Everything seems to cause inflammation; from too many Omega 6 fats to processed foods to modern wheat grain and stress or injury. But what exactly is inflammation and is it harmful or helpful? I get these types of questions all the time. So, in plain, easy to understand language, here is a rundown of how inflammation works and why/how it can be helpful or cause damage.
Inflammation – when it’s a good thing
Think of what happens when you accidentally scratch yourself – the whole area turns red and gets a little raised or puffy. That’s inflammation doing its job. It’s not actually bad news, but instead is a vital role of the immune system which is rushing to help that area to fight off, or protect against, bad bacteria and viruses from getting in. In this case inflammation is a good thing as without it, wounds would become infected. With a physical injury, if you generally leave the spot alone and don’t irritate it further, the swelling will eventually go down and the wound will heal itself naturally.
Inflammation – when it’s a bad thing
However, imagine if you were constantly scratching or irritating yourself in the same spot, or even exercising the same muscles at high intensity every single day without any rest to let your body repair itself. The inflammation would never go down because you’re constantly re-injuring yourself, or training too hard and too much. This is also exactly what happens when you eat the wrong types of foods or foods that your body is sensitive to. It begins to irritate the gut lining and the action is constantly being repeated—3 meals a day, 365 days a year.
Inflammation and the Gut
If inflammation is in your gut, you might not see it the same way as you see a scratch on your hand for example, but it’s still there. Think about how much the skin on your hand can swell, turn red and really hurt to touch or move it fully. This in turn can affect your day to day activities like writing, picking something up or doing the dishes when you’ve hurt it badly. Now imagine your gut trying to work properly when it’s all inflamed like that, all the time. You may not see the inflammation in the gut, but it’s always there.
Inflammation is just a symptom of your body reacting in a perfectly normal way to chronic and repeated injury or stress. Your body is doing its job – it’s just taking a bit of a beating because there’s too much stress or injury for it to be able to deal with all at once. If that symptom continues for too long, that’s when it can become a problem and can lead to something else entirely.
Acute Vs Chronic Inflammation
There are two types of inflammation. Acute inflammation, such as a cut or injury, will heal itself naturally within a few days as described above. However, there’s also chronic or systemic inflammation which is long-term and can result from failing to eliminate whatever was causing the acute inflammation.
Other sources of CHRONIC inflammatory stressors include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Processed and refined foods full of artificial ingredients
- Refined vegetables oils
- GMO foods
- Inadequate consumption of Omega 3’s
- Candida, pathogenic, bad bacterial, yeast or fungal overgrowths
- Stress (a job you hate, surrounded by toxic people, money issues etc.)
- Not having support or caring relationships or people around you
- Lack of quality time connecting with nature
- Chemicals in your living environment and pollution
- Chemicals in your drinking water and food
- Lack of exercise
All of these things are serious stressors. If they are constantly popping up in your day-to-day life and you’re not avoiding/managing them well or nourishing your body correctly, then they can begin to cause problems. Chronic inflammation occurs in diseases such as autoimmune, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, crohn’s disease and more.
What are the risks of chronic inflammation?
Researchers are still working to understand all the implications of chronic inflammation on the body’s health, but it is clear that it affects the body in many different ways. Some of them include heart disease, depression, gut issues, autoimmune disease, lung issues, bone loss or lack of bone growth and cancer just to name a few.
You can read more about this in this blog called ‘What Does Leaky Gut, Vit D, Inflammation and Autoimmune Disease Have to do with Gluten? ‘
What’s the best way to reduce inflammation?
This may take a huge mind shift for you to decide what are the most important things in your life. Whether it’s work vs. travel, friends or family, staying in to watch TV vs. getting outside into nature or working 50+ hours a week vs. following your dreams. Here is a list of a few things we recommend you should pay more attention to. These things will ultimately bring more joy, ease, peace, health and happiness into your life.
- Find ways to reduce and manage your stress levels (whether it’s reading a book, going for a swim or a walk on the beach, playing with your children or pets, meditating or some form of exercise you love – find ways to do it daily)
- Get adequate and quality sleep
- Soak up the sun and get enough Vitamin D
- Connect with nature every single day
- Find an exercise you love and feel good doing
- Eliminate viral, parasite and fungal infections
- Use alternative therapies such as chiropractic care, kinesiology, acupuncture etc. when needed
- Get your diet right
- Spend more time with your family and friends
- Cherish your partner and celebrate your love
- Help others more (whether it’s volunteering, cooking for a friend or donating clothes)
- Practice self-love daily
- Have more down time
- Explore or travel more if that’s what you love doing
- Go camping and try disconnecting from technology
Stay tuned for my next blog where I will discuss which foods are best avoided to begin decreasing inflammation in the body; including the top 20 foods I recommend to begin combatting inflammation.
Changing Habits Consulting Nutritionist
- Campbell-McBride N. 2010. ‘Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Natural Treatment for Dyspraxia, Autism, A.D.D, A.D.H.D, Dyslexia, Depression, Schizophrenia. Revised and Expanded Edition.
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