By Dr. Karen Bender
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s natural and protective healing response to injury and invasion. It occurs in response to infectious agents like viruses and bacteria, tissue trauma, and foreign substances such as environmental toxins. A healthy inflammatory response occurs in two phases. The first phase is the initiation phase that causes heat, pain, swelling, and redness. The second phase is called the resolution phase. During this phase the symptoms of initiation phase are reversed and tissue regeneration occurs.
Too much of a good thing: Chronic Inflammation and Chronic Disease
When the initiation phase is not followed by the resolution phase, the heat, swelling, pain and redness can become chronic. Chronic inflammation has been linked with many chronic diseases including, the but not limited to the following:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Fatty liver disease
- Type II diabetes and diabetic complications
How to Prevent and Treat Chronic Inflammation
There are a variety of factors that contribute to the development of chronic inflammation. Genetics can play a role, however it is important to realize that genetic influences are not fixed and can be altered by healthy lifestyle interventions. For example:
- Eat a healthy diet rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants. This can supply the body with the nutrients it needs to reduce and resolve inflammation.
- Minimize the consumption of proinflammatory foods such as saturated fat, sugar, and processed foods with inflammatory food additives and preservatives.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Fat cells themselves can contribute to inflammation by producing proinflammatory cytokines.
- Manage stress through daily practices such as meditation, exercise, journaling, breathing and gratitude practices. Chronic stress leads to the increase production of proinflammatory cytokines. Stress management strategies like these can help keep the immune system in balance and prevent inflammation from getting out of control. Click here for additional information on ways to manage stress.
- Minimize exposure to environmental toxins. Since the immune system responds to foreign substances, increased exposure to environment toxins leads to increased inflammation. In addition, toxins can rob the body of nutrients needed to resolve inflammation. Click here to learn practical tips on how to do this.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Eating fish a few times a week or taking a fish oil supplement promotes the production of inflammation resolving molecules and reduces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
- SPMs (Specialized Pro-resolving Mediators) As the name suggested these naturally occurring molecules facilitate the resolution of inflammation. They can also be taken in supplement form to give the body extra support resolving inflammation without interfering with the initiation phase of inflammation.
- Red Light Therapy: Stimulates mitochondria to increase cellular energy production. This leads to enhanced cell turnover and inflammation resolution.
- Anti-inflammatory herbs: Most herbs have some anti-inflammatory action. Help reduce inflammation by increasing your intake of herbs such as turmeric, chamomile, oregano, thyme, basil etc. in your diet. Herbs can also be taken in supplemental form to increase the dose and therapeutic effect.
I’d love to continue the conversation about ways to decrease chronic inflammation in your body and formulate a plan specific to you and your health concerns. If you are interested in specialized testing to determine the source of chronic inflammation, or just want to learn more about how to protect your health, make an appointment with me today.
Click here to register for a free webinar I am offering on this very important topic.