For a long time, its role in major diseases went undetected. But now, chronic inflammation is being blamed for a number of well-known illnesses, such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression and even cancer. But what is the connection between inflammation and these seemingly unrelated illnesses?
In truth, inflammation is not always bad. Our bodies use this natural reaction to help fight germs and heal wounds. In most cases, inflammation takes care of an injury and then recedes. However, problems arise when inflammation stays in the “on” mode.
For years we have known that inflammation plays a role in rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, certain bowel diseases and the like. But over the last decade, medical leaders have found the impact of persistent inflammation on the body to be much more widespread. This has changed the way we look at how heart attacks, strokes and diabetes are caused. It also provides new opportunities for predicting, preventing, and even treating diseases.
There are a number of factors that trigger chronic inflammation. Thankfully, many of them can be reduced through some simple lifestyle changes.
Fat – Once thought to be storage units for energy, we now understand that fat cells pump out cytokines that fan the inflammatory process. Because of this reaction, excess fat – specifically belly fat – is now thought to be the link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
High-fat, High-calorie meals – This can often be avoided by laying off fast food and other unhealthy meals.
Emotional Stress – In response to stress, the body produces hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which lead to inflammation.
While anti-inflammatory medications are available and often helpful, they each come with their own set of risks and side effects. So how can we reduce inflammation naturally? The answer may seem like a typical list of remedies, and while they do require a certain level of willpower, they are productive in affecting change for the better.
Diet – Anti-inflammatory foods include colorful fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower. Also needed are healthy fats which we can access through legumes, nuts, olive oil and fish. Avoid processed foods, junk foods, and trans fats.
Activity – After exercise the body generates more free radicals. In response, it then makes and uses more antioxidants, which ultimately work to reduce inflammation. Losing weight also provides the added benefit of fat loss.
Stress Management – The hormones that result from stress contribute to the burning sensation associated with inflammation and also contribute to belly fat. Try to take part in stress-reducing activities on a regular basis (e.g. recreation, reading, deep breathing). Getting adequate sleep will also go a long way in reducing stress.