Inflammation plays a role in almost every chronic disease. When talking about inflammation, we have to consider the two types: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is a normal body response to injury. The body identifies damaged cells, bacteria, viruses etc. and aims to heal itself through acute inflammation which can bring necessary white blood cells (our fighter army) and other nutrients. Acute inflammation occurs quickly and resolves generally within a few days. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can last months or even years. This type of inflammation, even low grade, is a problem. Chronic inflammation leads to chronic disease. Even Harvard Medical school acknowledges this and in a recent report stated "Research has shown that chronic inflammation is associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and bowel diseases like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis."
Chronic inflammation fails to resolve quickly due to failure to identify and rectify the cause of the inflammation. Chronic inflammation can affect any organ. Let's look at some of the symptoms of acute inflammation vs. chronic inflammation.
Pain or tenderness
Redness at the site of injury
Heat (affected area may feel warm to the touch)
Loss of Function
Joint Pain or stiffness
Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
Unexplained Weight gain or loss
Depression, anxiety, mood disorders
'What causes chronic inflammation?
Many things affect chronic inflammation. Some of the most common causes are: a poor diet, stress, food sensitivities/minor allergies, your gut health, your weight (increased inflammation with obesity), sedentary lifestyle or lack of exercise, your genetics, toxin exposure, etc. The good news is that many of these factors are modifiable!
Conditions associated with chronic inflammation according to the Cleveland Clinic:
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS).
Type 2 diabetes.
Foods that cause inflammation:
Sugar: Processed sugar/added sugar can really destroy your body. It promotes inflammation as well as impacts metabolic health. I typically recommend keeping added sugar intake to < 25g per day.
Bad fats: trans fat that is in processed foods, fast foods, etc. Trans fats will lower your HDL (good cholesterol) and increase your LDL (bad cholesterol).
Omega-6 fatty acids: The body needs Omega-6 fatty acids in moderation. However many people consume these in excess which can trigger inflammatory pathways in the body. Foods high in Omega-6s are things like peanut products/oils, vegetable oils, soy, and sunflower products just to name a few.
Gluten: Wheat products contain gluten. Gliadin, a protein food in wheat products is difficult to digest. People with Celiac disease absolutely need to avoid gluten. People with gluten intolerance or sensitivity may find they have less inflammatory symptoms when they avoid gluten.
Dairy: The Casein protein is difficult to digest. Many people with inflammatory conditions such as eczema, arthritis, etc find that they have improved symptoms when they avoid conventional dairy products.
Alcohol: alcohol takes a toll on the liver which can flow over to many other organ systems. I recommend no alcohol or alcohol occasionally for optimal health results and decreased inflammation symptoms.
Food dyes: many children and adults with ADHD, Autism-spectrum disorders, or other mood disorders find that they have improved symptoms when food dyes are removed from the diet.
How do I know if I have chronic inflammation?
If you notice that you have symptoms listed in the chart above, you may have chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is tricky because it can boil over into a lot of different areas so depending on where you have inflammation, can affect how you are feeling and what symptoms are occurring.
There are specific lab assessments that can help to identify chronic inflammation. This is why working with a trained functional medicine provider familiar with identifying this is super important. They can identify subtle changes that may be impacting your overall health. Identifying these early and correctly are crucial to preventing chronic disease and promoting optimal wellness. Lifestyle changes including diet and exercise as well as specific supplements, herbs, and vitamins can help curb chronic inflammation and get you and your family to start thriving!
What Can I do at home to help improve my chronic inflammation?
One of the most important things that you can do is to pray daily. This alone can do wonders for stress level, influence a more positive outlook on life, increase your sense of purpose and hope, etc. Other things you can do at home are to opt for an anti-inflammatory diet. Include plenty of wild-caught fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon. You can also up your intake of leafy greens, olive oil, and other healthy fats such as grass-fed butter, grass-fed ghee, and coconut oil. These fats are higher in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. Add anti-inflammatory spices to your cooking such as basil, chili peppers, cinnamon, curry powder, garlic, ginger, rosemary, turmeric and thyme. Choose healthy protein sources such as free range organic eggs, organic poultry, grass-fed meats, and cultured/raw dairy. You will also want to limit your trans fat intake, decrease eating out and fast food, increase your daily activity level, and quit smoking!
Final thoughts: Chronic inflammation is a not-so-silent killer. It can cause all sorts of unpleasant symptoms as well as increase your risk of developing chronic disease. The power is in your hands though! You can modify so many things for you and your kids if you start addressing this now! You don't have to live uncomfortable and unhappy.
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