When people go to the doctors, it’s usually because they have some sort of health issue(s) they are wanting to address. Most doctors ask for your symptoms and then write a prescription for a medication that will relieve you of those symptoms. The problem with this is that they are not getting to the root cause of the issue. They are only covering it up. This means that you will most likely have to stay on medication to feel somewhat better (with the possibility of side effects) because the root cause isn’t being addressed.
Most of the time, inflammation is the root cause of many health issues and diseases that patients experience. Patients will come in with a long list of health concerns and when we first focus on reducing inflammation in the body, most of the other health issues on the list are fixed unintentionally.
It’s important to be aware of the amount of inflammation in your body. The good news is that there are natural approaches to take to combat inflammation so that you can avoid current and future health problems.
What is Inflammation?
You probably know that inflammation occurs within our body when we get a cut or scrape – the skin will get red and a little swollen and even experience pain around the infection site. This is because your immune system is sending out defense chemicals to protect your body. Your body might see that your skin needs healing or that your body has come in contact with foreign toxins and wants to protect you. This kind of inflammation is called acute inflammation and it helps your body heal under normal circumstances.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a different story. This is when your immune system is sending in its protectors and fighters because it thinks that the body is under attack. It’s on high alert all the time. Chronic inflammation can occur when acute inflammation isn’t treated properly or for other reasons we will get to.
Isn’t Inflammation Needed For The Body?
Yes, inflammation is needed for the body. Without it, our body and tissues would be attacked by outside toxins and our body wouldn’t be able to heal from injuries. However, it’s when our body is on this all-time alert that it becomes damaging. It doesn’t give the body and immune system time to rest and leads to a number of health issues and diseases.
How Chronic Inflammation Can Lead to Chronic Diseases
When your body has large amounts of inflammation, it increases your oxidative stress levels and causes dysfunction to your mitochondria (which are your cell’s powerhouse- where energy is created). It does this by increasing the number of free radicals in your body and the number of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), along with numerous other dangerous molecules.
High oxidative stress levels and damaged mitochondria can lead to a number of diseases- some resulting in death. This long-term inflammation can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, allergies, COPD, arthritis, and joint diseases.
For example, chronic inflammation located in the heart and circulatory system can increase your risk of strokes and heart attacks. Chronic Inflammation in the brain can lead to brain fog and more serious brain diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease.
What Causes Your Body to Become Inflamed?
Multiple factors can increase inflammation throughout your body. Most are lifestyle factors that we can control, while other factors are some that we can’t quite control as much. Here are some factors that speed up the production of inflammation, leading to chronic diseases showing up earlier and earlier in your life.
Eating highly processed foods like sugar and high fructose syrup, processed meats, refined carbohydrates, and trans fats can all lead to higher inflammatory markers. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can increase inflammation as well as “leaky gut” which causes inflammation to be transferred more throughout the body.
As we age, our DNA gets damaged. This can be from long term exposures to toxins, viruses, etc. However, when the DNA gets damaged, our immune cells don’t respond accurately. This can lead to exacerbated inflammation responses that destroy more cells than needed. So not only could older people have this problem, but at this point in their life it’s likely that they already have high levels of inflammation built up from long term exposure to environmental factors.
It’s been long known that smoking can promote cancers and other respiratory illnesses. The main way nicotine does this is by increasing the amount of white blood cells, which leads to an increase in inflammation.
Whether you mean to sleep less or not, low amounts of sleep are associated with inflammatory responses. When people experience sleep deprivation, their levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines get elevated. When you experience night after night of poor sleep, these levels can stay increased. With prolonged inflammation, we see higher rates of these chronic diseases.
Hormones affect inflammatory levels in your body when they are out of whack. An imbalance in your sex hormones, thyroid or cortisol, are just some hormones that can elevate inflammation when they are not balanced within the body.
Obesity causes higher levels of pro-inflammatory molecules to float around in the body. Obesity increases the number of macrophages (cells that fight infection) in fat tissue, which leads to heightened adipose-inflammation. These molecules can cause damage to your cells and cause even more inflammation, resulting in a vicious cycle that speeds up inflammatory production.
When our body comes in contact with foreign material, it puts up its defense mechanisms to help keep you safe and healthy. However, an issue occurs when we are exposed to toxins, especially over long periods of time. Even if the toxin exposure is small, our immune system is always on alert, sending out signals to fight and protect. This increases your inflammatory markers, raising your risks for chronic diseases.
Foods to Help Battle Inflammation
It may be scary to think of all the factors that increase inflammation and therefore our risk for multiple diseases. However, with some simple lifestyle changes, we can greatly reduce the number of inflammatory markers in our body and actually produce more anti-inflammatory chemicals.
Changing our diet is a huge game-changer when it comes to inflammation. Think about it. We put food into our bodies every day, multiple times a day. The food we eat can either help our body’s cells or cause harm to them. By choosing good, healthy foods, we can fuel our body with anti-inflammatory foods, protecting our cells from oxidative stress and other harmful molecules.
Eat More of These Inflammatory Foods:
- Organic Berries
- Green Leafy Vegetables
- Olive Oil (not cooked)
Other Alternative Approaches to Reduce Inflammation
The first thing you can do to reduce inflammation is to eliminate any pro-inflammatory factors that you have control over. You can’t change your age or control viruses that you come into contact with, but you can make changes to reduce your exposure to other things.
Natural Approaches to Reduce Inflammation Include:
- Quit Smoking
- Limit Alcohol Consumption
- Use Non-Toxic House Cleaners
- Be Aware of Beauty Product Chemicals
- Exercise, But Don’t Over Exercise
- Get Enough Rest. Go To Sleep at a Decent Time
- Eat Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
- Meditate to Reduce Excess Stress
- Get Your Hormones Checked
Get Your Inflammatory Levels Checked
There are lab tests that can check for inflammation in the body. This can give you an idea of how much inflammation could be affecting your body. The good news is that after a couple of changes, you’ll be able to see these inflammatory markers decline.
If you want to get your health back on track, get in contact with a functional medicine doctor. They will get to the root cause of your symptoms, not just cover them up. Dr. Lisa Ballehr is an excellent functional medicine doctor who focuses on chronic diseases. She will work with you one on one to create optimal health for you. She will not only address your symptoms, but she looks into your lifestyle factors, genetics and environmental factors that could be contributing to your health issues. Take her FREE Online Health Assessment to get started.