positive effects on plasma lipoproteins, oxidative damage, inflammatory markers, and antimicrobial activity. Studies also show that olive oil can increase a protein hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. It also has great doses of Vitamins E and K, plus oleocanthal, which has been shown to work similarly to ibuprofen, a common anti-inflammatory drug. The amount of oleocanthal in 3.4 tablespoons (50 ml) of extra virgin olive oil offers a similar effect as 10 percent of the adult dosage of ibuprofen.
Yes, we saved the best for last! You’ve committed to eating more healthy vegetables, trying some new fermented foods, and dining on more fish. You deserve a treat that feels like an indulgence. Dark chocolate and its powdered cousin cocoa have lots of flavanols, which are responsible for their anti-inflammatory effects. They maintain the endothelial cells that line your arteries so they stay healthy and lower your risk for heart disease.53 In one study, smokers experienced significant improvements in endothelial function within two hours of eating chocolate high in flavonols.
The best-known type of seaweed brings a key ingredient from the sea – fucoidan, a complex carbohydrate that has properties that are anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and anti-oxidative. Now that is a powerful trifecta. Together, they reduce inflammation in your entire body, while fucoidan also improves cholesterol levels in the blood, lowering your risk for cardiovascular disease. Since inflammation and stress are considered risk factors for so many chronic diseases, ingesting the carotenoids, flavonoids, and alkaloids found in kelp can back you up in the fight against disease-causing free radicals. It also fills you up due to its high fiber content, which helps prevent unnecessary weight gain.
Garlic has been a staple in medicine and cooking for generations. Its anti-cancer properties arise from its phytochemicals and allyl sulfur compounds. While it is great for flavoring, this vegetable plays a role in cancer prevention as well. Its water-soluble sulfur compounds impede the onset of cancer by kickstarting genes that suppress the growth of tumors, particularly in colon cancer. It has also been widely recognized as a prevention and treatment agent for cardiovascular diseases. An abundance of scientific literature credits garlic consumption for significantly lowering blood pressure, preventing plaque buildup, reducing cholesterol, and breaking up clots that can lead to strokes.
Once you start using this vegetable, you’ll keep it on our grocery list forever. It is a great source of complex
carbs, fiber, beta-carotene, manganese, and vitamins B6 and C. Virtually every vitamin in its orange
flesh has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. They also have that wonderful choline, which calms
inflammatory responses and lowers the incidence of systemic flare-ups.
Extracts from the purple variations actively inhibit the production of inflammatory components, researchers say. They also have anthocyanins, which are known for slowing and even stopping inflammation in colon cancer cells and discouraging cell growth within cells for other types of cancers. Whichever color you choose, you can chop them into strips and roast them as ‘fries’ or with other autumn vegetables, such as onions and carrots. If you love regular potatoes, start adding an equal amount of sweet potato when you mash them, then wean yourself to a smaller dose of the white ones until you don’t miss them at all.
Celery and celery seeds have an incredible 25 anti-inflammatory compounds that can protect your cells against inflammation. These simple stalks are high in phytonutrients, anti-inflammatory components, and antioxidants, especially flavonoids, polyphenols, phenolic acids, and flavonols, such as quercetin.
Broccoli is one of those powerhouse vegetables, packed with antioxidants like the flavonoids kaempferol and quercetin, as well as a variety of carotenoids, folate, and Vitamins C and K. Like all cruciferous vegetables it is rich in phytonutrients, that help combat free radical damage and neutralize toxins in the body.
This green treat also contains glucosinolates which boost the production of specific enzymatic reactions to detoxify the liver and to enhance its role of removing carcinogens and heavy metals from your blood. These compounds also reduce cancer-cell replication, bolster the immune system, and help you digest your food so your gut keeps operating as it should.
The distinctive deep coloring of beets signals that they are rich in antioxidants. This root vegetable provides a solid dose of magnesium and the betalain antioxidant that reduces inflammation. Since some studies have linked infections to magnesium deficiencies, adding this vitamin to your diet adds another layer of protection. Magnesium prevents the accumulation of calcium which can build kidney stones and infections.
Beets (and their juices) lower rates of inflammation while protecting you from cancer and heart disease, thanks to their fiber and folate.
Tomatoes are lit up with Vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene, an antioxidant carotenoid with high-powered anti-inflammatory properties. Lycopene is attributed to having the ability to neutralize compounds that stimulate several types of cancer. It is best absorbed with a source of fat, so add olive oil to get it working for you. Even drinking tomato juice significantly decreases inflammatory markers in women carrying extra weight, according to one study.
This superfood is a rock star on so many levels. It is nutrient-dense, rich in pathogen-unfriendly phytochemicals, and has compounds that love to fight inflammation. One of those phytochemicals is glutathione, known as ‘the master antioxidant.’ When paired with beta-sitosterol, it is particularly gifted at protecting your body from damage by free radicals.
What’s more, they are loaded with vitamins B, C, E, and K, which also help neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation in your cells. The vitamin A and fiber in the fleshy fruit protect the lining in your gastrointestinal tract, helping to keep you regular and assisting your metabolism. There’s more! Avocados have carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin which are additional antioxidants. Throw in a healthy dose of magnesium and potassium, with a little natural sodium, and you’ve covered a lot of healthy infection-fighting ingredients.
This sour tropical berry is grown in the Amazon forests of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela and brings a healthy dose of vitamin C and its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Often identified as a superfood, the ellagic acid in its pulp slows the inflammation-triggering enzyme aldose reductase. A study of male smokers provided each participant with 70 milliliters of camu camu juice for a week and recorded significant decreases in the men’s inflammatory markers.
Its seeds also contain anti-inflammatory compounds and a study on rodents found that the seed extract helped to suppress inflammation. Eating these berries has also been linked to weight loss by increasing metabolism and supporting gut health (which helps prevent diabetes and heart disease in particular), lowering blood sugars, and fighting microbial bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Streptococcus mutans.
Another exotic fruit is about to become your friend in fighting inflammation. Colorful jackfruit is grown in India, Southeast Asia, central and eastern Africa, and Brazil. These tree-borne fruits can grow to weigh more than 80 pounds. Now that you know the trivia about this treat, let’s get down to the facts. Jackfruit is full of phytonutrients, such as phenols and flavonoids. Its sweet, buttery flesh also carries antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties that have been studied for their effects on lowering the risk of cancers and diabetes. These phytonutrients team up with phenolic compounds to also protect you via treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases, and Parkinson’s disease.
The mildly flavored papaya is an incredibly healthy tropical fruit. It contains high levels of antioxidizing Vitamin C (more than an orange!), beta carotene, and digestive enzymes papain and Chymopapain. For generations, it has been used as a natural treatment for pain arising from inflammation arising from burns, osteoarthritis, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.
This delicious fruit delivers more than great flavor! Pineapple is rich in vitamin C and an enzyme called bromelain, which stimulates the digestion of protein. It also calms inflammation in your stomach and boosts immunity.41 Test-tube studies showed promise that bromelain can suppress the growth of certain cancer cells by stimulating cell death, including breast, skin, bile duct, gastric system, and colon cancers.
Pineapple has countless nutrients and antioxidants to fight inflammation and disease, with a reputation for speeding up recovery from surgery. While low in calories, it is rife with manganese and Vitamins C and B6, while also providing key levels of copper, thiamin, folate, potassium, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, and iron. The fruit is especially rich in flavonoids and phenolic acids. Even better, many of the antioxidants in pineapple are ‘bound,’ which allows them to thrive in harsher conditions within the body so they can produce longer-lasting effects.
Blueberries pack a lot into each small fruit. They are gems of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that sparkle with antioxidants called anthocyanins that prevent many diseases, including cancers. Not only do they give berries their distinctive colors, but they also bolster immunity, reduce inflammation, and protect you from heart disease. On top of anthocyanins, blueberries are ripe with phytochemicals, which include ellagic acid and the flavonoids catechin, quercetin, and kaempferol, which love to fight off inflammation and cancerous cells.
Turmeric’s tour de force arises from the polyphenol curcumin, which offers an unbelievable amount of health benefits, and the compounds that add the distinctive yellow shade. As a spice and medicinal herb, it has been used for healing for centuries. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-thrombotic, and cardiovascular protective benefits. It boosts the body’s natural antioxidant capacity to further fight free radicals before they do any damage.
Turmeric can be applied to the skin for pain or swelling and it is also commonly used to calm inflammation related to arthritis, heartburn, joint pain, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Simply stated, tree nuts – including pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts – can stop cancer due to their polyphenols, compounds that can boost the immune system, and omega-3 fatty acids, which cut off cancer cells’ energy supplies.
The humble walnut, in particular, contains multiple nutrients, notably flavonoids, ellagic acid, and alpha-linolenic acid, which combine to create a ‘synergistic’ effect that kicks cancer’s butt. However, most nuts and seeds lower cholesterol levels and risks of heart disease, thanks to their polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. They also provide protein, antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and alpha-linolenic acid, an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid that helps minimize certain types of arthritis.
You may have noticed that herbs, teas, vegetables, and all of the others are a good source of value to your health. It would be nice if you incorporate the above types of diet into your daily routine along with exercise, sunshine, and at least eight glasses of water a day. Remember what you put into your body is essential to good health and a strong immune system.
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