Published: November 15, 2009
This column was originally titled, “Do you have chronic inflammation?” I decided to go ahead and provide the presumptive answer. All of us do have this fateful condition to some degree. Why do I call it a “fateful condition?” Read on.
Inflammation is a great thing … at times. If it weren’t for inflammation, minor injuries and simple infections might kill us. Inflammation is the cascade of events that occur when our body’s immune system mounts a defense to injury or invading pathogens.
You already know what inflammation is. It’s the process of tissues turning red, becoming swollen, warm and painful when injured. In many cases there will be secretions of some sort of fluid as a result of inflammation, and often decreased function of the affected tissue.
Acute inflammation is a necessary event that represents a healthy response to an injury or infection. During this inflammation process, immune system chemicals and infection-fighting cells are released in the area to immediately begin to destroy cells and microbes that are foreign to our body. Thankfully, most of us have healthy immune systems that will initiate a robust inflammatory response to an acute threat.
After the threat has been diminished, the inflammatory response is no longer appropriate, and a perfectly healthy body activates a “stand down” order to discontinue the inflammatory activity.
Chronic inflammation is a different story. Chronic inflammation is the long-term, low-grade inflammatory activity that may be responsible for the disease that ultimately ends your life. Chronic inflammation has been linked to arthritis, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, asthma, high blood pressure, bowel disease, cancer and practically every other fatal disease or condition. Most disease processes that could end your life will have their origins from a chronic inflammation condition.
Chronic inflammation has become the subject of a growing amount of medical research in recent years. As one recent article from Harvard Medical School begins, “The notion that chronic inflammation causes cancer is well documented, but exactly how the disease unfolds is not always clear.” There is much to be learned about the process by which chronic inflammation manifests into deadly diseases.
What a paradox. Acute inflammatory response is often necessary to save your life, and yet chronic inflammatory response could lead to your death. In order to increase our level of health and decrease our chances of illness and early death, decreasing chronic inflammation is essential. Interestingly, some of the choices you and I make each day contribute to the amount of chronic inflammation that will affect us.
Research has shown with certainty that there are several steps we can take to decrease our level of chronic inflammation. Based on medical literature, here are five steps that have been shown to have documented positive effects in reducing chronic inflammation.
1. Make revisions in your diet. Choose foods that have fewer carbohydrates and trans-fats. Add more fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy fats, such as olive oil.
2. Eat less fast food and convenience foods. The explanation for why this is critically important is too long for this article. The short explanation is that these types of foods contribute heavily to chronic inflammation and eventually deadly consequences.
3. Get more sleep. Less sleep means more chronic inflammation. Earlier bed times might improve your health substantially.
4. Take a high quality nutritional vitamin and mineral supplement. You know that plants grow better when they are fed Miracle Grow. Your body needs nutritional supplementation, too. Chronic inflammation is lessened with good nutritional support. Unfortunately, you are extremely unlikely to obtain ideal nutrients from your diet alone.
5. Enjoy sensible exercise. If you are not sure that you are exercising enough, you probably aren’t. Start from where you are and gradually increase healthy, fun exercise activities.
The information above is culled from a review of recent articles in well-respected medical journals. After reading the above steps, were there any surprises?
Although our federal government is debating multi-billion-dollar plans to “educate” you and I about the steps we can take to improve our health, in reality, isn’t this is the same advice our grandmothers would have given us?
Next week: A doctor’s stunning confession!
Dr. Mark Kestner