What is inflammation
Inflammation is an immunogenic process by which the body tries to protect us from damaged cells, foreign invaders and toxins to protect and heal infection and injury.
The process releases chemicals that increase the blood flow to the area of injury or infection, and may result in visible redness, warmth, swelling and pain or invisible symptoms.
Three main processes occur before and during acute inflammation:
- The small branches of arteries enlarge when supplying blood to the damaged region, resulting in increased blood flow.
- Capillaries become easier for fluids and proteins to infiltrate, meaning that they can move between blood and cells.
- The body releases neutrophils. A neutrophil is a type of white blood cell filled with tiny sacs that contain enzymes and digest microorganisms.
Acute v Chronic
Acute inflammation arises when we hit our thumb with a hammer, sprain an ankle, catch a cold virus, get food poisoning or drink too much alcohol.
Acute bronchitis, infected ingrown toenail, high-intensity exercise, appendicitis, dermatitis, tonsillitis and sinusitis are all examples of common acute inflammation.
Chronic inflammation occurs when the stressor continues for extensive periods without treatment or removal. Chronic inflammation is caused by pathogens that the body cannot break down, including some types of virus, foreign bodies that remain in the system, or overactive immune responses. They can take a long time to build up, and last for months if not years. This can lead to tissue death and the thickening or scarring of tissue.
Examples of diseases and conditions that include chronic inflammation: atherosclerosis, asthma, chronic peptic ulcer, tuberculosis, periodontitis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's diseases and hepatitis.
Sometimes the immune system triggers an inflammatory response when there are no foreign invaders to fight off or injury. The body responds as if normal tissues are infected or somehow abnormal and begin to attack them.
An autoimmune disease is when the body's normally protective immune system causes damage to its own tissues and results in inflammation.
There are at least 80 types of autoimmune diseases. Coeliac disease, Lupus, Alopecia Areata, Psoriasi, Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple sclerosis, Ankylosing spondylitis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Inflammatory bowel disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Graves disease (hyperthyroidism), Hashimoto's thyroiditis (hypothyroidism) are common types of auto-immune diseases.
Some types of cancers can be the result of chronic inflammation.
Inflammation and diet
The most important thing to do is to avoid eating foods that can aggravate inflammation, including:
- Omega 6 vegetable oils such as soy, corn, canola, sunflower, including margarine
- Refined carbohydrates such as bread, pastries, and pasta that contain gluten
- Dairy - Milk and cheese contain casein and some people cannot tolerate this
- Sugary foods - lollies, cookies, cakes, and ice cream
- Soda, fruit juices and sugary drinks, especially ones containing high fructose corn syrup and even 'diet soda' that contains aspartame
- Vegetables high in lectins, oxalates, phytates, and mycotoxins
- Food additives such as MSG
Some foods are believed to be anti-inflammatory
- Omega 3 (DHA / EPA) in fatty fish (sardines, herring, anchovies, salmon)
- Low glycemic fruits high in Vitamin C, raspberries, blue berries
- Green tea
- Red wine (< 2 large glasses)
- Cacao or dark chocolate
- Extra virgin olive oil
Also some herbs and supplements are believed to carry anti-inflammatory properties: curcumin in turmeric, and fish oil.
While these dietary solutions do not alone hold the key to controlling inflammation, they can help prime the immune system to react in a measured way.
An anti-inflammatory diet, along with exercise and good sleep, may provide many benefits:
- Improvement of symptoms of autoimmune disorders
- Decreased risk of obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, depression, cancer, and other diseases
- Reduction in inflammatory markers in your blood
- Better blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels
- Improvement in energy and mood
- A longer, healthier life