Table of Contents
Introduction: Illness is all about Inflammation
Inflammation has become a hot topic (no pun intended) in health. It explains how stressors can cause a systemic response and lead to injuries that contribute to disease. Early doctors described five cardinal signs of inflammation: rubor (redness), calor (warmth), dolor (pain), tumor (swelling) and then functio laesa (loss of function). Our current understanding is much more complex: a cascade of mediators, intracellular proteins, and ion fluxes.
The body adjusts following stress with inflammation. When the stressor is addressed, the body regains homeostasis. Chronic stressors lead to changes that damage the body. The article will define inflammation and how relates to chronic diseases. I will offer some suggestions on how to start with diet and lifestyle changes to keep inflammation at a minimum and live long, healthy lives.
What does Inflammation Mean?
Inflammation is your body’s natural immune system response to any foreign substance it considers harmful. For instance, it can get triggered if any bacteria or virus enters your body. You may also have an inflammatory response if toxins are ingested or produced within (e.g., by ingested bacteria) or if your body encounters heat shock.
Think of inflammation as a way that they body repairs damage. Cells can send distress signals that function in self-regulating (autocrine), affecting nearby cells (paracrine), or affecting distant cells (endocrine). Small proteins and ions (e.g., Calcium) within the cell are employed to turn on its chemical production for inflammation.
Damaged cells release chemicals like prostaglandins, histamine, and bradykinin, which cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissues. The tissues begin to swell and turn red. The fluid prevents the substance that has entered your body from interacting with other tissues and attracts certain types of white blood cells. When they enter the inflamed area, they can eat a foreign body and destroy it entirely.
Inflammation is an essential defense mechanism of the body. Sometimes the inflammatory responses are short-lived and can end in a few hours, and at times, the inflammation may persist for days or weeks. The cellular and molecular interactions they initiate minimize the likelihood of any severe infection or injury. However, sometimes these inflammatory responses go uncontrolled.
In that setting, a short-lived or acute inflammation can continue over a long period of time, giving rise to chronic inflammatory diseases. As a result of this process, the body continuously sends inflammatory signals even when there is no danger. The inflammatory cells start attacking the healthy ones, triggering the development of chronic diseases.
What happens in the Body During Inflammation?
When inflammation occurs, a cascade of events leads to changes in the tissues and a signaling of white blood cells to the area of infection or injury. These white blood cells release chemicals that move into the blood and tissues, protecting the body from the foreign invader. The flow of blood to the respective area increases, and this causes all of the signs of inflammation. This process triggers the sensation of pain through the nerves within the injured area.
Let’s say there is an injury of one of your joints while weightlifting. White blood cells will start moving towards them, releasing chemicals, and you might transiently feel some pain and irritation. It is expected to resolve after several days. However, in some instances, the immune system continues sending white blood cells and they might release a lot of chemicals inside, causing extreme swelling of the joint lining or loss of cartilage. At this stage, diseases may develop.
As mentioned above, inflammation can be both acute (short-lived) or chronic (long-lived). The former disappears within hours and is a healthy response against foreign antigens (foreign bodies that trigger the inflammatory response). However, the latter continues for months and years and causes various diseases. Some of these diseases include;
- Heart Diseases
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease
- Crohn’s Disease
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Skin conditions like dermatitis, atopy, and psoriasis
- Arthritis (Rheumatoid, Psoriatic, and Gouty)
- Other painful conditions associated include muscular neck pain, muscular low back pain, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and many more.
Obesity is a low-grade inflammatory disease associated with inflammatory markers like CRP (C-reactive protein), IL-6 (Interleukin-6), and Hcy (Homocysteine). One study indicated that people with abdominal obesity had increased levels of CRP and IL-6. The predictors used for measuring the markers included Wrist, Waist, and Waist to Hip Ratio.
The Journal of Inflammation Research published a study that assessed the prevalence of four common elements of inflammation among people with high BMI. Included were the white blood cell (WBC) count, platelet (PLT) count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and C-reactive protein (CRRP). The study showed that individuals with a higher body mass index (BMI) in the obese category have increased inflammation compared to those within the normal range.
Another study was published in the Journal of Diabetes Care. It was a meta-analysis that provided evidence for elevated levels of IL-6 and CRP among diabetic patients. Therefore, the researchers stated that inflammation is most probably linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Likely, the increased adiposity generates inflammation, cytokine production, and impairs insulin signaling. These changes lead to insulin resistance and oxidative stress.
Ways to Reduce the Level of Inflammation Using Diet and Lifestyle
Some simple changes in your diet and lifestyle can fix the situation for you.
For dietary changes, you must switch to an antioxidant diet. All the foods that you eat must be rich in antioxidants. These may include;
- Nuts, like almonds and walnuts
- Green vegetables, like kale and spinach
- Foods rich in fiber
- Olive oil
- Fatty salmon or mackerel fish
- Fruits, like blueberries, tomatoes, oranges, etc.
You should avoid consuming foods that aggravate inflammation like processed foods, fried foods, soda drinks, white processed sugar, certain types of red meat, and unhealthy fats.
Fireproof Your Health: Ways to Reduce Inflammation
While diet is crucial, it is best to have multiple lifestyle measures. It is important to exercise regularly and, preferably, in your daily schedule. Yoga and meditation are beneficial as well. Outdoor time in nature, or even body contact with the surface of the Earth (known as grounding or earthing) may also be beneficial to reduce inflammation. Maybe that is enough to convince some of the glampers to get out of their hotel rooms and into tents.
Below is an image of ways to fireproof health. They include various behaviors and exposures that are entry points of inflammation. The key point is that substances and thoughts may enter our body and lead to inflammation and a stress-response. There are ways that we can prevent these from compromising our cells, and, therefore, our bodies.
Measures that you take in your day that prioritize your health can have a significant impact on your outlook and wellbeing. We have a surprising amount of control in the trajectory of our health and in improving a chronic disease. Please consult with your doctor if you are taking medications and have significant chronic diseases, before you consider making any sudden changes in diet or undertaking any exercise regimen.
Health is a result of multiple factors that provide optimal cellular functioning. When a cell becomes injured as a result of a stressor that enters from the environment, the cell releases molecules that alert the rest of the body – and the brain – that there is an injury.
Our brains have a crucial role in reducing and preventing inflammation. Unfortunately, as an adaptive response to trauma, the brain may set up an injury pattern that can actually bring us closer to stressors and inflammation.
There is a dysregulation of neurotransmitters with changes in the brain following a significant trauma. It may lead to increased sensitivity of the brain’s interpretative responses. Behaviors can develop as a way to reduce stress, such as substance use, overeating of processed foods, etc., but contribute to the development of diseases. Therefore, any lifestyle change should incorporate strategies that seek to understand the behavior’s source and release the brain from these adaptive patterns.
Inflammation is your body’s internal response to anything harmful. It can be short-term or long-term, and in some cases, can lead to life-threatening and life-altering diseases. Additionally, studies suggest that obesity can be a contributing factor to inflammation. Therefore, making lifestyle changes to combat inflammation is highly recommended and beneficial. Developing techniques to aid in behavior change and the brain’s adaptive response are crucial to these lifestyle strategies.
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